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How much does it cost to publish an e-book?
A lot of the answers here get this right. It can cost nothing or thousands of your favourite currency (or at least the one you use). However I presume if I may that you want people to read your book. Probably you also want to make some money or at the very least break even. Depending on the mood of most writers they will tell you to either publish for the love of it and money isn an issue. Or they will actually be truthful and say it will cost more than you think unless you go the traditional route. The traditional route can even cost you money in the long run but that gets intoparative earning finances which I may touch on later. I am going to be answering this from the self-publishing route as well. The first thing I am going to tackle are the hidden costs. These fall under overheads in normal business situations. Think of what you need to live. Staying alive costs money. You need the basics of roof over your head water to drink and enough food to keep your body going. Of course there are multiple levels to this but we don think of those as costs usually. That is where the first costs of self-publishinge from. From those things you take for granted. Throughout this answer I will likely show free cheap and expensive options for each part. That is because of the variations the other answers mention. italic Step one you need aputer. Thatputer could be a phone an desktopputer a laptop someone else laptop orputer and so on. This isn to say you can write longhand anymore. Personally I write a lot of notes and plans longhand a friend writes everything out longhand first. If you do then you have to make that writing digital. Most people contemplating self-publishing will already have a device to use. If you don have one then you can get one fairly cheap. I have an old steam driven laptop as a backup device. The battery doesn work so it has to be plugged in and it has the most basic of setups. It was so old it was free. My main PC is a bit of an old workhorse of a device. It struggles with some modern things and is nearing a decade in age. However I run multiple websites write basic code write books and even play games on it. Not to mention the sheer quantity of other things it still does. It is a basic device still and does its job. Getting and maintaining a device are important things in this day and age. You can escape needing one. So the free option is find something so old that you can pick it up for free use a library that has freeputer access use a friends device. Even use your phone or a friend one. Mid level is getting a functionalputer like mine. High ticket is getting a macbook or a modern laptop so you can write anywhere. I would consider a base level PC or laptop the minimum for ease of use and price. While most of us (everyone on Quora has one of those options) already own such a device it isn free to get (usually). I am not going to go the money route on this specific one. Essentially the cost here is time or money. Your device needs software. This is inescapable. If you want to write you need somewhere to write (digitally speaking to input your story). There are numerous free software packages you can use my backupputer uses libre office which is open source. You can use notes on a phone. Notepad on a PC google docs open office variants pretty much any word processing software you can think of. The issuees with actually getting the thing published. Without a laptop or PC you are going to struggle to create the file formats needed to upload download or play with. There are some ways around this to fudge things but quite frankly that is very time consuming. If you want to kick things up a notch then you are probably using word. Currently the Microsoft package is ua38 a year in the UK. I struggle to justify it but quite frankly Im in a bind if I don. I love excel you see. That program is one of the finest pieces of software known to the human race. I digress. Simply put that is ua38 a year for a software package that allows you to do everything with ease. It can run into issues with long documents though. Gold standard are writer specific software s. Scrivener is the top one in my opinion. It is designed around the author and writing in general. It is an added extra but is super cheap if you are serious about writing. Just like the device needed above the more you write the cheaper these be as a cost per book. This is an important principle. If you are writing a single book then you add ua38 to the cost for the Microsoft package. If you write four books and then use the software for a bunch of other things you can drop that to around ua35 per book. Overheads are like that. It isn just writing software you want. There are programs like grammarly (not a fan personally) or my favourite prowritingaid. These are your editing software programs. Before your editor gets their sticky little hands on the manuscript you better have gone through that with a fine toothedb. They are not an editor replacement they are to help you self-edit before you go to an editor (more on editors later). Software wise you can easily through ua315 a year or so to get the good stuff. If you want to write a decent novel without having to fuss around then that is amon to get at least word if not another word processor and some of software like prowritingaid. Now you have theputer and the software you need to consider other costs. Im not going to spend much time on it but quite frankly you need an internet connection. At the very least a basic one. The cost of that is highly variable and depend on the area you live in. Other ancillary costs include pens paper printer and ink (if you go that route) pencils electricity for thatputer. Afortable setup so you can write without developing recurring issues etc. These are mostly things that we take for granted but if you want to be successful or break even you need the bare minimum of these items. Yes there are people who say you can get by without all or some (personally I don ever use a printer as an example) but you need to be able to afford the basic costs of a life sat in front of aputer writing without damaging effects. A lot of the above is taken for granted. Mostly that is because people already have all of it for other reasons. A great example of this is that people don factor the cost of a television into buying a console. This is because if you can afford a console you likely already own a television. Writing is the same. The above are incidental costs and a basic set of opening hurdles. The vast majority of us could simply tick off that checklist and go on our way. They do need to be considered though. Simply put can you afford to be a writer? Let get into all of those bits that are particular about publishing an ebook. The first part is the list of things you need to do to get a modicum of success that would be breaking even or earning some extra money. Editing. Formatting. These are the four core things you need to be able to do and afford to get anywhere. Editing. You can publish a self edited book. I know. I have done this multiple times. I have had varying degrees of success but at the end of the day I was doing that to earn enough to pay for an editor. I then went back and re-released a book once edited and only released the next one when I had sent it to an editor. While not a guarantee of success it is something that needs to be done. It is quite rare to find someone who canpetently edit their own italic writing. Never assume you are one of those people. In fact always assume you aren. When ites to self-publishing you are generally using a single editor. That editor will be a line editor too. Some use more and people with money to burn use a developmental editor. The developmental edit is super expensive. Im not saying it isn worth it. A good developmental editor will really help in the early stages of a career. It is just that it will cost you about as much as a half decent second hand car. Remember that any cost has to be recouped by sales too so it puts your sales target up. Say you spend ua32 on a developmental edit (they can be way way more than that). you now have to make ua32 to recoup the loss. You will also need a line editor. At that point you might as well plop down another grand for a total of ua33. That gets you an okay developmental edit and a really good line editor. I mentioned above that I earnt enough to pay for an editor from a self-edited book. I was lucky. Super lucky in fact. That is a rare thing and I really wouldn rmend it unless you are desperate (I was it was either that or save up for the next ten years to possibly maybe be able to get an editor). if you want your book to be well edited you need to shop around for cheaper deals or pay the going rate. That range is about ua33-ua31 with length of the manuscript experience of editor quality of your manuscript and depth of editing taken into account. That is to get an edit that is worth paying someone for. I say about ua36 is a good medium point for cost vs quality. (I have a cracking edit for ua33 but that was a deal so they can be found but aren to be relied on). The cover. This is againplicated. Someone with art training a good eye for detail and a knowledge of digital aspects can do a cover. The vast majority of people can do this. Personally I have an artistic background so can make a passable cover. All of the software I use is free (one piece because my day job has given me license to use some of their adobe stuff although that is bonus material for me). Sourcing but on the whole they are good in a pinch. The issue here is limited ability and access to the quality pictures. You will often get the okay version of a picture series and possibly two or three variants if you are looking for certain s of s you need to get some from the standard licensed is actually secondary to this. It is how the cover is designed with the (if you know how formats work) will drop you a file in pdf that can be printed and look exactly the same as something penguin-random house would produce. Learn that skill. Do not pay for it. it is super basic and you can even do it well enough in Word. Formatting should cost you nothing but a few minutes including the check for corrections. This is something I may receive flak for but I will die on this hill. Simply learning when to hit the tab button at the right time is not worth money. It is a super basic skill. Those of us who started on the earlierputers (not the super early ones I might add) aren even the best at this. The old school writer authors know these things. We shouldn ignore it as a newer generation of authors. We want to write well so we learn structure and that includes where the s paragraph spacing and chapter breakse. 9% of this is even automated in software. You want to be an author then you learn how that stuff works. We even have youtube to teach us. They didn. Upshot is formatting costs zero unless you are too lazy to even use a free service. Advertising. This is the hidden cost of self publishing. Too often an author will self publish and think of themselves as just an author. You aren. You are also a publisher. that is why you eschewed the traditional publishers. The easiest way to deal with this issue is to look at why the trad publisher takes their cut. We have dealt with the edits they do the cover and formatting too. We understand that we pay for that. What far too many self-published authors forget is that we are also shouldering that reach and advertising. To that end you need to consider the amount of money a traditional publisher would throw at a book. Unless you have had a traditional contract (or work for the publishers) you don know how much. I will readily admit I don know the figures and until I get a trad deal (something I am considering for one of my books) I don actually know the numbers. However there is a way we canpare without knowing the numbers. If a traditionally published author gets a contract they will see an average of 1% in royalties. Lower for some formats significantly higher for an ebook but 1% is an easy to use figure and is in the ballpark as an average. Now consider that a self-published author gets a 7%-3% cut depending on where and how they put their book out. To make sure youpete with publisher clout for a mid list or higher (you did want to actually sell similar numbers right?) you then take the 1% and 7%. (yes I know that you don get the full seventy and the 1% isn the contract term etc etc.) then you can estimate that you need to spend one seventh of the advertising budget for the same return. That is the best case scenario forparison. It can be a straight swap for a good deal with a trad pubpared to wide sales on an ebook. In that best case we could estimate that a traditional publisher throws ua325 ish at the first time author for the advance. They need to make that. Plus the same for themselves. Plus costs (look at how much one editor costs and consider that is the most basic form). Let say they are super frugal and throw ua37 at your book. You need to throw ua31 for the same results on advertising topete. That is best case scenario. It may seem like a lot but the indie author has a massive advantage. The slow burn method. Say you spend ua31 on advertising in a month and get a positive return of ua311. You have made ua31 profit. Now put in ua311. Your next block at the same rate is ua3121. That is super simplistic but you get the idea. As long as the indie author earns more on advertising than they spend they can escalate. A traditional publisher will need to front higher numbers and sooner to get the same results for you as an author. They can get the same return but that percentage is where it is at. The author will earn the same either way. The biggest thing here is that you need a two month buffer with money. A publishing house can do that without batting an eyelid. Your average self-published author really can. If you are considering a low costputer you are likely not sitting there with a ua31 a month advertising budget before you see a return after 2 months. Let bring this all together into one thing. For those four points and the ancillary costs you are looking at a good ua32 minimum in cashflow you can play with. Yes you can get lucky to break the first milestone (I did) but you need that to get started. Either that or the education to do aspects. If you consider that cover point and realise I would never have had that education without a job that helped and two degrees then you have to consider that cash flow. Im lucky enough to have done my undergraduate the year before top up fees. My masters crippled me so much I now live in social housing but it is paid for. Even with that I can only do base level covers barely afford edits and with the recent debacle on amazon adverts my sales have disappeared. Combined ie and outgoing reports still have me at break even at worst. Without that first bit of luck I would be at least ua31 in the hole. The idea that self-publishing is free and for everyone is wrong. Yes you can self-publish with zero money in. You may get lucky. More importantly you may get sales through significant effort your job as a factor of your online activities etc. You may not have spent money on the book but you certainly spent money or at least significant time to get there. Time is money too. In conclusion you can self publish for free. If you do you rely on luck and innate ability. If you want to be successful it requires effort time and money. There is no cheap and easy way over that line. Anyone who says it ispletely free is lying to you. If you are poorer then you can still get there it will simply take time to scale. Always remember Facebook started in a dorm room and amazon in what was effectively a spare room in a house. Yes people with money can speed up the process but that doesn mean those without can work their way towards. Ironically the easiest way for a poorer person is to trad publish a book and then use that advance as seed money. Now thing how hard it is to trad publish. Thanks for the A2A and good luck. You will get there. We all do.