Do You Have the Budget to Self-publish?

Writing a good novel is not enoughBeing a self-published author means that you have to do everything


Erika Vanzin

2 years ago | 6 min read

You have an excellent idea for a novel; you have the skills to write a perfect book, and you are ready to put your heart out there. Okay, you have done the first step, what’s next?

Before contemplating whether to publish with a traditional publisher or self-publish, you have to consider one thing that is not so obvious: money.

Do you have the budget to self-publish?

I see a common misconception regarding self-publishing: many people think it’s free or very cheap. Let’s go deep inside the expenses you have to face if you decide to publish on your own.


If you had read just a few articles about self-publishing here in Medium, you already know that self-publishing doesn’t mean self-editing. When you self-publish, all your eyes are on your work, and they are very critical ones. When someone spends money on a book, he demands to have the best product; if your book doesn’t reach the standards, you will receive a bad review, sometimes you receive a terrible review despite providing a very good book. You can’t afford a bad review if nobody knows you and your writing, because other people’s opinions will be built mostly on public ideas about your book.

It’s sad to say, but if you are a self-published author, they demand more from you than from a traditionally published author, because they know that in the traditional publishing there is a selection. Everyone can, technically, self-publish a book, all it takes is a computer and internet connection, but it doesn’t mean it’s good enough for publication.

You have to be perfect. There can’t be any flaws in your novel.

To be perfect, you need someone that professionally edits your work. You can’t do it yourself, because it’s tough to focus on details when you wrote it. You know the background of the story, and something clear to you maybe is not to other readers. You tend to see what you want to see, not what is in there. You can’t rely on a friend that can do you a favor too — unless he is someone that does it for a living, but he will probably ask you money because, you know, he is working — you have to pay someone that can polish your manuscript. It costs. I will not beat around the bush, it will require a lot of cash, depending on the length of your manuscript and the work you have to do on it, but usually, for a full novel, it’s in the order of one or two thousand dollars.

Editing is something a traditional publisher does for you; in case of self-publishing, you have to put that money on the list of the expenses. Count how many words your manuscript has, do a quick search on editor’s websites, and you will have an idea of how much it will cost you.


You shouldn’t judge a book by the cover, but people do it. All the time. You can’t afford that people skim over your Amazon page because the cover is unprofessional or unappealing. Unless you are extremely good with Photoshop — or you have that famous friend that can do you a favor — you have to pay someone to make a cover for you.

A suggestion that I can give to you — if you have no idea how the cover should be — is to look for someone that does book covers. Look around for other self-published authors that publish the same genre, you will find credits for the artwork. Why is it so important? Because they need to know the rules for a good book cover, they need to research which trend there is for the genre you are writing. You don’t need a first-class graphic designer; you need someone that understands the market and has excellent graphical skills.

You will be surprised how many book bloggers out there, with superb design skills, realize book covers to top up their wages. They know which is the exact trend because they review dozens of books of the same genre.

Facebook groups are usually a good source of contacts for graphic designers, ask for a few estimates, and add the one you choose to your expenses’ list. You can find pre-made covers for 30$, but you can have personalized ones based on your requests starting from a minimum of 140$.


Unless you are an influencer and you already have several thousand followers that want to buy your book, you have to consider that you have to use some budget to reach your readers.

A traditional publisher uses a budget to promote your book — yes, it’s true; you also have to help, but their marketing team does a considerable chunk of the job — you have to do it too.

There are a lot of free tools you can use to promote your book, from Facebook groups to Instagram posts, from blog posts to grow your mailing list. It’s not enough. You have to reach people that don’t already know you.

Think about it. If you publish with a traditional publisher, your book will be in the bookstores across the country. A person that doesn’t know you exist can pick up your book from the shelf, and you have a chance to sell that book. If you are self-published, you can’t count on that. You have to reach that audience in another way, and to do so, you can use social media and their promoted post.

A list of affordable ways to promote your book can be:

  • Host giveaways on your Facebook page, Instagram, Goodreads and sponsor the post to reach more people (plus the cost of books and gadgets you have to deliver to the winners)
  • Send a goody bag (plus your book, obviously) to a restrict number of bloggers and ask for a sincere review
  • Promote your book with a post on Facebook and Instagram, targeting the ad outside your follower
  • Organize book presentations in libraries or independent bookshops. You can do it in your city or some others where you have more followers. You have to consider expenses for the location (sometimes they ask you to pay a fee), travel, accommodations and, of course, the book you hope to sell there.

Even if it can be cheaper than editing and cover, because you decide the budget, you should destine a sum to launch your book. Choose the amount for advertising and put it into your list. I usually spend from 200$ to 600$ to promote my novels starting a couple of months before the release date and finishing four to six months after the release.

You have all your budget planned and covered. Now you can hit the publish button. But how many books do you need to sell to cover the expenses? You have higher royalties than the one you receive with a traditional publisher, but you have to consider that you might not sell the same amount of books, and you don’t have an advance for your publishing.

The reality is that you will probably lose money with the first publication, but it will get better with the next ones. Don’t look at those that got lucky and sold a massive amount of copies of the first book, it never works in the same way for everyone, and for one that got lucky, thousands of other authors struggle. But you can work to be consistent, to increase the number of fans you have, and reach the point to have a sustainable income from writing fiction.

Self-publishing can be the most exciting experience in your life, but if you don’t know what you are going to face, it could result in the most stressful and overwhelming feeling you ever experienced. Take a deep breath and figure out what you can do to solve the budget problem before working on the book; it will save you a considerable amount of trouble.

This article was originally published by Erika Vanzin on medium.


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Erika Vanzin







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