Self publishing costs nothing

BooksA number of people have asked me “How much does self-publishing cost?”, so this post will clear that up. It may be controversial! Please do post comments if you disagree or have questions.

Answer 1: It costs nothing

Write book: $0 (but lots of time)
Edit book: $0 Friend who is an English teacher
Proof-read book: $0 Friends and colleagues found on Twitter
Cover design: $0 Royalty free or own photos and text only made into a .jpg on Microsoft Publisher
Typeset book: $0 done by self on Microsoft Word
Publish book: Published as an Ebook on Smashwords for free and up for sale for US$4.99. Now for sale on the iPhone.

Or it costs $10 for the print version:

Publish book on by loading onto for free, and choosing the Published by Lulu option (for free). Do cover design with free software Gimp which makes the quality better than Publisher. Once loaded, you have to order one copy to check it before they will release it to Amazon which is about US$10. Then the copies are print-on-demand and you just get the residual income.

With these options, you have no pile of books sitting in your garage, no distribution to physical bookshops. But you have zero cost and can spend your time now marketing this book.

This basic model is the one I now follow and will be teaching all the tricks of the trade in the author 2.0 program. (However, I do use a professional editor for my books which costs about $600-$1000).

Answer 2: It costs under $5000

Write book: $0 (but lots of time)
Edit book: $900 Professional editor found on
Proof-read book: $900 Professional proof-reader plus a couple of friends
Cover design: $500 Professional cover design
Typeset book: $500 Professional typesetting
Publish book: $1400 for 250 copies of your print book from a self-publishing/printing company.
(If you want a distribution deal you need a lot more than this!)

You can still also implement the publishing options above as well.

Answer 3: It costs $20,000 – $30,000+

If you are very busy and have the money to spare, there are companies who will do everything for you, even write the book. (Yes, I am now offering this service too in Australia!)

They will edit, typeset, design the cover, print and even distribute your books for you. Each company has their own package with varying prices but usually not less than $20,000 especially if it includes distribution of physical books to physical book stores.

How you publish does not make much difference to sales

It is not the publishing method that will make your book a success or a failure. What matters is that you market it and sell copies. If your costs are zero and you sell 1000 ebooks at $4.99 to a niche market, then you are better off than someone who has printed and distributed 2000 copies to bookstores and sold 100. Don’t be constrained by the traditional methods of publishing!

Other people have asked – can self-published books become a success? This will be covered in a post next week. For a successful self-published author story, you can listen to the podcast with Rachael Bermingham. Her self-published cookbooks have sold over 1 million copies in Australia, she has her own TV show and now international publishing deals.

I’d value your opinions, questions and stories on self-publishing, so please do leave comments which I will follow up.


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  1. Ayla Shotsea says

    Hi, Joanna.
    My name is Ayla, I’m 19 years old and I’ve always had a passion for writing; though I’ve never had a certain aspect to focus on until I had my twin daughters at age 17.
    I have written five short stories with my daughters as the main characters.
    They are adventure/fairy tales.
    I started writing them only for the joy of my daughters to read when they get older, but lately every person that has read them says that they are well worth trying to get published.
    I don’t know what step to take next, I was wondering if you have any advise for me?

    Thank you so much, I admire your writing. (:

  2. Casrule Oxford says

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site because there is so much information and inspiration here I’ve been finding lacking from other sources.
    I’m 3/4 of the way through a novel of the Urban (read Black) variety and although I’ve done a lot of the work I am still clueless as to how to proceed next.
    The market for the type of book I’m writing may be very specific but even that isn’t a given with the overwhelming influence of hip hop on today’s young.
    I’ve been proof reading the text myself as I edit it and attempt to outlast my latest bout of writer’s block but the input of an objective and professionally trained eye would give me the confidence in my work to proceed with more conviction.
    I’m writing on Microsoft Word and have over 235 pages at 3/4 of the way along. I don’t know how those pages correspond to actual pages but I’m beginning to feel like there’s just too much detail and specificity involved and that is what accounts for so much of the length.
    In Other Words HEEEEELP!!!!
    Thanks for any assistance you will be able to give and I greatly appreciate all of the information and inspiration I’ve already taken from your site.

    Best of everything,


  3. Niall says

    Hi,I have a quick question I would like to ask you guys. I understand the DIY section is on an it’s great don’t fervent wrong,but is it safe to sell your work from that alone? Are you classed as a published author? I have just been unsure,which has stopped from selling my novella! I was worried someone could publish it themselfs!!

    • says

      Do you mean someone is going to take your book text and try to pass it off as their own? Unless you have thousands of copies selling, no one is going to know your book even exists, let alone try to steal it. And being a published author does not keep people from stealing your work. All creative works in the US are protected by copyrights, not author titles or special websites.

  4. Peter Carey (but not the Booker Prize winner of the same name) says

    Are the Royalty Free Images actually free Joanna? I ask this because I have just written a 247,000 word fictional prose work and I had a friend do up a front page concept. The inanimate elements are mine, however the couple of human images photoshopped in are not. I stress that these royalty free images were only used to develop the front cover concept and I would not have used them commercially for legal and ethical reasons. Of course thus far it is immaterial because after three months I still don’t have a publisher and thus the work will probably never see the light of day anyway. However as I sourced the Royalty Free images, I noted that there was a cost assigned to them. Can you clarify this please?

    • says

      Hi Peter – royalty free doesn’t mean free.
      It means you pay ONCE but you don’t have to pay anymore later on depending on sales.
      Images that have royalty levels attached mean that you might pay $50 for an image if the product it is used on sells less than 100 copies, but then you have to pay more to use the image as you sell more. This is just not a good thing for book covers, so use royalty free images – pay once – and then whether you sell 1 or 1 million, the price is the same.
      For self-publishing and marketing nowadays, check this out:
      All the best, Joanna

  5. Alexander says

    As an alternative to using MSWord, which actually does cost money if you get it legally, you could use LyX; which makes consistent typesetting and layout way easier. Most of the “features” of MSWord that LyX does not have are gimmicks you will be better off without anyway.


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