Independent Publishing Part 1: Print Book Publishing Budget

Independent Publishing Part 1: Print Book Publishing Budget

If you’re not prepared to invest, you can’t expect others to purchase.

Among the many questions raised by upcoming authors, is budget and what level of investment is required to publish a book. This is a great question, but surprisingly planning and allocating a specific budget upfront in the pre-publication process is so often neglected.

Not every author’s journey to publication will be exactly the same. People have different goals, ambitions, motivations and of course write different types of books that each have unique requirements.

Not factoring in a budget can lead to trouble, often resulting with an end product that doesn’t meet the author’s original vision for the book, or the book simply doesn’t have the quality it needs to find success with the target market.

A lot of this comes down to education and establishing a budget upfront is a key factor in having a successful book production and launch campaign. If an author simply just ‘takes it as it comes‘, they’ll hit road blocks such as; unexpected outlays and being reactionary to different circumstances that arise rather than anticipating and planning for them. This is how mistakes usually happen.

You don’t need $10,000, heck you don’t need $5000 that subsidy publishers will bill you, but some cash is required to create a book that will have people putting down their money for.

“Remember, your book has to be worth people paying good money for. Make it a book worth talking about.”

Print book budget breakdown

So let’s break down what a typical budget looks like for an author planning to independently publish.

Note: this does not include marketing or platform building. This is just for the production of an average 200 page book with a 6″ x 9″ trim size, with the quality that will sit confidently beside any trade published book.

Publishing Imprint Setup: $30 – $200

Self publishing under your own imprint allows you to publish through printers and distributors such as Lightning Source. It’s not as complicated as it would seem. Most authors will setup as a sole proprietorship and register their ISBN’s using their publishing imprint name, making the author an independent publisher and the publisher of record.

In Australia, registering your publishing business name starts for as little as $30 for a year and $70 for 3 years. It’s incredibly affordable.

ISBN’s: $80 – $250

You’ll require ISBN’s to publish with printers, distributors and retailers. If you plan on publishing more than one book (the majority of authors) then it’s much better value to purchase a block of 10 ISBN’s, rather than a single one.

A single ISBN from MyIdentifiers is $125. A block of 10 is $250. If you’re in Australia you can purchase a single ISBN for $40 and a block of 10 for $80 from As you can see, getting the block is really a no-brainer.

Manuscript Assessment: $127 – $350, based on page or word count

This is an assessment of your manuscript done by a professional appraiser, which will pin point the weaknesses and strengths of your manuscript, before it goes to editing. The author will likely receive a written report with additional comments written on the manuscript itself.

This part of the manuscript development is where all the main story, plot, character and message is addressed for holes and inconsistencies. If you have any hesitation about your manuscript or feel there’s something not quite right about it, then I recommend the manuscript assessment.

Book cover design: $200 – $500

Everyone judges a book by the cover. It sets a precedent, an expectation and this is where the buyer makes their judgement, to determine if they should pick up the book and look further. You have a couple of seconds to make your one and only first impression.

Your book cover design is the first and most important piece of your book marketing. It helps establish branding and is the basis for posters, bookmarks, online banners and of course the first thing customers see on Amazon.

Your cover needs to pop, spark interest, curiosity and draw readers in for a closer look. Find a cover designer, you don’t have to spend many hundreds of dollars, but get an objective professional eye who’ll understand how to convey your book’s message and come up with ideas and a design that will complete your book’s packaging and presentation.

Copyediting: $650 – $1600

The single biggest complaint expressed through Amazon reviews is the lack of editing. Countless typos, grammar mistakes and awkward sentences. Even if you have a limited budget, getting a copy-editor is an absolute must.

Copyediting is mostly quoted on a ‘per word’ basis. Factors such as language conversion from UK to US (vice versa), fact and reference checking and the complexity of the book determine the investment required.

A good editor will work with the author to shape the manuscript so it’s publish ready, addressing chapter headings, footnotes/endnotes, tables, characterisation, plot, structure, dialogue and more. You should feel comfortable asking any questions, with clear, concise and reassuring communication via email or Skype.

Print typesetting/Interior Design: $400 – $1100

This is where the interior of the book is designed and formatted to meet the printer specifications. The typesetting process includes chapter headers, page numbers, title page, images, diagrams, tables, lists, front and back matter have a consistent design theme that compliments the story or topic of the book.

An appealing, well designed interior can really enhance the reading experience and overall opinion of the book.

Typesetting is actually quite flexible for varying budgets than you might initially think. Those with a modest budget can start with a simple design layout, and not have to worry about the headache of formatting and preparing the files for printing.

Basic proofreading: $150 – $550

Basic proofreading can save you from having those bad Amazon reviews later. It’s not uncommon for a rogue typo or formatting bug to get through, and this is where a basic (or light) proofread from an objective fresh eye can catch any spelling or grammatical bugs that slip through.

This is commonly done once the typeset is complete, where the PDF or print proof is proofread. This step is sometimes bypassed, but from my experience I don’t recommend it.

“Writing a book is a creative act. Selling a book is a business. A finished book is a product.” Dan Poynter, best selling independent author and self publishing veteran

It starts with you

These amounts are based on the author seeking to find professionals to make up their publishing team. Seeking a service vendor or freelancers for assistance, rather than paying ridiculous amounts between $7000-$15,000 dollars at a subsidy/vanity press. I’ve helped a couple of authors who were burned, one having shelled out $25,000!

Make no mistake, your success as an author starts with you and the time, consideration and passion you drive into the publication of your book and your ongoing author platform.

You’ve got to be hungry for it, regardless of how modest or abundant your budget is. Service vendors like Book Cover Cafe are here to support your vision and assist you make your publishing goals and dreams an affordable reality.

Now grab a pen … and hustle!

Be the captain of your own ship.

3 Responses to Independent Publishing Part 1: Print Book Publishing Budget

  1. Overalll, all what you say is true regarding a budget right up to printing the book.

    I actually got by with a total of just less than t $1,500 for self-publishing my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” right up until the printing costs of about $11,500 for the first print run of 5,000 copies. Now print costs are about $14,500 whenever I print 10,000 copies ($1.45 per copy).

    Printing costs can be a lot more, however. Printing costs, of course, will vary dramaticaly according to the book and the number of copies.

    I have a book of quotations in mind that I am sure would do very well. Paradoxicaly, the fact that the book would do very well could end up making my publishing entity insolvent.

    Here’s the catch: For books shipped out in an given month, my distributor pays 40 percent in 120 days, another 40 percent in 150 days, and keeps a reserve of 20 percent for a year.

    I did the numbers and if my book sold as well as the quote book it is patterned after (one that sold 160,000 copies in three years), I could be in financial trouble.

    In a years time, I would have spend $178,000 on print costs and received only about $50,000 in receipts. That means I would be out $128,000 at that point.

    Sure, eventually I should get paid for all the books. But book distributors do go bankrupt.

    So I have decided for this particular quote book, it would be better for me to get a traditional publisher.

    Then I can focus on self-publishing another book such as “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” but in a completely different niche.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author, Innovator, and Prosperity Life Coach
    Author of the Bestseller How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
    (Over 165,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller The Joy of Not Working
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

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