Self-Publishing On A Budget

You can self-publish affordably or even for free. You don’t need a huge budget to be an indie author. I’ve been at both ends of the budget spectrum for publishing – I once spent around $1500 for my first book. I didn’t know what I was doing, I was new, and I was following advice of other indie authors who likely had more cash flow than I did. With every new book I published, I was able to adjust my budget to be more reasonable.

Book covers. Some of my book covers were designed by my sister and she has affordable rates. You can also find pre-made book covers that cost anywhere from $20 to $200. You can take a browse through some pre-made book cover websites and see if there’s something that will suit your book. Some custom cover designers charge high rates – I worked with one once and she gave me a few discounts but it still cost over $300. Other custom cover designers will only charge around $50-$100 which is more reasonable.

If you have some skill with graphic design or a knack for learning things yourself, you can create your own book cover for free! Many indies do that, so it’s something to keep in mind if you’d rather not spend any money on the cover. This is the one area where I’ll usually spend money, because I don’t have the patience to design book covers, at least not right now.

Formatting. This can be a somewhat frustrating part of the publishing process, but it usually won’t take too long and you can learn how to do this yourself (with some trial and error). The Amazon Kindle forums are a great place to figure out how to size/format your manuscript prior to uploading it.

I’ve paid for a book formatter once and it cost around $100, which isn’t bad. If you hate this process, you can pay for someone to do it for you.

Editing. This can be a a hot topic for writers. Many indie authors drive home the rule that you *must* have your work professionally edited before you publish it. I’ll admit that I paid good money for editors in the beginning. I was just doing what I was told, because I thought it was what writers should do. Some editors will charge up to $1500 and they stand behind the principle that they need to charge this much to make a living (Never mind how little the authors make once their book is published) so sometimes you have to be your own advocate. Don’t let other people lure you into spending more money than you can afford. I’ve hired freelance editors willing to do the work for around $250 (I felt guilty paying them any less than that) and their quality of work was just as good as the editor I paid $1500 for.

A side note: Some of my best selling books were not edited by a pro editor and they received a lot of positive reviews. So, no, you don’t need an editor if you can edit well yourself. If you want to hire an editor, you can find someone who will fit into your budget. I hope this settles some of your fears about the cost of editing services.

Beta readers. Beta reading is something a lot of indie authors like to have before publishing their work. It’s free and a lot of authors will read one another’s books prior to publishing – it can be thought of as a trade of services. It’s a no-cost way to have another set of eyes go over your work. It’s not the same as editing, but it can be helpful to some writers.

Proofreading. Some people won’t invest in an editor, but they will have someone proofread their story. This is basically a one time sweep over the story to fix any typos or minor errors. If you were to pay for this service, it’s a lot cheaper than an editor. Some writers think it’s worth it to have a proofreader go over their story. It’s something you can do yourself for free, though, and you’ll get better at it as you write more books.

Publishing services. It’s completely free to publish your book on Kindle Direct Publishing – for both the ebook and the print book. Amazon uses a print on demand system so you never have to pay out of pocket for your books to be printed which is pretty nifty.

Most online publishers won’t charge you any fees to upload your book on their website – if they do charge you money then there’s a chance that it’s a vanity publisher in disguise.

Author copies. Amazon gives you the option to order author copies at a low price if you want to sell them on your own site or at a book fair/author convention. I tend to order a few of these for giveaways or if I want to do a book photo shoot for Bookstagram.

So, there you have it! You can publish your book for free or you can spend a few hundred on an editor and a cover designer. The great thing is that there’s always resources if you need help and aren’t sure about how to do something. You can create a thread on Twitter or join the forums on KDP and someone will be there to help you troubleshoot.

(Photo by Karolina Grabowska:



  1. I think Sara it is hard to publish on your own without someone leading the way. You could probably hold a class in some areas for writers on how to do this. I looked ambitiously into this before my novel was accepted by Barringer’s Publishing. It was quite complex for me. I was reviewing and considering Red Adept for editing. The formatting and the details of IBSN number were quite complex. I like having someone lead me through the edits (right now, I am on round 3 and there are 2 more promised). I think you definitely have a large audience if you can tell writers how to publish and do it so everyone understand and does not get frustrated.

    • Hey that’s a nice idea and you’re so right there’s so much to know about publishing. The formatting itself is a task. I think you’re onto something where I could write a full post for each step of publishing.

      • If someone taught a class in person in Tampa, I would be there learning. Very complex for those not comfortable with some of the steps. Beta readers were impossible to find, for me. I did find one, a published author was encouraged me but many others kind of just blew me off. To tell the truth.

      • I find I’m not detailed or critical enough to be a good beta reader but I have done it before. I’m more one to read & review a book but beta readers can be hard to find. I never actually had any for my published books. The one time I had one beta read it was by an English snob and I ended up ruining the story by trying to make it what he wanted. I learned from that mistake.

      • I understand! One of my friends asked me to change the title of a short story as she felt it was not politically correct. That ruined the story. I changed it back and the story was published. We have to learn to trust our instincts!

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