How much does it cost to write and self publish a quality business book?

Self publishing costs can vary greatly depending on how much you want/can do yourself, the length of your manuscript, quality you want and the quality of what you have written. Understanding the costs and potential revenue and benefits of your business book before you start will increase your chances of success.

This is a question I get asked all the time and it’s a really important one in a self publishing space. There are so many options and choices that it’s extraordinary difficult to work it out what the cost of self publishing a quality business book will be if you’re a first time business book author and who to trust.

Depending on the length and quality of the book you want to self publish (in terms of content, design, paper stock and binding) the costs will vary.

This said, if you want to self publish a quality business book that you’d be proud to stand up in front of an audience and present, here’s a summary of the main costs you need to be aware of.

A short note before you start, however. There are a ton of apps that claim to do a number of the things I outline here. I know because I used/have tested many of them, including ChatGPT.  All I’ll say about apps is that many are quite good but are no substitute for a professional, human expert. If you choose to use them this does not absolve you from checking what they send back.

Keep this quote in mind as you read through this overview.

Fast, Cheap, and Good… pick two.

If it’s fast and cheap it won’t be good.

If it’s cheap and good, it won’t be fast.

If it’s fast and good, it won’t be cheap.

Fast, cheap and good … pick two words to live by.”

Planning and writing

One of the real costs of writing your own book is the opportunity cost attached to thinking about the structure of your book. If you’re running your own business, working as a consultant or employed you can easily calculate the actual cost to you. Simply add-up all the hours outlined below and multiply this by your hourly rate. It might shock you. Hopefully, it won’t put you off. What it will do is focus your attention on making the most of the thinking and planning time you spend.

It takes most people 1-2 months to really work through the planning and structuring of their book idea. So, let’s say that’s 6 hours a week over 2 months: 48 hours, and you haven’t started writing anything.

Writing, like most things, takes commitment, consistency and self discipline. Yes, there are online courses and that promote writing your book in 3 days, a week, 10 days or a month and I am sure many people could write something in this amount of time. But would people want to buy it, is it going to add value to your chosen target audiences or simply add to the already bloated world of useless content?

Realistically, it will take most people between 4-6 months to write their book, and I’m talking here of a book of approx. 30,000 words. Allocating 2 sessions of 2.5 hours per week over a 4-6 month period, that’s 5 hours a week or between 80-120 hours.

So, what’s your hourly rate x 48+80/120 hours? Let’s be super conservative and say$150 an hour x 128 hours = $19,200.

Editing and proofreading costs

Editing and proofreading are different. An editor will review your writing and make structural suggestions and changes as well as recommendations about style, flow, consistency and the like.

Editors usually charge on a per thousand-word rate with a 30,000 word manuscript costing about $2,000.

A proofreader is someone who checks the spelling of words and the consistency of spelling and punctuation throughout the document. You would usually use a proofreader immediately before the text is sent to the designer and then again when the pages have be laid out as glitches often happen in the design process.

Proofreaders usually charge on a per thousand word rate with a 30,000 word manuscript costing between $800-$1,200.

The cleaner your writing (i.e. from a spelling, punctuation and structural point of view) the lower the fees at it will take the Editor/proofreader less time.

Design and page layout costs

This refers to the design of the book cover and internal pages. A designer would usually provide 1-2 concept treatments for review and discussion, final concepts, page layouts, x 2 sets of revisions. The cost would Include the front and back cover design but not graphs and tables.

The cost of designing and production of a 160-page, soft cover book would be between $3,000-$6,000.

Summary and Checklist pages can be provided as separate PDF and/or a combined PDF for marketing and promotional use. This would cost approx. $500 -$800 depending on the number.

A written Design Brief should be provided to the designer at the outset to ensure the quote you receive incorporates all the elements and options you want as well as the number of revisions and corrections you want to allow for.

DO NOT take the cheap option. Your book will look cheap and so will you. This is the one place you really need to spend an appropriate amount of money.

Selecting a designer is incredibly hard from the thousands out there. Word of mouth and references are by far the best way to locate a good one that charges a reasonable fee. Check out this post for more details.

If you go with Amazon/Ingram Spark or other online platforms they have set templates and costs for covers and internal pages you can choose from which are quite inexpensive OR you can upload your own design, provided it’s in the formats they offer.

Printing costs

As a guide, printing 1,000 copies of a good quality book of approx. 160 pages will cost between $8.00 to $12.00 per unit or $8,000 to $12,000 depending on format, paper stock and whether the internal pages of your book are black and white or colour. The smaller the print run the higher the unit price. For more detail check out this post.

Of course, you can choose to Print on Demand (POD) where you sign up to a Platform such as Amazon KDP or Ingram Spark and they print and fulfill book orders as they are placed. The upside is that you don’t have to invest so much in printing or handle postage etc, the downside is that they take most of the money and you have no idea who has bought your book.

eBook conversion (eBook ready for uploading). Between $500-$900

Marketing costs

Content marketing strategy and plan and executing this over 12 months: Free or professional $0 – $1,500

Domain names, SEO $200-$1,500

Platforms (LinkedIn, Insta, Facebook, other). Free or paid/premium versions $1,500 if you’re not already on them or you need to upgrade to premium

Build/upgrade your website and eCommerce $1,500-$6,000

Launch $500 – $5,000

Marketing and promotion (over 12 months) $2,000-10,000

Other items to think about IF you are selling your book directly include the storage of books (Your garage, spare room, rented facility etc.), postage, handling and delivery costs (if you do a printed version) and you time.

If you are looking to sign up to a self publisher that offers amazing marketing and promotional packages around the world check out the fine print first. You may well be signing away all or some of your copyright and the return you get from sales may be miniscule due to the ‘marketing costs’ they charge.

Summary of costs

In summary for a 30,000-word, 160-page book with 1,000 print run (and not including your time)

  1. Editing and proofreading $2,000
  2. Design and page layout, $3,500
  3. eBook conversion, $800
  4. Printed book, $8,000
  5. Website, marketing, launch etc $6,000

TOTAL $20,300 over 12-24 months with the main costs occurring towards the end of the book production process and then in the 6-12 months afterwards.

Revenue – finally!

And, if you sold say 800 copies of your book at an average price of $25.00 you would secure $20,000 in revenue, so it would be a cost neutral exercise with all the upside of the exposure, recognition and business development outcomes.

And, there’s a ton of ways to sell your book, not just one book sale to one person. Bulk sales to companies, conferences and events, at speaking engagements are just three opportunities.

Other options and warnings

Of course, you can probably get most of these services cheaper if you want to DIY or use any number of the apps that are available for proofreading, design, layout etc. Most online book publishing offers have a selection of formats, fonts and paper stocks to select from.

Be careful to check how many revisions you are permitted on whatever writing and layout packages you buy. They are usually quite restrictive and if you want/need more than the basics you will be charged extra, and these costs can mount up pretty quickly.

Also beware of copyright issues. Typically the companies own the design files so you can’t take them to print somewhere else. And the ISBN (how people can find your book worldwide) will be linked to them, not you.

And, American platforms will use American spelling and US laws relating to defamation and copyright which are different from Australian laws