One of the persistent myths I’ve been seeing a lot of is that it cost a LOT to publish. I’ve seen people talk about anywhere from $3-20,000 to publish a single book. More reasonably, many I see are still in the $3-5k range.

This generally breaks down to something like this:

  • Developmental Editing (between $0.03- $0.10 a word – so a 100k book is like $3-10,000)
  • Line Editing & Copy Editing (between $0.02 – $0.02 a word)
  • Proofreading (around $0.001-0.005 per word)
  • Cover – $1000k+ for covers
  • Formatting – anywhere from a $100 to $250
  • Advertising cost- set-up cost (ISBNs, websites, e-mail newsletters, etc.)

Now, rather than outline why these costs are ridiculous since I’ve shown in various posts before about how covers can be made for cheap or the minimum marketing toolbox, let’s talk about how you could launch your first book cheap.

Things you need:

-a website. Wix and WordPress both offer cheap ways of getting a site up. If you get cheap hosting (some places offer first year purchases of domains and hosting as a package for like $1 a month if you look around. You don’t need huge stability so shared servers are fine).

-mailing list. Mailerlite and Mailchimp both do free newsletter lists for the first 1000-2000 people. So, free

-social media account – again, creating one and talking to people is free (financially, maybe not emotionally).

-ISBNs (maybe. Not necessary if you aren’t setting up paperbacks and/or okay with using ISBN provided by people like Ingram. If you are creating a paperback, you can also get free uploads to Ingram via coupon codes if you google around for them. Or join ALLI and get an upload and edit code as part of your membership – around $150 a year).

-formatting. Unnecessary – go read Smashwords formatting guidelines for Word. Use that and you will be 90% ready for even paperback formatting.

-covers – anywhere from $50 – 350 depending if you are looking for illustrated & paperback with custom work or stock photo. Note, stock work can get you on list for ‘best art’.

-editing – if you can afford it, line & copy editing and proofing is SOOO important for most new writers. Dev editing is trickier. You can learn a lot but it also depends on what stage. Another, longer discussion on editing. somewhere else, but I’d say line & copy with people who know your genre is useful. Proofing is VERY important.

All of this can be substituted by trading with other authors for reading, with getting some good beta readers (maybe, this can vary depending on your genre) and even having only the first few chapters of your work professionally edited then taking their notes and editing the rest of the book yourself.

What authors see and what readers see is significantly different. Readers will notice, but they might not care. They often in many genres want a good story over perfect English.

-advertising – Throw up an AMS auto ad. Max budget of $5 a day, $0.50 a click. Make sure to check it every day, negative keyword out things like ‘free books’ ‘free kindle’ and too generic keywords (e.g. epic fantasy) because those keywords will kill your budget very fast. Watch it daily for the first few weeks.

Ignore the rest if this is book 1. You won’t make your money back with the others most likely and you are better off writing book 2. 

Total Cost of launching first book including having a professional(ish) website?

Probably anywhere from $100-200. You will trade your own time learning to do all this (formatting, finding the right cover artist, learning grammar and punctuation properly, etc.) but you will save a bunch of money.

Now, that’s not to say good copy & line editing is not important. I learn from my copy & line editors all the time. But UNLESS you have the money to spend, using them initially can be detrimental to just publishing.

Covers? You can get great covers for cheap. However, learning who to use and what is a good cover will take time. Time to look at covers again and again, time listening to other authors who have done it a long time before talking about covers, time seeing which covers sell better than others, etc.

End of the day, indie publishing does NOT have to be expensive. It is ony as expensive as you are unwilling to spend your time and effort on it.

PS: Pen names are free if you are really worried about getting dinged for bad editing.

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