Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

How much should you spend on self-publishing? How much ya got?


Yes, self-publishing is here to stay, and it offers writers a convenient and credible way to get their work out into the world. But to do it right, according to some experts, you have to be ready to part with a significant heap o’ cash.

This article sums it up well. According to its author, if you’re going to produce a “high-quality book,” you’re going to need the following services at these going rates: developmental editing ($2520 – $18,200); copyediting ($840 – $7000); cover design ($150 – $3500); formatting (free – $2500); getting an ISBN ($125 – $250); distribution (free!); printing (free, via print-on-demand!); getting reviews from Kirkus or Publishers Weekly ($149 – 425); marketing and PR ($100 – $5000 and up).

So there you have it. To publish a “high-quality book” you’re going to need somewhere between $3586 and $36,875 (and up!).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have anywhere near that kind of scratch to spend. I also don’t expect to make anywhere near $3586 in sales of any/all of my books, so to spend exponentially more than I can possibly make is the definition of a vanity project.

And that’s not what I’m up to in all this.


I didn’t think so.

Look, we do the best we can. We invest what we can spare. We strive to write and publish the best books we’re capable of, and — if we’re lucky — maybe we’ll forge a readership that allows us invest a little more as we go along.

But spending forty grand on self-publishing a novel? That’s the craziest f%&#ing thing I’ve ever heard!

15 comments on “How much should you spend on self-publishing? How much ya got?

  1. Charles Yallowitz
    September 9, 2014

    Guess that’s ‘ideal’ and how often does the ideal match reality? I’ve run into a few people that think you can only self-publish if you spend 30-50 grand, which seems strange to me. I spent $75 on the marketing for my first book and it don’t great. I know others who spent nothing and rocketed to the Top 100 lists. Guess I’m saying there’ more than throwing money at this and too many people refuse to look beyond that.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 9, 2014

      I think it makes some feel like they’re doing everything they can possibly do. But you have to keep your eye on cost/benefit, right?!

      • Charles Yallowitz
        September 9, 2014

        True, especially if you don’t have a ton of money to risk. Honestly a lot of what’s on the list seems optional. Not saying to editing isn’t needed, but you can find beta readers who will do it for free.

  2. Dylan Hearn
    September 9, 2014

    I couldn’t agree more. There has been a lot of rubbish written recently about what it costs to self-publish. It doesn’t need to cost anything like as much and certainly didn’t in my case.
    I’m not sure whether it is a backlash coming from the traditional publishing industry scared by the loss of market share, or misinformed journalists looking for a sensational angle on a growing sector, but the last couple of months have seen a huge rise in these sorts of stories. We just need to counter it by telling the truth and pointing people towards better information.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 9, 2014

      I do think there’s some degree of traditionals trying to either sabotage or benefit somehow from the indie movement. Plus, when something begins to take off, the peripheral profiteers come out to take their cut. Buyer beware, eh?

  3. John W. Howell
    September 9, 2014

    I have to agree on the forty grand. Could be a better pay off at the track.

  4. samulraney
    September 9, 2014

    I recently pulled out “all the stops” on my last book and when the dust settled, I’d spent nearly $1k. I haven’t done it for all of my books, and I won’t do it for all of my future books, but that story is special and I wanted to give it the “royal” treatment. It’s unrealistic to think that the average person can afford to drop $3500+ without a guarantee of a return on that investment.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 9, 2014

      Exactly. And I can see spending more on a book you hope to get a “breakout” effect on, or maybe if circumstances make your book especially relevant at a particular time. For “experts” to chide authors for spending too little for professional services, though, sounds like conflict of interest to me…

  5. islandeditions
    September 9, 2014

    I agree with Dylan! Self-publishing print and eBooks has cost me nowhere near these kinds of figures! And whoever heard of paying for reviews in Kirkus and PW, anyway??? That’s ridiculous. (By the way, in Canada, our ISBNs are free.) There are so many ways to economize without giving up on quality. No need to ever have to mortgage your house (which I have heard some authors have done) just so you can see your name in print.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 9, 2014

      Indeed. That’s how the old vanity presses used to work, and most of those writers were seen as a little pathetic.

      Howcome we have to pay for ISBNs down here!? Capitalism at its best…

  6. Phillip McCollum
    September 9, 2014

    Yeesh… That’s a lot of diaper money! *cue moths flying out of wallet*

  7. P. C. Zick
    September 16, 2014

    For my “big books,” I spend approximately $1,000. For others, I really cut the corners down to $150-200. The day I’m making more than 40K a year on my fiction, will be the day, I still won’t pay $40,000 to publish.

    • Kevin Brennan
      September 16, 2014

      Too right! Seems like there are plenty of people ready to take your money, but it always boils down to “value added.”

      • P. C. Zick
        September 16, 2014

        That’s the sad truth the world of Indie Authors. So many make promises that can’t possible be kept. I’ve been a victim to a few but not so much.

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This entry was posted on September 9, 2014 by in Publishing and tagged , , .
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