The Real Cost of Indie Publishing

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A little research into the publishing industry will tell you that there are a lot of options on there for a writer. All have their pros and cons. The only one I can speak to is indie publishing, because it’s the only one where I have had real experience. At the same time, I feel like I’m still very much in the learning process, so take whatever I say with a grain of salt.

I decided to publish Beautiful independently for a number of reasons. Was money a factor? Yes and no. I certainly didn’t go into this expecting to be able to quit my day job. I figured any money I made was just a bonus. I wanted the experience and I wanted to get the book out there. But I also didn’t want to lose too much money.  My day job (elementary school teacher) doesn’t leave me with a lot of disposable income, so I couldn’t spend as much as I wanted getting the book ready for publication, or on publicity and marketing. Financially my goal for this book was to break even.


I did get a few discounts freebies in terms of editing and proofreading. All I can say is that sometimes you have to get lucky. I joined a number of communities for writers. I found some freelance editors who were willing to provide services at a discount in exchange for testimonials, and used a lot of beta readers. It takes a village!  I also used the Hemingway Editor and Grammerly at various points.

Book Cover

I went with a pre-made cover design here which made things a bit cheaper. I was just lucky to find one already made that I felt really suited my book. But an ebook cover is just the front.  I really wanted a physical copy of Beautiful which means you need a spine and a back cover. In order to know how big the spine had to be, I needed to know how many pages the physical book would be.


So I had it formatted for Createspace. That includes table of contents, page numbers, headers, title page, copyright page, author page, and dedication. But most indies do the bulk of their sales as ebooks, it also needed Kindle formatting including  clickable links and an author page. I could have done the formatting myself, but I felt that it was important that the book was physically pleasing in both formats, as well as structurally sound. I didn’t want any glitches.

In total I spent a few hundred dollars to make Beautiful a book. thumbnail_Elle s m

But I also wanted people to read it. Recognizing that I’m an unknown author and people buying Beautiful would be taking a risk, I set the price for the ebook at $2.99.  This was the low end of pricing in my genre, but I didn’t want anyone to feel priced out. Hopefully readers will think that it’s worth risking a couple of dollars for a potentially enjoyable experience.

I’m still figuring out the marketing and publicity aspect of things. Amazon’s algorithm favors books that have a certain number of reviews. I’ve seen some that number as anywhere from ten to fifty. I have three. All are five star reviews. Most of the feedback I’ve gotten on the book has been very positive. But it’s hard to turn that positive feedback into actual reviews.

I’ve sent copies to bloggers, so hopefully I’ll get a few blog reviews soon. I’ve also taken advantage of some sites that provide free publicity to indie authors. I’m taking it very slow with any paid promotions at this point.  As I said, I don’t have that much money to lose! But if anyone knows of somewhere I can boost my books profile, please let me know so that I can check it out.

So what is the REAL cost of indie publishing?

It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times. I’ve tried to lay out the decisions I made and how they’ve affected my wallet above. But I don’t feel like the real expense of this project was financial.

How many hours of sleep did I miss because I was in a good writing place and didn’t want to stop? It would probably add up to several weeks altogether.

How much hair did I pull out when things weren’t working out the way I wanted them to? Well, I’m not bald, so I guess that it was less than it seemed…

How many fingernails did I bite through in the week leading up to publication when I was convinced that like three people would read the book and they would all hate it? All ten. Actually in memory it seems like more. Let’s just hope I limited the nail biting to my own fingernails only!

But what was the feeling of holding an actual physical copy of Beautiful worth?


13 thoughts on “The Real Cost of Indie Publishing

  1. This is a great reminder! Writing a book and then getting it published take more than just money. We tend to forget about the time (and other things!) that we “pay” in order to get the book written. I haven’t gone through the whole publishing process yet, but I know that the writing and editing part of the process does have a cost that’s harder to calculate than merely balancing a checkbook.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well said. I think that writing and editing is the most challenging from a creative perspective, but getting it from manuscript to book is challenging (and, for a newbie like me, learning as I go, often frustrating) process! But the feeling of holding a book that you “made” from beginning to end is wonderful.


      • I intend to know how that feels ones of these days, too! But first I need to accept the cost of finishing writing and editing a novel. I haven’t done that in a long time, and my earlier works will need as much TLC as a new one would at this point. Still, I’m glad to know that there are options for how to get something published!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s one of the good things about the internet. I’m personally not a huge fan of ebooks but I appreciate that they’ve allowed a lot of people to get there works out there (myself included!)

        Best of luck with your own work. Let me know if there’s any way I can help at some point in the process.

        Liked by 1 person

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