How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish Your Novel?

WeaponsMass_CVR_LRGWelcome back to Two Navy Guys and a Novel, the place where you get to watch a pair of Navy vets write a military thriller. Missed an episode? Visit our webpage to get caught up.

Since Weapons of Mass Deception is still with our editor, you might think we’re just sitting back and drinking beer until we get her edits back.

You would be wrong. If anything, we’re busier than ever.

I (David here) know from personal experience that marketing a book is at least as hard–maybe even harder–than writing one. There’s a cover to get made and a book description to write, both of which take a lot longer than you might think. But we’re not going to talk about that today.

Today’s topic is MONEY. Dough, dinero, clams, bread, whatever you call it, it takes a fair bit of the green stuff to produce a self-published book to professional standards.

Let’s Talk Dollars and Sense

Editing – getting a professional edit is a must, plain and simple. After working through your own manuscript five or six times, you’ll be surprised how many mistakes become invisible. You need another set of unbiased eyes. Professional editors will set you back anywhere from $.02 to $.05 per word, depending on the level of edit required and how many passes. WMD is just over 110,000 words, so we’re looking at a multi-thousand dollar cost for editing our manuscript.

If you’re wondering how to find an editor and what kind of edit you should be paying for, I highly recommend looking at this blog post.

Cover(s) – Finding a cover designer is another bit of tricky business where prices and quality vary wildly. In our case, we’re planning on producing three editions of Weapons of Mass Deception: e-book, paperback, and limited-edition hardback. That means three covers. If you have mad skills on Photoshop, go for it. We don’t, so we’re hiring this part out. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500 per cover. In order to save money, we can reuse cover images between the editions, but we’re planning on spending at least $500 for covers.

If you’d like to see what our e-book cover looks like you can check it out here.

Interior Design – If you’re talented with programs like InDesign, you can do your own interior design for your paperback and Amazon has some online tools for the do-it-yourselfer. Let me repeat, you can do this on your own. That said, when I produced the paperback version of Irradiance, the first title in my sci-fi series, the designer I worked with added some professional touches on chapter headings and scene breaks that were beyond my skillset. For me, it was worth the money.

Figure $100-$250 per layout, and we’re doing two layouts for WMD. (The paperback and hardback will be in different trim sizes and fonts).

Book Trailer – I’m a newbie to book trailers, but I have a YouTube-watching son and I realize the power of video. We’re guessing a book trailer might set us back $100 at the outside.


If you’re doing the math along with me, you will have calculated our out-of-pocket costs of $3000 to $7000 before we’ve even sold a single copy. But the fun doesn’t end there.

Promotional costs – My first sci-fi series taught me a lot about marketing costs. Want to hand out review copies or do a give-away on Goodreads? A book the size of Weapons of Mass Deception will have a wholesale cost of $5-7 each, not including shipping. Want to run an ad? The “thriller” category on BookBub, arguably the most effective and expensive paid promotion outlet, will set you back $630. Yes, you will (hopefully) sell enough copies to pay for the ads, but remember they want their money upfront and Amazon pays you net 60.

We could spend unlimited amounts of money on marketing, so we’re setting our promotional budget at $1000 to include one BookBub ad for the year, plus 50 paperbacks for reviews and give-aways.

How Can I Save Money?

Are there ways to cut down the costs? Of course. Almost every step I’ve mentioned above–with the exception of editing–can be done on your own. It might take you a really long time, but it can be done.

Here’s some shortcuts I’ve used to save money:

  1. Writer a shorter book – editing is the lion’s share of the cost for producing a book and is usually priced by word count. At 110,000 words, we’re at the high end of the spectrum.
  2. Find a less expensive editor – the costs noted above are typical rates, but it pays to shop around to find the best fit for your work and your budget. Whatever you do, don’t skip a professional edit. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for, or in the lingo of Robert Heinlein: TANSTAAFL!*
  3. Publish only in e-book form – There is no rule that says you have to release a paperback edition. To really hold down costs, skip the paperback and stay in the digital world. If you’re a Scrivener user, learn how to do your own e-book formatting–even I figured it out. You can always release a paperback version next year after you’ve recouped some of your out-of-pocket costs.

* From The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, an acronym for “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

 What about Weapons of Mass Deception?

In our case, we’ve decided to go BIG on this book. We’re going to release an e-book, paperback, and limited-edition hardback all at the same time in May. Why? We think WMD has a real shot at commercial success, so we’re adopting a “go big or go home” approach.

The next obvious question is how to pay for this venture. Next week we’ll talk about our plan to Kickstart Weapons of Mass Deception into existence.

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David Bruns is the creator of the sci-fi series The Dream Guild Chronicles, and one half of the Two Navy Guys and a Novel blog series about co-writing the military thriller, Weapons of Mass Deception. Check out his website for a free sample of his work.


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2 Responses to How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish Your Novel?

  1. Pingback: Crowdfunding: Balancing Between the Crowd and the Money | David Bruns

  2. Pingback: WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION – Kickstarter Update | David Bruns

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