Not sure if I’ve written this before, but saw a post complaining about how certain books don’t get audiobooks up fast enough. And among things, was this mistaken belief due to bad math and/or a misunderstanding of what it cost to publish a book.

Let’s start out with the most basic outline. With indie-publishing, it’s very, very possible to launch a book with $0 cost. Shoestring launch the book. How?

  • Write in Notepad (or a free document processor like Google Docs, etc.)
  • Use Kindle Create or Draft2Digital’s formatting options to create the epub options (or go straight to Amazon and let them try to figure it out properly)
  • Use pre-made covers offered by Amazon and/or create your own cover
  • Publish.

$0 cost. I offer no guarantees that this will sell well. And, frankly, it most likely will not. Now, let’s talk about the cost most of us end up facing because we want to do this professionally.

eBook Publishing Cost

Writing cost: X number of hours over Y number of weeks/months/years to write book. Almost neverincluded as a cost in price calculations, mostly considered a ‘sunk’ cost.

Line / Copy Editing cost: $0.008 – $0.01 per word. For a 100,000 word that seems to the minimum preferred length among fantasy / scifi fans, that’s $1,000.

Proofreading cost: $0.0025-0.005 per word. We’ll call it $250

Cover cost: Ranges from $50 (pre-made, photo manipulated cover. Possible often for romance) $1000. We’ll call it $300 for a good cover. Add another $100 for Audiobook, Paperback & Marketing banners, etc.

Total cost. BEFORE Publishing: $1,650.

Let me point out that this provides a professional edited and designed book. This increases the chances of your book selling (and/or keeping readers), but does NOT guarantee sales.

Sales Revenue

Royalty rates: Assuming you are going in to Amazon, you are either getting 35% royalty rates (for books priced less than $2.99 or over $9.99) or 70% (for everything else) for a sale.

Kindle Unlimited averages around $0.0045 per page read. Page reads are roughly 1.5 times or so ‘paperback pages’. Again, this is a VERY subjective number, Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) are weird. And ‘paperbacks’ can be anything (I’m basing this roughly on my 6″ x 9″ books).

Based off this, this is expected revenue:

Sale Price = $3.99 = $2.793 (- delivery cost) = $2.70 (yes, they charge us delivery cost).

KENP Count = 500 = $2.25 per full read

Assuming you get 66% KU and 33% ebook, your average revenue per book is $2.40

Thus, breakeven sales for a book is approximately 688 books.



Let’s assume you are quite efficient. So, you write and get the book through your own draft / editing process in 1 month (that’s over 3,333 words a day, not including editing time. Realise that Stephen King who is considered VERY prolific writes 2,000 words a day).

Editing (by editor) and proofreading will take another month. You are now 2 months in, with 1 month of having to already throw that $1,650 into paying everyone.

Next. You publish your book on May 1. Woot! You get 700 sales in 1 month. You’ve earned $1680. Net Profit = $30.

Money in bank account – still $0.

Amazon takes 60 days to pay you. That money you earned on May 1? It won’t hit your bank account till August 1. (sometimes a few days earlier).

Time since you started writing that book, assuming you are very efficient = 5 months.

Alright, last thing to note (and I’ll get into details of cost for audiobook production in part 2).

Cost to produce 1 (100,000 words) audiobook? Approximately $2,500.

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