Publishing Costs Indie Authors Should Consider

Indie authors make one assumption about self-publishing that is not necessarily true.


With current trends, everyday people are now able to bypass traditional publishing houses and become authors with ease. Indie authors are able to maintain creative control and, in some cases, profit for their books. Anyone standing on the outside looking in can certainly see the appeal. But with every good thing, there is, of course, the potential to make it a bad thing.

Readers, as well as authors who take the craft seriously, fear author newbies and non-writers are polluting the book-buying pool through haphazardly producing books simply because they can. And because about forty percent of books available on the market are not traditionally published, books written by indie authors can be found just as easily as books produced by major publishing houses.

As a freelance editor, I exclusively focus my energy on working with authors who choose to self-publish their books. However, I find that many authors just aren’t aware of the many options that exist even in the indie arena.


Self-Publishing is NOT Free


If you’re an indie author,  my next statement might rock your world but it needs to be said. Self-publishing is NOT free. It is, at best, low cost. And the purpose of this article is to share what costs an indie author should expect to pay on their journey to becoming a published author.



I am a copyeditor so I’m a bit biased here, but I truly believe one cost an author cannot afford to skip is a thorough copyedit (and this is no shade to the developmental editors out there). To review, copyedits get into the mechanics of writing — they look at things such as grammar, punctuation, subject-verb agreement and consistent verb tense, and sometimes even rephrasing wonky sentences. No author wants to have a reader return a book because of the distracting errors and run-on sentences, so every author who wants to self-publish should budget for a copyedit.

Quality copyedits do have a nice price tag attached to them. If you want to try to soften the financial blow, you can, but just know that you get what you pay for (which we’ll also discuss at the end of this article). Nonetheless, the Editorial Freelancers Association is a fantastic resource for gauging what you can expect to pay.



Another important cost to consider for self-publishing is the formatting of your book, especially if you plan to offer the paperback version of your book. Some editors and proofreaders provide both services and may even offer discounts for the bundle of services. In other cases, you may need to find someone that deals exclusively with formatting.


Book Design

Book design and formatting typically mean the same thing depending on who you’re talking to, but for the purposes of this article, I use formatting to refer to the layout of chapters and the content therein and book design to refer specifically to cover art.

Have you ever heard that people eat with their eyes first? This cliché applies particularly to food, but the same can be said about books. Readers choose books with inviting cover design and titles that clearly communicate what the book is about. And if you want your book to hold its own against all the other books out there, you should expect to spend a pretty penny on this aspect of the publishing journey.



Marketing is often an afterthought in the minds of independent authors, and even authors who go the traditional publishing route make a mistake in believing that they do not have a responsibility to market their book.

We’re not just talking about the responsibility one has to market their own work, but the financial obligation of that responsibility. Books that do well are well marketed, and that means ‘big’ bucks are put behind it.

Many authors report success with the use of Amazon ads. Even Instagram and Facebook ads can set you up for success as far as introducing you to new audiences with similar interests. Then there’s also in-person promotion: release parties, vendor fairs and shows, and the like. It’s important to consider where your target reader group is likely to find you and plan to put in efforts to make sure you are discovered in that space.


Other Fees

Lastly, you should consider other costs for your book such as purchasing ISBNs or set-up fees for having your book hosted on different platforms. 


You Get What You Do (or Don’t) Pay For


The Internet allows us to be more connected than we’ve ever been. We are able to easily find service providers for services we want to purchase; platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr make this even easier. There is nothing inherently wrong with using these services, but ensure that you do your due diligence to properly vet the service provider before you pay them for services rendered. I’ve had many authors and business owners seek out my services after having already paid two or three others to do work that ultimately did not meet their standards. Cheaper isn’t always better and you get what you pay for.

Featured photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash; in-text photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash