What's the Cost of Writing & Self-Publishing a Book in 2020

May 06, 2020


The cost of writing and self-publishing a book depends on 4 things:


1) How much time you have?

2) How much money you have?

3) What sort of book you want to publish?  

4) How you want to publish it?


In this blog, I'll show how you can write and self-publish your book for as little cost as possible if funds are limited. Alternatively, if you have the funds but not much time, I'll give you a run down on the approximate costs involved in AUD$.

Many people don't understand what's involved in writing and self-publishing a book, and more importantly what costs it involves. This can stop them from even starting. Knowledge is key.  

We authors live in exciting times where we have more choices. The publishing industry is constantly evolving and self-publishing is no longer poo-pooed.


 Do your research

Decide what is the best option

Take action


It all comes down to your why, your budget, and your timeframe.





You have Time but NO $$$

 DIY - No or Little Cost

If you've got plenty of time and not much money, then you can write and publish your book for a relatively small amount. How small is small you may ask?

(I don't know anyone who can write and self-publish a book at no cost - unless it's a PDF distributed on a free platform or social media. And that has had a cover designed and been edited for free) That's rare but possible. I'm talking about books and not reader magnets or optin freebies.


Books on Writing

You can read books to help you learn the art and craft of writing

There are millions depending on your genre but I recommend these general writing books and some genre specific ones:

  • On Writing: A Memoir of Craft - Stephen King
  • How to Write a Novel and How to Write a Non-fiction - Joanna Penn (Anything by Joanna Penn - You know how much I love her work)
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within - Natalie Goldberg
  • Story - Robert McKee
  • The Writing Life - Annie Dillard
  • On Literature - Umberto Eco
  • The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century - Steven Pinker
  • Writing Your life  -  Patti Miller
  • Art of Memoir - Mary Karr


Free Websites and Podcasts on Writing & Publishing

There are many blogs out there that have amazing information. Make sure they're from people who are actually writing and are current.

  • The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn
  • National Association of Memoir Writers
  • StoryGrid Podcast
  • Jane Friedman 
  • Write Publish Sell by Alexa Bigwarfe 
  • Grammar Girl
  • Mark Dawson
  • Nick Stephenson


Writing Courses / Organisations

Writing courses can be helpful but find ones that get you to implement knowledge. So many courses just dump information on you, and you never finish them. They range in cost from free to in the thousands if you do a Masters :)

Sometimes libraries have free seminars and organisations such as The Australian Association of Authors or the QLD Writers Centre has free courses or low fee courses. Check out the online courses as they're often cheaper. (And as I write this in 2020, many will be doing this due to Covid-19).

For low-cost courses check online sites such as:

  • Udemy
  • Khan Academy
  • Purdue University
  • Open University




Learn by doing

I believe that the best way you learn is through doing - by writing. While I have a Masters, nothing compares to putting what you know into practise. So I encourage you to write and write and rewrite and write some more. Don't give up. It's all learning. Just keep writing even if you think it's bad. Read books on creativity and procrastination such as:

 Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott)

Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert

The War of Art - Steven Pressfield


Editing (Structural, Copy and Proofreaders)

Yes, there's a difference.

  • Structural Edit
  • Copy Edit
  • Proofread


If you're a first-time author I strongly encourage you to get a structural edit. Find beta readers who will read your manuscript for free. I was told never to let your partner of family read your work, but I know a couple of authors who always run their work by their partners first. They won't lie!

I'm still deciding what to do about my partner. He doesn't lie - he's too honest!


Books on Editing

A great book is Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation - Lynne Truss

I also use Style: The essential guide for journalists and professional writers, 4th Edition - Edited by Chris McLeod and Kim Lockwood


Editing Software

For a small investment you can buy software such as Grammarly or ProWritingAid. They actually have free and paid versions. While they are useful and I use them, they don't replace an editor because they don't always get the context. Don't rely on them to edit your book.


Cover Designer

You will need to find a good cover designer because it's the cover and title that sells a book. Then it's about the quality of the writing.

Find freelancers who don't charge. For example, students or people you know. This takes time to find the right fit for you. (Not recommended but possible. I've tried this and found that it's easier to just pay someone who has experience because it saves time and ultimately money.)

You could swap services to save on costs if your services are of similar cost. Otherwise it could be problematic. Also, don't settle for something that you're not happy with otherwise you won't want to market your book. 



There are so many free services to help you format your book, but it isn't for everyone. You have to be patient and have an eye for detail. If you follow steps precisely, it can save you money. I've tried free templates, but I'm not that patient. (Note: while it may be free to set up your book in print-on-demand services they retain a small fee but it's not an upfront cost)

  • Amazon's KDP Publishing
  • Draft to Digital
  • Ingram Spark 


Self-Publishing Print on Demand Services

There are a number of free/no upfront fee cost print on demand companies:

  • Amazon's KDP Publishing
  • Kobo Writing Life
  • Apple ibooks
  • Publish Drive
  • IngramSpark (Note Ingram do usually charge a fee of AUD$25 but often have promos where you can publish a book for free.
  • Smashwords
  • Wattpad


You do need to order a proof copy of your book, which can be expensive if you're ordering from the US to Australia. However, if you have Amazon Prime, you could order one for free under the benefits of your subscription. 

The cost of ordering your proof copy depends on the type of book you're publishing, how many pages or images you have and where you're ordering it from and how soon you want to receive it. My Wobbly Woman book cost me $25 to order a proof copy, including cost to print it. 

And then there's marketing...but that's another blog.



Image by Nile from Pixabay

You have $$$ but no Time 

If you are time poor but have the money, then it's worth investing in various services to help you get your book out there. The average cost of publishing a book in 2020 ranges from AUD$2500 - $5000 if you DIY and outsource some costs.


Writing - DIY Plus Outsource

You might want to do as much as you can yourself but outsource certain tasks. This is what most people do to offset cost. 


Writing Mentor  -  $3000-$5000+ a month depending on time, ability and words submitted regularly

Do you need a writing mentor? Someone to guide you step by step, give you information and feedback regularly on your writing. This saves you a lot of money in the long run because after working with a mentor your structure should be very sound. You may not even need a structural edit. 

This is what I do. Click here for more information...

We do a book planning session to determine who your market is, how to structure your book, you get writing information and regular feedback, support and accountability to help you start and/or finish your book.  I've found people's writing skills improve dramatically after three months.


Ghost writer  -  $20,000+ depending on time, story (and celebrity status)

No time or patience to learn how to write with a mentor? Perhaps you have a family story or just one book you want to get out there and you don't want to BE a writer. Do you just want someone to write it for you? - Get a ghostwriter. 

I've been a ghostwriter and while I loved the story and the experience, a lot of time and energy is invested into the project. Someone is basically pretending to be you, getting into your head, using your voice and telling your story. That takes skill - trust me. So be prepared to pay. The process can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months or longer. 

(I don't ghostwrite anymore but I highly recommend Robin Storey from https://storey-lines.com


Cover Design -  $300- $500+ for a more experienced designer

The cost depends on the intricacies of your illustrations and how experienced or famous your illustrator is. Note: you may find a good illustrator, but do they know how to do cover designs for books. It can get technical with trim sizes, spine widths, layout - where to put barcodes, colour format requirements for different companies e.g. RPG or CPKY and flattening images  etc. Sound like double-Dutch - hire someone!

People and companies I've used:

  • 99Designs.com
  • inawonderworld.com
  • Oscar Fa
  • Vladimir Brajovic



I've explained the differences above but what I what to point out is that quality is everything.


If you're going to spend money, spend it on a good cover design and a good editor.


You get what you pay for. Yes, there are cheap editors out there, but it's reflected in the quality of the feedback they give you. If you're writing in English, get a qualified English editor. Sounds basic but don't skimp because you will lose credibility.

It's rare to find an editor who can do all three types of editing. In fact, it's best to separate the two because they focus on different things.


Structural edit - AUD$1500-$2000+ for 60,000 word doc depending on word count and writing ability

This is a more in-depth assessment where you will often get track changes and a report.

I now only do structural editing - you can send in your manuscript and I'll assess it quickly, edit the first chapter and give you a quote. The cost varies depending on the word count and the level of your writing.

If you're a new writer, this part of the process is vital. You want to get your structure, voice, style and story as tight as possible. Even memoir should have a story arc - so please realise how important structural editing is. It's big-picture stuff which could make or break your story.


Copy Editing  -  AUD$1000 - $2000 for 60,000 word doc depending on word count and writing ability

Copy editing should be a little less than a structural edit because editors are mechanics of the story - the grammar, spelling, sentence structure and punctuation. 


Proofreading - Approx AUD$500

Proofreading is the final check and you may find a copy editor who will also do a final proofread for you for a discounted price if you do it together. They should have a sharp eye for detail and find any missed spelling mistakes, spaces between words, and paragraphs. It's an overall check, especially if you've made changes after your copywriter suggested changes. 


Formatting  - From approx AUD$150

I pay for formatting because I don't have the time, attention to detail or patience for formatting. You want your book to look good, on the inside and out.

Is the font large enough?

Is the font easy to read?

Some people use sub-headings which are difficult to read. Formatters know which fonts are best. 

They set out the front and back matter, layout any images, or visuals you may need or want in your book. Note it gets more expensive with more images or complex layouts. 

I used Polgarus Studio to layout my Wobbly Woman Memoirs 1 - Looking for Love. It was a 60,000 word document (201 pages) and it cost me approximately $150 for ebook and print formatting. The prices may have gone up since 2019.

 Ask for recommendations from other authors who they used to format their books. Ask in Facebook writing groups. I find people helpful in there.


Self-Publishing  - Print on Demand

Set up your account, upload your book and advertise. People then order, the company retains the cost to print the book and a small fee, customers pay for their own shipping and you get the royalties. Easy! This way you don't have boxes of books sitting in your garage and there are no upfront fee. 

  • Amazon KDP Publishing 
  • IngramSpark 
  • Kobo Writing Life
  • Apple ibooks
  • Draft to Digital


Exclusivity versus Going Wide

If you have one book, it's recommended that you use Amazon's KDP Select Publishing for ebook exclusivity in 90 day bursts. You can still set up print book titles but don't click the box for exclusivity.

Then use IngramSpark for print books as bookshops and libraries prefer to order from Ingram rather than Amazon. Consider the other companies if you want to go wide. There is a lot of information about marketing strategy which I won't go into here. 


DIY Printing Companies

Avoid this method. It takes a lot of time to research and find a reputable printer who will do a good job and it requires money upfront. You could find local printers or research the cost of ordering from Asian countries. Usually you have to invest in a bulk order though.  

I much prefer Print on Demand.


Assisted Publishing Companies $3000 - $20,000+

Hybrid or Assisted Publishing Companies can help you write and publish your book, but they are not traditional publishers. Traditional publishers will not ask for money upfront. However, it can be hard to get a traditional publishing deal.

Beware because there are some unethical companies out there that will take your money and not do much for you. 

You may not have the time or the technical know-how to self-publish, so these companies can be helpful. Just know what you're getting for the price you pay. They can range in price from $3000 to $20,000+ depending on what you want them to do. 

I did have an experience with one such company and never again. See my blog on what questions to ask before you do the deal.


Check out this site Writer Beware before you sign with one(https://accrispin.blogspot.com/)



I also recommend Reedsy.com They are a great company and website to follow because they vet their freelancers. So if you're looking for someone, consider them.  Below is a graphic from a great blog about costs, but with a focus on the US$ American dollar. Check it out. I agree with a lot of what they say.




So what now? - My Rant!

The question to ask yourself is - What is the cost if I don't write the book?

  • Do I want or need it for my business?
  • Will it place me as an expert in my field?
  • Can I attract new clients or customers from my book?
  • Will it provide valuable information?
  • Will it inspire or help people?
  • What does writing my book mean to me? And...what is the worth of that?


I hope this blog is informative and gives you some idea of costs. Not many people like talking about money, but it's important for transparency so you can make informed decisions. 

I also want to advocate for writers and editors (and other freelancers) who don't get paid what they deserve. For some reason people think we should do it for love! While I love what I do, I deserve to be paid for my knowledge and experience. 

So please people, value your "good" writers and editors. They are hard to come by.


Free ebook - Write & Self-Publish Your Memoir Guide and Checklist

If you're unsure about the process of writing, editing, publishing your book, then download my free ebook, Guide to Write and Self-Publish Your Memoir with a Printable Checklist. It gives you an overview of everything you need to do to get your book out there. Note that it's not only for Memoir, it's helpful for all genres. 

If you have any questions, you can email me at [email protected] or book in a chat to see how I can help you.

Get informed and get writing. And ENJOY the process.





Download my free ebook, Guide to Write and Self Publish Your Memoir with a Printable Checklist: HERE

Book in a free 30 minute consultation with Leeza: HERE

(images by pixabay)


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Easy, step-by-step GUIDE to write and self-publish your memoir, complete with a "tick as you go" CHECKLIST to give you clarity and confidence to start.