Malik Sharrieff

Managing the Costs of Self Publishing
By Malik Sharrieff

There are many articles and statistics available that will give you a rough idea of what costs are associated with self publishing. However, none of these sources can really tell you what your particular costs will be for your book project. Part of the difficulty involved in self publishing is in understanding that each book project is an individual and unique product. Part of your job as an Independent Author is to manage the product development process, and this includes production cost management.

I recently read an article detailing the average costs of self publishing in 2020. The statistic given was approximately $4,000 – $6,000 per book for the average Author. The truth is that this is a useless statistic as an Indie-Author can publish a book for free or spend thousands of dollars on any one of the processes involved in publishing. Where the rubber meets the road is how the Author actively manages their publishing costs.

Here’s an example:

Cover art for your romance novel could cost thousands of dollars if you employ a photographer, models and cover artists/graphic designers. Or, you could pull together public domain images from in (guaranteed the simplest free design software) and save as a .jpg file to upload on Kindle Direct Publishing (which is also free).

These examples are at opposite extreme ends of a spectrum and there are beaucoup other options in the middle. The point is that every strategy should include a consideration of the trade-offs involved.


Going the high price route may mean little to no work on your part and an incredible product delivered in a short amount of time. Employing a more budget-friendly strategy means you might have to watch a few YouTube tutorials and stay up late getting that cover as close to your vision as possible.

The point is that the Independent Author must understand that navigating these processes and making these choices is the “everything else,” that happens after the manuscript is done.

Let’s attack the issue from the other end. Instead of asking what this process (or part of the process) costs, let’s give consideration to developing a reasonable budget first and then devising a strategy to get what we need for our product within that budget.

About 98.5% of Indie-Authors work a full or part-time job or side-hustle in addition to producing and distributing literary products. So, it’s easy to see where both time and financial assets might be a real consideration as you build your business.

At this point, most of you guys reading this are nodding your heads, thinking, “Yeah, sure, that makes sense.”

Also, most of you have not even considered creating a budget for publishing your current or next book project. I can testify that I have rejected far more authors over the last 10 years than I have published, but not one has ever approached my company with a definitive and realistic budget for the services they sought.

Ordering by the number off the value menu is for fast food only. It is completely inappropriate when you are building a business.

Don’t be afraid to take a hard look at your resources and make tough but strategic decisions about how best to use your assets.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you work an 8 to 5 gig, and you don’t have the time to manage the learning curve and job task of formatting your latest book for digital and print distribution. You also have a limited number of nickels you can use every two weeks for this publishing task. Here you have to manage the trade-off between time and money.

Stretching out the process time for this task means more money to hire help. The opposite alternative means finding a cheaper resource. Of course that’s where your considerations start. To make a responsible decision for your project, you’ll need to consider what each option means for quality of the output, stress and frustration for you, and a number of other issues.

In addition, it is irresponsible and short sighted to think that once you get a really good formatter or cover artist on fiverr or Odesk that you’ll never have to worry about that issue again. We just don’t live in that world anymore. In 2020, the literary market experiences significant change almost every 18 months! That means your own personal pocket of the literary world might be completely disrupted from one project to the next.

Now the good news is that once you develop the skill of managing these processes, it becomes almost second nature. It does take a little time and attention, but it is definitely a skill worth mastering.

Each Independent Author is the CEO, the front line grunt and every position in between within their business. This is your reality whether you accept it or not. Success is a function of embracing this reality and thriving within it. Don’t be afraid to use the same creativity and tenacity that built worlds out of ink and paper help you build a real world of achievement in this industry. Without a doubt, you can do this!

Let me know in the comments if you need additional examples, if you have any specific questions or if there is any way that I can be of service in your self-publishing journey.

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