Stephanie Aviles

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Self-publishing on a Budget.

One of the greatest things about starting your own career as a writer is that it takes very little in startup costs compared to a traditional business. When I first discovered how well indie authors were doing by self-publishing their own books versus going through a traditional publisher, I started crunching the numbers to figure out if this was an investment that I could afford to make for myself.

First, I had to find out what costs were involved in self-publishing a book, what could I afford to outsource, and what I would have to do myself to save on costs. I researched several websites to find out what other authors had paid to self-publish their book and here is an itemized list that I put together for myself for producing a 74,000-word book:

Book Production

Book Cover: $300

Editors (Developmental, Line and Copyediting): $2,000

Book formatting/Writing Software: $50

Social Media and Marketing

Website fee and Domain: $200

Website Design: $0 (Will do myself)

Facebook Page Setup: Free

Twitter account setup: Free

Licenses Photos for Website: $50 for 5 images

Marketing: $500

Total Cost: $3,100

This cost may seem high for some and way too low for others, but the reality is unless you have an abundance of funds, we all have a budget we have to live within and this is what I felt comfortable with. Some of the things I didn’t list here are because I choose to do them myself and would result in no cost other than my own time. For example, since I have a degree in Computer Science, I felt pretty comfortable that I could figure out how to set up my own website or google my way to it: If this is not your strong suit, then make sure to include that in your list of expenses. A lot of authors choose to hire a virtual assistance to help them set up and manage their social media platform and marketing. If this is something that you can fit into your budget to allow you more free time to dedicate to your writing, then you should absolutely do it. Unfortunately, my budget does not allow for one right now so this something I will have to add to my to-do list.

Now, that I had my expense items listed and my budget figured out, I was ready to start shopping around to see if I could make it happen. Here is what I have spent so far:

Book Cover

For my book cover, I purchased a stock image from Shutterstock. I then went to Canva and created a mockup of my ideal book cover. Once I was satisfied with the results, I downloaded the cover and sent it to Zoran at Visual arts and asked him to make my cover shine and that is exactly what he did.

Stay tuned for the cover debut!


As a first-time author, finding the right editor to help me transform my book was an absolute must. I reached out to several sources and finally found a developmental editor who came highly recommend and most importantly – I could afford. For developmental editing, I went with Cate Hogan. I submitted my first chapter to her for a critique to see if we would work well together and she was wonderful. The cost for the first chapter critique was $44. The quoted cost for the developmental/content editing for 73,900 words was $923

After I was done with the developmental editing, my word count went from 73,900 to 63,000. That’s right—10,000 words were crap and had to be removed! After I cried myself to sleep and went through the different stages of mourning, I rolled my sleeves up and made the changes that dramatically improved my book; I was now ready for Line and Copy Editing. I was lucky to find Nancy who could do both for $650.

So far my projected cost for editing has been $1,573, which is $427 under my original budget. After I am done with Nancy’s edits, I might submit it for an additional last round of grammar check and use the remaining $427.

Writing software

For my writing platform, I decided to use Scrivener because of all the automated tools it offers to get your book ready to self-publish in different formats. The cost for the software was $45. However, I have recently discovered Vellum and have fallen in love with it. The software can take your manuscript to a new level and give it a beautiful touch. As of today, the current price per title is $19.99.

Social Media and Marketing

For my author’s website, I will most likely go with since my blog website is currently hosted through them. The plan that I will most likely select through them has an annual cost of $168 and it includes a free domain name. To check out what other plans they offer and their pricing visit them at I will begin my marketing my book next month with a target budget of $500.

If you prefer to have a one-stop shop for producing your book, CreateSpace offers professional services to help you from beginning to end. You can sign up through their website and a nice and helpful representative will reach out to you within 24 hours and come up with a package that will meet your needs.

Please don’t let the cost of self-publishing deter you from reaching your dreams. Put your extreme couponing hat on and look for ways to get services for free. Here are some ways you can save on cost:

  • Barter your services. If you have a certain niche or talent, exchange your services with someone who is good at social media or website development.

  • Reach out to your local universities and see if any students majoring in digital art are willing to help with a photo cover design. If you don’t get any offers, visit The Write Life for a list of free sources on how to create your book cover.

  • If you are part of a writers group or have joined the Romance Writers of America, one of the cool benefits is that they can match you up with a critique partner that has extensive editorial experience.

  • For your website you don’t have to pay for a plan, you can absolutely get it for free. Do a quick google search on free websites and you will be amazed at the ones you can get at no cost to you.

  • There are many free book promotion sites that you can take advantage of. Here is a list of sites where you can advertise your book for free.

I understand that cost not matter how small or big can be somewhat daunting in these difficult times. But if writing is your passion and you don’t have the resources available to self-publish your book, don’t give up. Start doing your homework on traditional publishing and find out which publishing houses are looking for the genre you are writing in and start sending out query letters to them. One thing I don’t ever recommend is getting into debt to self-publish your book. The last thing you want is the added stress of paying back debt ruining the joy of achieving such a great goal of writing a book. With that in mind always remember where there is a will there will always be a way!

Best of luck,

Stephanie Aviles

The Inside Voice.