Dear Publication Advisors

Crafting A Budget for Self Publishing

Dear Publishing Advisors,

After weighing the options with traditional and independent publishing, I have decided to self publish my first book. Do you know what types of services/costs I will be faced with as a previously-unpublished author?


Self Publishing On A Budget


Dear Self Publishing On A Budget,

Congratulations! Coming up with a budget now, and sticking to it, can dramatically reduce the stress of self-publishing.

Here are five things to consider when planning a budget:

1.) Editing. The painful truth is that it doesn’t matter how magnificent your manuscript is--you need an editor. Beta readers are a godsend, but they can only tell you so much; a seasoned editor, one who’s spent years researching and practicing exactly what you’re doing now, is going to be able to mould your manuscript into the best version of itself so that it can fit snugly into the market, as well as stand out in exactly the right way. A good editor will likely take up the lion’s share of your budget, but it isn’t something you’ll want to skimp on.

 2.) Cover art. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all know everyone does anyway. Actually, I would argue that the best way to judge a book (quickly) is by its cover, especially when it comes to self-publishing, where the quality and aesthetic of a cover is largely under the direct control of the author. Readers know what they’re looking for, so don’t try to break the mold just yet--figure out what is working for other authors in your genre, and follow their lead.

3.) Ebook conversion. Few things ruin immersion more quickly than improper formatting. Just like your cover, readers are going to look first for the little things, like commas and section breaks, before they’re ready to consider the deeper, more complex things, like character arcs and underlying themes. There are plenty of applications out there to facilitate this process, like BookBaby,, and Scrivener, and what you get depends largely, as always, on what you pay. These programs aren’t foolproof, though, so make sure you double-check everything yourself before hitting that publish button.

4.) Advertising. This one’s tricky. There are a million ways you can go about marketing, and a million companies out there promising to take care of it all for you and turn you into the next J.K. Rowling overnight. At the very minimum, you’ll want to consider things like hosting for a personal blog/website and travel for conferences, which are probably the best places to both market and network as well as learn what’s brewing in the industry.

5.) Writing Coaches. When I started writing, I was fortunate enough that my uncle, a professor of literature at Fitchburg State, took me under his wing and provided that structure and accountability that pretty much everyone but Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass desperately need. What you want is someone who knows enough to not only kick your butt, but kick it in the right direction. Sometimes you can find a developmental editor willing to help you through this, but if you have room in your budget, it might be helpful to find a dedicated writing or publishing coach to show you the ropes.  

The expenses can seem intimidating, but a solid, detailed budget can make the process a whole lot more reasonable and understandable. So pace yourself, keep learning, and have fun!