You also know all the benefits of self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.
Think you’re ready to write, upload, and start selling? Hold on just a minute! It pays to plan these things out a bit first. Though self-publishing can be much easier and faster than traditional publishing, that doesn’t mean that jumping right in is the best way to go about it. If you’re careful with your budget and planning, your book can look just as professional and be just as successful (if not more) than if you went the traditional route.
In this post in our self-publishing series, we’ll cover how long it takes to self-publish a book, and how much it costs. With this info in hand, you can plan for success.
Phase 1: Writing
As a blogger, you have multiple options when it comes to creating and publishing a book of your own.
One of the options is to use pre-existing posts on your blog to publish an e-book. But, depending on your goals, this may not be the best option.
Your long-time readers won’t be interested in buying material they’ve already read for free on your blog, no matter how nice it may look in book form.
A second option would be to consider adding more material to the book that isn't available on your blog, either by expanding posts or adding more chapters (or both). Of course, you could also write your e-book yourself from scratch. This would be the most time-intensive option.
A final option that one could consider is hiring a ghostwriter to work side-by-side with to write a unique e-book for you. Here are some factors to consider when hiring a ghostwriter:
Saving Time Hiring a ghostwriter will save you time. As a busy blogger, your time is at a premium.
Strong Connections Ghostwriters may have connections that someone new to writing and publishing may not.
Costly Hiring a ghostwriter will not come cheap; the prices vary based on experience, subject, length of book, and the research that is needed.
Quality of Work Like most service-based industries, the quality of work will vary from ghostwriter to ghostwriter. It is important to check references, qualifications, and previous work prior to hiring.
Authenticity Depending on the writer, the finished product may read more like the ghostwriter’s style than your own. To avoid this, it is important that you vet the ghostwriter carefully before hiring them, and work closely with them throughout the entire process.
Time & Cost Estimate
Writing the book yourself will be the most time-consuming option, but this will vary widely from person to person.
Some writers can complete a first draft in a few weeks; others take years. To be on the safe side, plan to spend 3-6 months writing your first draft.
Hiring a ghostwriter? A report from Writer’s Market indicates that ghostwriting fees for a standard size book range from a low of $5,000 to a high of $100,000, with an average of $36,000. For a shorter e-book, you’re probably looking at the lower end of the range.
The timeline will be based upon the amount of pages, content, and ghostwriter that is hired.
Phase 2: Editing
It’s crucial to take your time when editing a book.
Bad structure, spelling and grammar mistakes, and rampant typos can damage your credibility and reputation as a blogger. Bloggers can quickly and easily create e-books from their blogs with a few clicks using various tools and plugins – but that doesn't mean they necessarily should.
Publishing a book is very different from hitting “publish” on a blog post.
Developmental, substantive, copyediting, and proofreading are all key components in the editing world and should factor into an author's editing process. Determining which type of editing your book needs is important to its success.
Developmental editing is editing a project from the proposal or rough manuscript to final manuscript. Developmental editing is for authors who are having a difficult time with planning a book or using a particular writing technique. At this level of editing, authors may have to reexamine their book’s main topics or rewrite large portions of the manuscript.
Substantive editing works to clarify and/or reorganize a manuscript for structure and content.
Substantive editing is for authors who have a finished piece but feel like something may be missing. The focus is on fine-tuning big-picture elements throughout the story. The editor’s role is to help the author see potential issues from the reader’s perspective.
Copyediting consists of editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and other mechanics of style, checking for consistency of mechanics and facts, and reviewing the layout. Copyediting is useful for authors who would like additional assistance in fixing elements of sentences, as well as focusing on elements like detail description, consistency, punctuation, adherence to style, flagging copyright and legal issues, etc.
Proofreading is looking for the minor mistakes that may have been missed during the copy-editing period. This type of editing typically only results in changing isolated phrases, punctuation, or formatting and is useful for authors who would like that final look over before the book is available to the public.
There are pros and cons when it comes to editing yourself or choosing to outsource. Hiring an editor to pick up your book with a fresh pair of eyes will save you time, improve your language use, and help further develop and perfect your piece.
The finished product will be more professional than if you did all the editing on your own.
The time and cost of editing varies on how long the book is, and if you choose to outsource and who the company or person is. According to The Writer’s Market, the average for proofreading is $3 per page, for copy editing $4 per page, and for content editing you can expect to pay around $7.50 per page.
The editing phase may take longer than most bloggers expect. Many times, you will not be the only client the editor has. Authors should expect the process to take weeks or months to have your final piece returned to you.
Phase 3: Design & Formatting
An appropriate design will help you to attract the right readers to your book, while a bad design looks unprofessional and will make readers hesitate to buy it. Authors may choose to design and format their piece on their own, but the process can be very time consuming.
There are websites that can assist authors in this process, and some self publishing websites give users access to formatted templates and easy-to-use cover design options. An additional option when it comes to design and formatting is to outsource.
When outsourcing this work to a book design company, they’ll typically create a unique cover for your book based off of their manuscript, target audience, getting to know the author, and competitive titles. A custom service like can be more on the costly side, with basic services starting at $750 or higher. When working with a self-service publishing company like CreateSpace, an author is able to choose between their free cover design or purchase design services directly from their website.
If an author chooses the free option they are able to upload personal pictures, and have access to basic graphics and editing and formatting tools.
The cost for a cover design can be anywhere from $30 to $4000 per cover and formatting can range from $50 to $300 or higher.
Time for both formatting and cover design could be days/weeks/months, depending on the company and/or person the author has hired.
Phase 4: Publication & Printing
E-book publishing is as quick as a file upload, choosing a few options, and hitting “publish.”
But if you're printing, you'll need to plan for that in your timeline. Printing books on demand with companies like LightningSource and CreateSpace can take weeks, factoring in shipping time will be additional time and expenses.
You may opt to have your order expedited at an additional cost. With so-called “vanity publishing” companies (such as Lulu or Xlibris), you'll often have to order a certain minimum number of books to be printed, so the upfront costs can be much higher. You can also choose to go with a “print on demand” publisher, who will list your book online but only print it up if a customer orders a copy. While this saves you a lot of money upfront, the cost of each book is often higher, since it costs more for the publisher to only print one at a time. Publish your book online exclusively is the cheapest option.
Companies like Amazon KDP, Lulu, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital are common options — we'll go more into detail on those in the next post in the series.
The printing and shipping prices will vary greatly based off the company that is used, location, and number of pages/book details. With vanity publishers, you're probably looking at a minimum investment of $1,000, while print-on-demand or online-only publishers won't charge you upfront, but a percentage of each book sold.
How Should You Budget for Your Book?
The total cost and time of self publishing a book can range from free to thousands of dollars.
Authors will have to consider the writing process, editing, design, formatting, publishing, and printing to get an appropriate estimate of time and costs for themselves, keeping in mind that whenever a service is outsourced, an author will pay an additional cost and typically wait a longer period of time. Start your own timeline and budget by estimating a time and cost for each of the phases above, depending on how you want to allocate your budget.
KeriLynn Engel is a copywriter & content marketing strategist. She loves working with B2B & B2C businesses to plan and create high-quality content that attracts and converts their target audience. When not writing, you can find her reading speculative fiction, watching Star Trek, or playing Telemann flute fantasias at a local open mic.