You’ve tried sending a million query letters, and have heard nothing back from any of them. You’ve got your book all polished and ready for press. You know the story’s good, but can’t get anyone to bite. You’ve heard of self-publishing but are afraid of the reputation it’ll bring. When you google, looking for people who will help you self-publish your work, presses come up that want upwards of $15,000 to print your book. You don’t have that kind of money! You want to hold your pride and joy in your hands, but don’t know how to do it or where to go. Well, sit down, buckeroo, because we’re about to find out.

How do I self-publish on a budget?

Luckily for you, self-publishing is actually one of the most inexpensive ways to publish a book. Sometimes, self-publishing a book can cost less than $10. Hard to believe? I’m not saying that a New York Times Best Seller is published for $10. That’d simply be a lie. What I AM saying is that you can effectively produce a beautiful book for DEFINITELY less than $15,000 without ending up with 3000 copies of your book in your basement that you can’t sell. THAT is the beauty of self-publishing.

What kind of a budget do I need to self-publish?

If you don’t want your book to look unprofessional, there are going to be a few things that you need. Self-published books have had a reputation for a long time that they are garbage, amateur, and poorly-written. For a while, getting published by the Big 5 publishers was the status quo and if you self published people would scoff at you like a rich French aristocrat scoffed at a poor person in the year 1726. Now that the quality of self-published books is rising, this is not always the case. It is still an uphill struggle to prove to your peers, bookstores, and agents that your self-published book IS quality, and one of the things that can help with that is money.

Now, money can’t solve ALL your problems, but it can help ensure your book’s success. Below, I’ve created a list of all of the potential things you could add on to your book’s budget to push it forward down the pipeline to success. The ones in bold are things that are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to produce quality work, and everything else is optional. I’m assuming in this example that you’re writing a 50k word novel. If you’re not, go to the Ratio Calculator on Calculator Soup and do the math to find you the budget for your word count. Here’s what I think you should budget for:


  • One Copyeditor – $500
  • An Artist to Design your Book Cover (simple) – $250
  • Ordering Proofs – $50
  • Developmental Editor – $500
  • Line Editor – $500
  • Complex Book Cover/Back Design – $250
  • Book Designer – $150
  • Basic Marketing Package from a Creative Marketing Consultant – $400
  • Contest Submissions – $500
  • Consignment Fees – $100
  • Event Fees – $150
  • Your own Author Royalties – $1000


  • Maximum Budget: $4650

That seems like a lot, doesn’t it! It’s not, in the grand scheme of things. To put things in perspective, many publishing companies spend upwards of $30,000 to produce a book. Many vanity presses will charge you $5000 besides. Instead of spending $5000 to JUST print your books, put that $5000 toward things that matter.

Don’t skimp out on an editor because you don’t need it. A copyeditor, as a basic requirement is there to pull typos out of your work. This is ESSENTIAL and should be budgeted it. You’ll feel a lot better about it and won’t be running your head through a wall because you found “blockhead” instead of “Blockhead” (not based off of a personal story in any way). A beautiful book cover, even if it’s simple, uses stock imagery, and isn’t anything fancy, is just as important. People DO judge books by their covers and by paying an artist to design one for you, not only will you be supporting another indie creator, but you’ll also make out with a book you’ll be proud of.

Where should I self-publish my book?

AVOID VANITY PRESSES AT ALL COSTS! What is a vanity press, you ask? iUniverse is a great example of a vanity press. If you go to their website, they’re asking you to pay $1000 to have them help you design a back cover, distribute your book on their web store, insert 25 images, and print 3 books. Did you hear that? THREE BOOKS. Based on our calculations above, even if you’re paying artists a living wage, you would spend $100 for that. That’s it. Here’s the scam. An artist can help you design the back cover of your book for a nominal fee, you can insert your black and white images into your image yourself, and DISTRIBUTING YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON IS FREE THROUGH OTHER PUBLISHERS. These vanity presses attempt to make it seem like they’re doing you a favor for listing your book on Amazon. They’re not. You shouldn’t have to pay them a grand for that.

As the prices go up, it only gets worse. iUniverse’s largest package costs $7,699. Included is a designed cover, back cover, Amazon distribution, ePub format, 30 books, 20 business cards for your books, 50 black and white images, Library of Congress Control Number, editing, three contest eligibilities, marketing guides, interior design, a book signing kit, 10 free hardcover books, and advertising. Now, this seems like a lot, but this package includes EVERYTHING I listed above for nearly three THOUSAND dollars more! If this isn’t a scam, I don’t know what is. Please. Don’t do this to yourself.

Where should you self-publish, you ask? Pick a great print on demand company like Lulu, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, or Ingram Spark. All three of these companies have great reputations, excellent printing options for print on demand publishing, and they won’t try and force any weird promotional packages down your throat. I’ve been going through Amazon since I published my first book, and have loved their customer service and their cost. Their cost per unit is a little higher than ordering through a small print run company, but that is one of the prices you pay being an indie author.

Why should I have a self-publishing budget?

Having a self-publishing budget is going to save you from a lot of headaches later on down the road. In order to have a professional book that will be accepted into bookstores, there are a few things that are a MUST: having a professional cover and having a book that is free of typoes. Every bookstore that has any kind of consignment program will tell you those things on their website. Also, you’ll feel MUCH better about your book if it looks beautiful. People will take you seriously and your book will sell better than someone with a cover made in MS Paint.

When you’re doing it all yourself, it can seem expensive. If $1100 is too expensive for you right now, maybe it’s not the right time to publish your book. It’s better to wait, save up, and then publish than to put something out that is amateur. This will just hurt your reputation as an author and make it harder for you to sell future books. If you can, trade services where you’re able. Try and get discounts or people you know provide these services for you. With their help, your book can look pretty AND be readable.

You not only have a duty to yourself as a self-published author to budget in these things but a duty to the self-publishing community as a whole. The more polished, professional, and typo-free books we put out there as a community, the more likely people are to respect us. People won’t differentiate as much between the books with the publishing imprint on their spines as the ones without. Do it for future generations of authors. Do it for the children.


If you are EVER in need of any of these services, I offer most of them! Shoot me an email and I can either tell you my price or point you in the direction of someone I know who offer those services. Networking and building a community of resources you can use to help you make your projects is invaluable. By investing money in your work, you’re investing money in its success. Save up. You love yourself enough to by food. Love your book enough to get it copyedited. You’re investing in your future and your success as an author! Believe in yourself, spend the money, and propel yourself forward into success.