How Much Does It Cost to Self-Publish a Book? Real Expenses from a Real Self-Published Author with 12+ Years Experience

As a self-published author, I love the end of the month. Why? Because that’s when payday comes from sites like Amazon (AMZ) and Barnes & Noble (B&N).

If you’re wondering if self-publishing pays, I’m here to tell ya, it does! Big time. I’ve been self-publishing and selling ebooks online since 2002.

This month, I received my largest payout* ever from Amazon – almost $3,000 (see graphic below of deposits to my bank account; click for larger view). And realize, this is literally peanuts compared to many, many other self-publishers, who routinely earn five figures per month or more.

AMZ and B&N deposit your earnings right into your bank account, so you never have to worry about being home to get a check to deposit; or a payment getting lost in the mail; or even waiting for a payment to clear when it’s deposited into your PayPal account (which you have to transfer to your bank account).

Self-publishing means you can work and earn from anywhere in the world. These days, I live and work from Jamaica (I’m American for those who don’t know), but I never worry about getting paid. So if you’re ready to make the leap into self-publishing (there’s never been a better time to!). I’m here to tell you, it’s a lot of work, but so worth it if you have the patience and tenacity to do some research to find out what sells and build a catalog of titles (ie, write a lot of ebooks).

*Payouts listed here DO NOT include sales directly from my websites. These are only from ebooks sold on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Ebook Marketing: How Much Time Should You Be Spending on It

I just want to point out that I do very little marketing for my ebooks. Blogging (posts like this) take up most of my time in the marketing of my titles. Other than that, I may write and submit press releases to PRLog.com and post links to my social media accounts (mostly FB and Twitter). But that’s about it these days (between writing on my own projects and client work, I’m swamped most days).

Self-Published Author EarningsI used to do a lot of article marketing and guest blogging, but since I started fiction (romance) writing back in the spring, I’ve even stopped doing a lot of that. Nowadays, my time is spent producing (ie, writing new books). Why?

Because this is the best return on my time. And all the experts like JA Konrath, Lindsay Buroker and David Gaughran agree (at least in the beginnning of your self-publishing career).

The Difference between Marketing Fiction and Non-Fiction Ebooks

I’ll do a more extensive post on this at a later date, but I just want to point out that there’s a definite difference between the two.

The primary difference is that things like blogging, article marketing and social media marketing, etc. can defintiely help a lot with sales of non-fiction, how-to ebooks (even if you just have one).

This is because you’re helping to solve a problem; providing a solution, and hence, you’re most likely charging more ($20, $30, $40 or more). So you can market one ebook to death and make a killling with it; even turning it into a cottage industry (eg, offereing classes, a series of books, etc.). In short, you don’t need an extensive catalog to make a lot of money publishing non-fiction, how-to ebooks.

I know; my SEO writing ebooks and e-classes prove this (see titles listed under “SEO Writing Help” section and class listed under “Get SEO Copywriter Training” link). Atlanta-based copywriter Peter Bowerman’s, “The Well-Fed Writer,” is another example of this.

Fiction is different. And it’s because it’s not necessary. It’s reading for pleasure. So once someone reads that one title, what else is it for them to buy?

But if you have 5, 10, or 15 more titles, then if they like the first one, they’re more likely to buy more of your books. So this is why it pays to wait to market your fiction titles until you have a “catalog;” instead of just one or two books.

Self-Publishing Is Free

One more thing, I spend practically $0 to make money as a self-publisher. I cringe when I read articles that say you have to spend hundreds for an ebook cover; hundreds more on ISBN numbers; hundreds more on proofreaders and copy editors; and hundreds (or a couple of thousand or more) on marketing for things like press releases.

I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to spend money to make money as a self-publisher. All it costs is time.

Now, do professionally designed ebook covers help? Sure they do. But, if you know how to maneuver around in programs like Photoshop, you can create your own ebook covers for free until you can afford to hire someone. Or, you can use sites like Fiverr and find someone to create a professional cover for you for literally as little as $5 – and trust me, it’ll look like a professionally designed cover.

For the most part, I do my own covers. They won’t win any awards, but they don’t look cheap and tacky either.

Does having your ebook professionally copy edited and proofed help? For sure. But again, you can find quality professionals on Fiverr to have this done without spending a fortune. I’m talking college-educated, English-speaking professionals.

You see, on Fiverr, many giggers (freelancers) have a bottom basement rate of $5, but they have add-ons that they charge more for. For example, some will read a 20-page ebook for $5, then charge an additional $10 for each additional 20 pages after that. So to have a 100-page ebook proofread, it may cost you $45 – way less than what you’d pay at market-rate for a proofreader/copy editor.

And please, no emails about how this is highway robbery and no editorial professional should work for this, blah, blah, blah. These are freelancers who choose to market their talents via sites like Fiverr. No one is forcing them. And many use the site as a platform to upsell to higher-paying work.

Many freelancers who learn to maximize their time make good money on Fiverr – using it from everything like paying expenses through college to buying new homes (yes, you read that right). We’ve turned into a “worldwide, gig-based economy” and IMO, the quicker freelancers embrace it and learn how to operate in it, the better off they’ll be (financially and emotionally).

How Much Do I Spend to Make Money as a Self-Published Author

In a phrase, “very little.” Following are my expenses.

E-Junkie: My digital download service provider. This is used to have my ebooks immediately delivered to buyers when they order from my websites (ie, InkwellEditorial.com, SeoWritingJobs.com, FreeAdsSell.info). Current cost: $27 month (you can get started with e-Junkie for as little as $5; cost depends on how many ebooks you have uploaded).

MyECoverMaker.com: Ebook cover creator software. $9/month.

Fiverr: I use giggers on the site for a few things, eg, to market my ebooks (eg, post on their Facebook page and to to Facebook groups); to do ebook covers; to write press releases; to proofread/copy edit. $10-$50/month.

Total Monthly Self-Publishing Expenses: $46-$86 per month (excluding domain name registration and web hosting fees, which add another $25 approximately to this total).

FYI, the only one of these services I say you absolutely need to start with is e-Junkie.** The rest can wait. And again, you can start with them for as little as $5 per month.

**Note: This applies only if you want to sell your books from your own site. If you plan to publish via biggies like AMZ, B&N, etc., then you don’t need this service. I sell all of my fiction (romance) novels on AMZ; I sell my non-fiction titles on AMZ, B&N and from my own site (this one and a few others).

As you can see, self-publishing can be very profitable, and you can start for literally $0. When I first started, I didn’t even have e-Junkie, or ebooks with covers. I just wrote the title, converted it into a .pdf file and uploaded it to my website.

Now admittedly, I didn’t sell very many (a few copies per month) until I signed on with e-Junkie (then I started selling a few copies per week). BUT I wanted you to know, when you run across articles that say you have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to make money self-publishing, it’s not true.

Inkwell Editorial Publishing

Im still very much a do-it-yourselfer, but I’m starting to outsource more because I’m expanding. Next month, Inkwell Editorial will start self-publishing stories by ghost writers (I’m buying stories – lock, stock and barrel) and will be publishing them under “Inkwell Editorial Publishing.” What kind of stories? All fiction, primarily in different genres of romance, but will expand into crime and possibly sci-fi as we grow. Right now, I’m publishing what I like to read and can write reasonably well.

And to think … it all started back in 2002, when I published my first ebook (see section entitled “My First Ebook: How It Came About”). I never dreamed it would turn into a full-time, well-paying career. It can be so for you too.

Share Your Experience

Have you self-published an ebook? Are thinking about self-publishing one? Think self-publishing is a viable career option? Share your experience/thoughts in the comments section below.


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