Self-Publishing: Cost Analysis

Hi, Freida Kilmari here! I’m an editor and writer, and have six books scheduled for release next year (2019). You might know me by a different name, my real one, Eanna Roberts, but I write under my pen name – just to clear up any confusion. I’m going to talk about a very frowned upon topic: money. I feel like it’s addressed so little that some people are put off publishing because they have no idea of the financial implication. Not only is thinking about money stressful when incorporating publishing into your normal finances, but it involves maths, something most writers hate. Hey, we work with words, not numbers, right? Well, wrong. Unfortunately, as with any aspect of life, budgeting is vital. But what do you spend money on? What do you choose to save? What do you choose to ignore? Where can I avoid unnecessary costs? I’ve decided to document the costs I have paid for or planned to pay for so everyone can see the true cost of publishing.

Well, I’ve spent the better part of 2018 getting uncomfortably acquainted with all the costs of self-publishing. So, after sharing the discussion in a writing group, I decided to write it all up in a lovely blog post for you all and document my journey. Now, I haven’t released any of my books yet, so I can’t discuss effectiveness, nor will I pretend to be this amazing pedestal of information, but I have figures for you on what I have chosen to spend money on. I’m going to run through things for you in stages, and discuss why I’ve personally made the decisions I have. Remember, everyone is different. What works for me will not always work for you, and self-publishing is about using your knowledge, connections, and skills to your best advantage. That means you might be able to save money where I can’t and/or you might not be able to save money where I can. This is just a personal account, nothing more. Hopefully, in March, I’ll be able to let you all know how it went with the first release.


Upfront Costs:


These are the costs you can’t really avoid, unless you’re not focused on professionalism. These are just costs here, and you can’t flex or save on them, for the most part.


The first choice I had to make was how I wanted to publish. Did I want to go through Amazon and Createspace? Did I want to use Lulu, Ingramspark, or Bookbaby? To figure this out I did an immense amount of research. I eventually chose Ingramspark as they are the only “professional” POD (Print on Demand) printer. This means that they have a returns policy and bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Waterstones will order from them. They will NOT order from Createspace, as there is no returns policy. I firmly believe that to do well in publishing you need to use all avenues of publishing, and that means looking outside of Amazon. So, I chose Ingramspark, and they require you to have an official ISBN. ISBNs are given by NeilsonBookData. You can get them from other places, but this is the official source (for the UK, not sure about international sources). They sell them singularly, in packs of 10, in packs of 100, and in packs of a 1000. Now, you need an individual ISBN for every copy of the book: hardback, paperback, ebook, and audiobook. I have chosen to ignore audiobook for the time being as I can’t afford it right now. That means I need three ISBNs for every book I release.


6 books x 3 ISBNs = 18


I could have ordered a pack of 10 and then another pack of 10 later when I needed them, but I figured it would save me money in the long-run if I just bought a pack of 100 (similar cost to two packs of ten). This means I have enough ISBNs for the next 33 books. Meaning, I’m all good.


Copyright is something I didn’t necessarily need, but it highly depends on the country’s copyright laws and your own preferences. I spoke to the UK Copyright office and discussed this in length. Technically, your work is protected the moment you write it down. It’s called intellectual copyright. However, if someone was to steal your work, proving it’s intellectually owned by you is difficult legally speaking, because you need hard proof. MS Word does have timestamps, but you can alter them and everything else about the details. So, for me, I wanted to be absolutely certain that if anyone stole my work, I could take them to court with a piece of paper that said this is mine by law. I wanted that protection. In the UK, this only costs £42.50 per document (£255 for all six), so it’s worth it. If it was hundreds of pounds, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. I did this through the .gov website.


Ingramspark have a set-up fee of $49 for print and ebook. This is refunded with your first order of 50 books, and I plan to order that in ARC/Review/extra copies, so I will probably have this cost come off my total after marketing is considered. This costs roughly £230 for all six, but exchanges rates do fluctuate daily.


Cover Design and Illustration:


This is the cost everyone already assumes you have to pay for. Cover design is an important part of marketing; a good cover is an attracted reader. It needs to let people know the genre, target audience, and look professional. However, as long as you achieve those things, how you go about getting one is entirely up to you. There are three ways to get a cover: do it yourself, hire a designer, or buy a premade one. Now, with six books coming out next year, I knew I couldn’t afford £400-£500 per book for a designed cover from scratch. That just wasn’t feasible. So, I broke it down. What covers would be the most expensive? I knew that my two epic fantasy books would need covers that are beyond my skillset and my willingness to learn said skillset. However, my crime fantasy trilogy and my science-fantasy collection were definitely within my abilities to at least give it a go. So, that’s what I did. I made the covers for Man VS Happiness and The Gangster Trilogy, and I bought the first Erimish book’s cover premade, alongside the first Grecian Chronicles one.



Meet book number one: Man VS Happiness. This cover was very difficult to come up with. I decided to care less about the science-fantasy part of the genre, and more about the spirituality and mental-health side of the project. Hence why the cover is more geared towards poetry readers than fantasy ones. I bought the artwork from iStock for £30 for all four books, and then I added the typography myself. This was my first attempt at a professional cover, and I’m really pleased with the results. I’m working on the back and spinal design at the moment.





Meet book number two: A Gangster’s Playground. This is the first one in a trilogy I’m releasing next year over the summer (totalling three books). This one is also handmade, but it’s still a WIP. I’m not quite finished with it. I purchased the artwork (just the centre image) and then edited the outer splodges out of the original image in MS Word, and then put it all together in InDesign. It has been a VERY long process and incredibly stressful. However, it’s been almost free.






I tried doing this myself, I really did. But I couldn’t get the right look. Then it dawned on me: I had no idea how I wanted it to look. I had no image in my mind whatsoever. So, I went looking through stock sites, and then I found this image (pictured left) and fell in the love with the possibilities. Originally it had an elf ear, but I had the designer remove it. We chatted and talked about the rest of the series, and he’s more than happy to create them for me. This first book’s cover cost me around £94 for the ebook, paperback, and hardback. This was stress-free, easy, and the designer is amazing to work with. He is charging the same cost for the rest of the series as and when I’m ready. I’m only incorporating the first book into my calculations.



I’ll admit this isn’t finished. I need to get the original designer to mimic the typeface, but then it will done. This is the most expensive book cover I will ever pay for; however, it is perfect. An absolute image of beauty! She looks exactly like my main character (albeit with platinum blonde rather than strawberry, guess I’ll have to change that), but perfect nonetheless. This costs £170 per book for the ebook, paperback, and hardback. I’m only paying for the first in the series at the moment.





I also decided that I wanted illustration for Man VS Happiness. After looking at illustrators, I realised they weren’t in my budget. The cheapest quote I got was £30 per image (and I wanted 40). That’s just too much to spend on one aspect of one book. So, while scrolling through Shutterstock for something unrelated, I came across the perfect designer. I managed to purchase 40 images, plus the stuff for The Gangster Trilogy, for just £75. This was by far my biggest saving. Here is an example of the layout for the collection with one of the images.



The second part of this illustration journey was getting a map. This is the section that most people handle on their own, but something about that wasn’t working for me. None of the programs I tried were getting the right look and I can’t draw. So, I bit the bullet. I contacted a designer called Tiphanie. She is by far the most amazing person I have ever worked with. Despite the language barrier (she’s French) she is able to produce exactly what I want. So far, I’ve worked with her for Erimish’s map, and we’re now working on the realm map for Ennea Vasilea (the universe for A Gangster’s Playground, Erimish, The Grecian Chronciles, and other series). Because of the importance of this and how many books this map will go into (over 40) over my lifetime, I decided not to cheap out in anyway. This is the first and only illustration cost I didn’t get cheaply in some way. The Erimish map cost me £140, and the realm map will cost me £450. Here’s the Erimish one (still have a few final changes to make):





This is the section that might not be of much use to anyone, because I’m an editor so I have connections. Although I haven’t officially chosen my editor yet, I have a good idea of which one I’m going to go with. For now, they’ll remain unnamed until I’ve made an official choice. (Sorry). There’s no way to describe my choices without sounding a little big-headed, so, sorry about that in advance.


Being an editor myself means I know what I’m looking for. I have spent years (about 5-6) studying story development and what makes a best-selling story, a classic story, what makes it suitable for specific target audiences etc. This means that I’m comfortable in my story’s ability to sell. I knew straight away that I didn’t want a development editor. Development editors, for anyone wondering, work on the plot, characterisation, pacing, structure, audience suitability, POV, and other big-picture type of stuff. To ensure that I am seeing my own story the same way readers will, I have a small team of alpha readers and large team of beta readers for the editing process. This should ensure that the story is sound. That leaves the other two types of editing: copyediting and line editing.


Copyediting is something I knew I would need, as everyone does. It focuses on grammar, consistency, and accuracy within your writing. Since it’s impossible to spot your own mistakes (I’m sure there are few in this blog), it’s important to get a trained set of eyes on your work. Line editing, however, is someone who works with your readability and style. This is where I hit a snag. I had no idea if I needed that kind of help or not. I think my work reads fine, but that doesn’t mean it actually does. So, I created a questionnaire for my alpha and beta readers for Man VS Happiness. This was a test of the waters. I gave them an unedited (first draft) copy to see what the worst possible feedback could be. Other than people not understanding the poetry and getting offended over the nature of the overall story (it focuses on mental health), they had few issues with my actual writing. A few people pointed out mistakes, but no-one said my writing was difficult to read. I had a total of 20 people from all over the world read it, and not one said a bad word about my actual writing (other than a few grammar points).


I have done the same with two alpha readers for an early draft of A Gangster’s Playground and have found the same results. Issues in other areas, like misplaced commas and a show and tell balance issue, but nothing bad about the style of my writing. I have received comments, messages, and emails from readers saying that my work reads wonderfully, one person even commented that they can’t usually stay focused but reading my work was effortless (that was a good day for me J). So, I have decided against hiring a line editor to save money. I’m still not sure if this will be the right choice.


The current average costs of copyediting for my work:


Miscellaneous Costs:


There are a few costs that I want to talk about that are a little odd and don’t fit into a category. Although I guess they’re a type marketing. The first is a photoshoot. I’m paying £50 to have a small photoshoot done with a local photographer so I can have a good author photo in the books and on my website. You can get this free if you know what you’re doing and/or know a photographer. I do not have either of those things. Another cost is the website itself. I’m using Wix, which costs £121.20 for the website per year, and I’m also using them to set up an email account specially for my author business which will cost £35 per year.


Overall Costs So Far:


So, there you have it! That’s how much publishing is going to cost me next year, if you remove the cost of marketing. I’m going to write another blog post on marketing at some point in the future. I’m still learning it at the moment. Below is a list of services I have used and/or are planning to use:


  • ISBN:


  • Copyright (UK):


  • IngramSpark:


  • iStock:


  • Shutterstock:


  • Cover Designer for Erimish:


  • Cover Designer for Grecian Chronicles:


  • Cartographer:


  • Wix:


















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Name: Eanna Roberts
Telephone: 07895018885
E-mail Address:
Location: Trowbridge, England, United Kingdom

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