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Costs to Publish a Novel Independently

25 Dec 2023 9:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

by Raquel Damus

Aspiring authors often embark on a journey filled with creativity, passion, and the dream of sharing their stories with the world. However, the path to publication is not without its challenges, and understanding the associated costs is crucial for a successful venture. In this guide, we'll break down the expenses involved in key aspects of the publishing process, helping authors make informed decisions.

Here are stages to consider gathering prices for:

  • Getting (and paying) beta readers
  • Getting (and paying) for reviews
  • Developmental editing
  • Line editing
  • Copy editing
  • Cover design
  • Interior design
  • ISBNs
  • Publishing


Beta Readers:

Beta readers play a vital role in shaping the success of a manuscript. While some may offer their services for free, others, particularly professionals, might charge anywhere from $50 to $500 or more. Consider factors like the number of readers, their expertise, and potential travel expenses if in-person meetings are planned.

  • Volunteer Beta Readers: Often free.
  • Amateur Beta Readers: $0 to $50 per reader.
  • Professional Beta Readers: $50 to $500+ per reader.
  • Travel Expenses (if applicable): Varies.

Book Reviews:

Paying for book reviews is a common practice, with costs varying based on the source. Professional review services can charge between $50 and $500 or more per review, while bloggers and review websites may range from $25 to $500. It's essential to weigh the potential benefits against ethical considerations and your budget.

  • Professional Review Services: $50 to $500+ per review.
  • Bloggers and Review Websites: $25 to $500+ per review.
  • Review Copies: $5 to $20 per copy.
  • Marketing Packages: $500 to $2,000+.
  • Ethical Considerations: Important to consider.

Developmental Editing:

Developmental editing ensures your manuscript reaches its full potential. Rates typically range from $0.02 to $0.10 per word, with additional costs for rush services or specialized expertise. Editorial assessments might incur a separate fee, ranging from $500 to $2,000 or more.

  • Editor's Experience: $0.02 to $0.10 per word.
  • Manuscript Length: Longer manuscripts cost more.
  • Complexity: Complex edits may cost more.
  • Editorial Assessment: $500 to $2,000+.
  • Rush Services: 25% to 50% extra.
  • Hourly Rates: $50 to $150+ per hour.
  • Editing Packages: $2,000 to $10,000+.
  • Genre-Specific: May cost more.
  • Payment Structure: Deposit may be required.

Line Editing:

Line editing refines the language and structure of your work. Costs can vary from $0.01 to $0.05 per word, with hourly rates for more complex projects. Sample edits, ranging from $25 to $100, allow you to gauge compatibility with an editor.

  • Editor's Experience: $0.01 to $0.05 per word.
  • Manuscript Length: Longer manuscripts cost more.
  • Complexity: Challenging edits may require hourly rates ($25 to $75+ per hour).
  • Rush Services: 25% to 50% extra.
  • Hourly Rates: $25 to $75+ per hour.
  • Sample Edits: $25 to $100.
  • Editing Packages: $1,000 to $10,000+.
  • Genre-Specific: May cost more.
  • Payment Terms: Deposit may be required.

Copy Editing:

Copy editing focuses on grammar, style, and consistency. Expect to pay between $0.01 and $0.03 per word, with additional fees for rush services or hourly rates for challenging projects. Editing packages may range from $1,000 to $5,000 or more.

  • Editor's Experience: $0.01 to $0.03 per word.
  • Manuscript Length: Longer manuscripts cost more.
  • Complexity: Challenging projects may require hourly rates ($25 to $75+ per hour).
  • Rush Services: 25% to 50% extra.
  • Sample Edits: $25 to $100.
  • Editing Packages: $1,000 to $5,000+.
  • Genre-Specific: May cost more.
  • Payment Terms: Deposit may be required.

Cover Design:

A captivating book cover is essential for attracting readers. Cover design costs vary based on factors like experience, custom vs. premade designs, and the need for illustrations or photography. Prices can range from $50 to $1,500 or more.

  • Designer's Experience: $50 to $1,500+.
  • Custom vs. Premade Covers: Custom $300 to $1,500+; Premade $50 to $500.
  • Genre and Complexity: Can impact cost.
  • Illustrations and Photography: $100 to $1,000+.
  • Stock Images: $10 to $100+.
  • Typography and Layout: Can affect cost.
  • Ebook and Print Covers: $100 to $500+.
  • Revisions: Clarify included rounds.
  • Licensing Fees: If necessary, additional cost.
  • Payment Terms: Deposit (typically 50%) may be required.
  • Consultation Fees: If needed, may incur extra charges.

Interior Design

Embarking on the journey of publishing your book involves more than just storytelling—it's about presenting your work in a way that captivates readers. Interior book design is a critical component, ensuring your narrative is not only compelling but also visually appealing. 

  • Professional Designer Fees:

    • Range: $500 to $3,000+
    • Hourly rates: $50 to $150+
  • Software and Tools

    • Adobe InDesign: $20 to $50/month
  • Templates and DIY Options:

    • Pre-made templates: $30 to $100
    • DIY tools: Varying costs, potential learning curve
  • Formatting for Print and Ebooks:

    • Print books: Consider additional costs
    • Ebooks: Typically included in design fee
  • Revisions and Additional Services:

    • Revision fees: May apply for extra revisions
    • Additional services: Custom graphics, interactive elements may increase costs


When an author opts for Amazon's free ISBN alternative, it serves as a specific identifier within the Amazon ecosystem. However, this exclusivity may prove limiting for authors with broader distribution aspirations. If your plan involves reaching readers beyond the Amazon marketplace — whether through brick-and-mortar bookstores, other online retailers, or libraries — a unique ISBN becomes an indispensable asset.

If you plan to market and sell your book to more than Amazon shoppers, you will need an ISBN. For books published on Amazon, both ebooks and paperbacks, Amazon will provide a number to substitute for an ISBN at no cost, but that number will not be used by any other book distributor or publisher. Unless you plan never to sell a copy of your book, consider purchasing one or more ISBNs from Bowker Publishing Services.

Bowker Publishing Services is a renowned provider of ISBNs, offering authors the opportunity to establish a distinct identity for their work across diverse platforms. Acquiring one or more ISBNs from Bowker comes with several advantages. ISBNs from Bowker are universally recognized, enabling your book to be cataloged and ordered by bookstores, libraries, and online retailers worldwide. Also authors with their own ISBNs have control over the metadata associated with their book, including pricing, format, and distribution details.

Publishing Platforms

Some platforms that indie published authors may choose to use, such as Ingram Spark, charge a fee for uploading the manuscript; Amazon does not charge for uploading manuscripts, but like all platforms, they charge a percentage of the cost of each book printed.

IngramSpark is a publishing platform that facilitates both ebook and print book distribution. It is known for its extensive network, connecting authors with a wide range of retailers, libraries, and bookstores. IngramSpark offers Print On Demand (POD) services, eliminating the need for large upfront print runs. Books published through IngramSpark can be distributed to major retailers worldwide. 

Amazon KDP is a dominant force in the world of digital self-publishing. It allows authors to publish and distribute ebooks globally, reaching millions of Kindle readers. Amazon has a vast international audience, offering authors a broad reach. KDP provides user-friendly tools for manuscript uploading, cover design, and pricing.

D2D offers a straightforward interface for uploading and managing ebook files. Authors receive consolidated royalty payments from multiple retailers through D2D. D2D distributes to major ebook retailers, including Apple Books and Barnes & Noble.

  • Ingram Spark - $25 to $49
  • Amazon KDP - no cost for uploading to the platform. KDP relies on charging a percentage of the royalties.
  • Draft2Digital - no cost for uploading to the platform. D2D charges a percentage of the sales of the books.

In conclusion, understanding the costs associated with beta readers, book reviews, editing services, and cover design is vital for authors navigating the publishing landscape. While these investments can enhance the quality and marketability of your work, it's crucial to find a balance that aligns with your budget and overall publishing goals.

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