Writing and Publishing

How Much Does It Cost to Indie Publish a Book?

The price to indie publish a book varies greatly. The answer depends on your skills, budget, and book-length.

I’ve heard people explain how you can publish a book for under one hundred dollars. While their advice is accurate, the results won’t produce a professional-looking book that will get people’s attention and earn good reviews. I suggest not trying to publish a book on the cheap.

There are also people who outsource much of the work and pay several thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars to publish a book. If you have a lot of money, that may be the option to choose.

For myself, I budget $1000-$1500 per book. Here are my typical expenses:

Developmental Edit: $100 to $800 (though you can spend much more)

Copy edit/Proofread: $300 to $600, depending on the book-length

Cover Design: $300 to $500

Interior Layout: under $100 and up

I do everything else myself, so the only cost there is my time.

For the developmental edit and copy edit/proofread many editors charge by the word. Others charge by the page or by the hour. I prefer the per-word fee because I know what my cost will be. Though you can find people offshore who will do this service for much less, be careful. They may not speak English as their primary language or even if they do, their editing work may fail to meet the expectations of native English readers. Also, with any type of editing work, the longer the book, the more it will cost.

For the cover design and interior layout, you can save money by going offshore and still get a professional result. I’ve worked with cover designers in several countries and have gotten good quality artwork. I’ve only worked with one interior layout designer, and she did a great job.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Writing and Publishing

The Future of Books: What are the Prospects for Book Publishing?

Now is a great time to publish a book and don’t let anyone tell you differently

What is your perception of the future of books? Is interest in increasing, maintaining, or shrinking? The media would have us believe the end is near, at least as far as the book business, especially print books, is concerned.

  • Eighteen to 29-year olds buy the most books, but those 30 to 44 are right behind them.
  • When combining age ranges, those 13 to 17, 18 to 29, and 30 to 44 buy more books collectively than those 45 to 54, 55 to 64, and over 65.
  • People over 65 buy the least number of books. I would have suspected the opposite, but I would have been wrong,

So, younger people are buying more books than older people. Who would have guessed?

Given this, there is much for writers and publishers of books to be excited about, despite the media’s dire pronouncements to the contrary—and if this trend continues, the future of books will be even brighter still.

So now is a great time to write and publish a book. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The future of books is looking up.

Writing and Publishing

How to Register Your Copyright

Registering a copyright for a book is the best practice for a career author and helps protect our intellectual property, a key asset for many authors. Registering our copyright provides a stronger legal footing if anyone ever disputes ownership or authorship of our work. Additionally, a registered copyright is essential in the event of a lawsuit.

(Though it’s possible to register a copyright for blog posts, other short works, and even unpublished content, doing so is expensive and cumbersome to manage.)

Beyond that, in the United States, the copyright lasts for seventy years after the death of the author, so registering our copyright helps our heirs to better earn money from our intellectual property (our writing) after we’re gone.

Registering your copyright is not hard, but it might look foreboding, especially the first time. In the United States, go to Though most of the application process is straightforward, beware that a couple of areas could trip you up. Therefore, I strongly recommend studying Kathryn Goldman’s excellent webinar at

Though registering the copyright for my first book took a couple of hours, I can now complete registration in about fifteen minutes. This small investment will protect my book, both during my lifetime and for my heirs.

(This discussion about copyright and registration relates to the United States. Other countries have different copyright laws and registration processes.)

Writing and Publishing

The Indie Book Publishing Checklist

Here are the key steps to write and indie publish a book.

  1. Develop your initial concept and vision. This step includes market research into competitive titles to gauge the book’s marketability. 
  2. Write the first draft for the entire book.
  3. Do your first edits. Continue to fine-tune until you feel you’re ready for feedback.
  4. Run spell and grammar check.
  5. Get feedback from beta readers or critique groups and fine-tune your book, though this step can also happen after step eight.
  6. Run spell and grammar check, again.
  7. Get a developmental edit. Some people call this edit a book critique, while others call it a substantial edit. But these labels can also refer to different services. What you want is big-picture feedback. At this stage, you need someone to give you an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of your book. They should address how it flows, its overall arc, and identify anything that’s out of place, missing, or not needed. You also want someone to point out shortcomings in your writing style—we all have them, but we can’t see them until someone tells us.
  8. Incorporate the feedback of your developmental edit, as appropriate, into your book. Evaluate every recommendation, but don’t feel you need to accept each one. When you feel you’ve implemented all the relevant changes, proceed to the next step.
  9. Run spell and grammar check, a third time.
  10. Have someone copy edit your book. This edit looks at writing at the sentence level.
  11. Again, discerning what advice to follow and what to dismiss, make the needed changes.
  12. Do a fourth spell and grammar check.
  13. Have someone proofread your book. This edit addresses grammar and punctuation. It focuses on details. Though many authors separate copy editing and proofreading into two steps, most of the editors I work with do both at the same time. This saves money and shaves weeks off the publishing timeline.
  14. Make a final read through the book yourself and do a final spell and grammar check. Since you’ve already had professionals review your book, make changes with great care at this point. If in doubt, leave it as is.
  15. Format your book for mobi and epub (the formats needed for e-books). I do this formatting myself using a free online tool from Draft2Digital. If you use Scrivener, it can also format e-books. 
  16. Once you’ve formatted your e-book, verify that everything looks the way you want it to.
  17. Concurrent to the copy edit and proofread phases, design your book cover. Unless you have graphic software and the skill to produce a cover equal to or better than traditional publishers, hire a cover designer.
  18. Upload your e-book to your publisher or publishing aggregator or both. Though an incomplete list, these are the publishing outlets I use:
    • Amazon, to reach the US audience, you must be on Amazon
    • Kobo, which is great for other countries, such as Canada
    • Draft2Digital, a publishing aggregator, which can also do Amazon
    • Publish Drive, a publishing aggregator, which can also do Amazon
    • StreetLib, a newer publishing aggregator, with a wide reach
  19. If you want to also do a paperback version, which I recommend, hire someone to do the interior layout. Yes, you can do this step yourself, but it’s tedious and frustrating. (I have spent over twenty hours trying to do the internal formatting myself. So now I pay someone else to do it.) They will provide a PDF file of your book. Note that Amazon and IngramSpark have different file expectations, so you need two files, one for each publisher.
  20. Verify that everything in your PDF is correct.
  21. Upload your paperback version to your publisher or publishers.
    • Amazon
    • IngramSpark
  22. Now it’s time to launch and market your book. Marketing gives us a whole new topic to deal with.

Since I’ve written and published many books, I made my own checklist (on which the above list is based) to make sure I cover everything and don’t miss a step. As more options become available and I learn more about the writing and publishing process, I will continue to fine-tune my list. If you plan on being a multi-book author, I suggest you make your own checklist too.

Writing and Publishing

Is Assisted Book Publishing Right for You?

Assisted publishing or subsidy publishing is paying a company (or a person) to publish your book for you. I don’t have any experience using assisted publishing, because it’s not the right option for me. 

If you go this route, check references, ask a lot of questions, and treat it like a business decision—because it is. Some companies are good, some are not, and some are rip-offs. I’ve heard of rates from several hundred dollars to over ten thousand. And that’s a lot of money to pay for something you can do yourself if you indie publishes your book.

Now, my statement about doing everything yourself if you indie publishes is an oversimplification. In truth, we hire experts to handle various aspects for us. In this way, we act as a general contractor on a building project. 

For example, I hire editors, cover designers, and marketing people. I coordinate their work to move toward a finished project: a published book. This approach is very much a business process.

Whichever publishing option you pick, I wish you the best

Writing and Publishing

ISBNs and Indie-Published Books

Do you wonder about getting ISBNs for your indie-published books? It’s not too important to have an ISBN for e-books. I’ve heard of several successful indie authors who see no point in it.

However, having an ISBN does make a book seem more professional and part of mainstream book publishing. But aside from the image it conveys, I’m not aware of any tangible advantage for e-books.

You don’t need ISBNs for print books either, but I think they’re important. They facilitate ordering and tracking. Though bookstores typically don’t want to deal with self-published authors (unless you are local or have a connection with the manager), they will need the book to have an ISBN to order it and track it in their system.

In the United States, buy ISBNs from Bowker.

Note that you need one ISBN for each format your book is in hardcover, paperback, e-book, audiobook, and so forth. If an organization will provide an ISBN as part of its services, look carefully at what you may give up when you use their ISBN.

Writing and Publishing

Should You Sell Full Rights for Your Writing?

A publisher is interested in some devotionals a friend wrote. They pay an honorarium of $35 per item, and then they want full rights forever. My friend wonders if this is typical and fair to sell full rights for a piece?

First, I don’t think anyone can make decent money writing devotionals. They do it for other reasons.

I earned $15 each for some I wrote several years ago. They wanted full rights for one year after publication. Now the rights have reverted to me. I heard of another publication that pays $60 per piece, also with a one-year stipulation.

In another case, I did sell full rights in perpetuity for some teen devotionals for $30, but it wasn’t for the money. I had other motivations. Though they wrote fast, by the time I had finished several rounds of edits to make them just right, I suspect I made minimum wage for my efforts.

I don’t give anyone exclusive rights in perpetuity—unless I have a strategic reason to do so. To be able to say my work appeared in a prestigious publication is one good reason, but I wouldn’t give them something I wanted to use elsewhere or was part of a series.

The publisher’s offer isn’t untypical. (Fairness is another issue.) It boils down to are you willing to give up your words forever for $35?

Writing and Publishing

Tips on Finding an Agent to Represent You

Finding an agent is easy. Just do an online search for “literary agents.” However, getting an agent to agree to represent you is hard, very hard.

Unlike hiring an accountant or attorney to represent us where we can vet them and pick the best one to meet our needs, agents vet their clients so they can pick the best ones.

Remember that agents only earn money if they sell one of their clients’ books. So unless a client is a polished writer, there’s a good chance the agent will spend a lot of time working for the client and have nothing to show for it. Therefore, they have a strong incentive to only take on clients whose work they think they can sell.

How to Impress Agents

This means we need to sell ourselves to agents. Here’s what’s required:

  • Hone your skill as a writer.
  • Set up a professional online presence. They will check for one and will expect to find it.
  • If you’re on social media, make sure it’s professional and conveys you in a positive manner. Do everything you can to remove negative comments and unflattering photos. But remember that once something’s online, it never really goes away.
  • Learn how to pitch your book, write a one-page summary, submit a query, and produce a proposal.
  • Learn about agents you’d like to have represent you. Follow their blogs and make respectful, thoughtful comments.
  • Ask other writers, who you trust, to give you an honest answer if your work is ready for agents.

Know that writing ability is only part of the equation.

What Agents Look For

Agents will also want you to have a platform so that you can help sell books. When I was looking for an agent, one agent declined to represent me, not because of my writing, but because they thought my platform was too small.

Be Patient When Finding an Agent

A final item is to be patient. Finding an agent to represent you takes time, usually several months and often years. As you wait, keep working to improve as a writer and building your platform.

Writing and Publishing

The Benefits of Using ISBNs: Don’t Publish Your Book Without One

Many successful indie authors do not use ISBNs (for their e-books), and they see no reason why they should. The number Amazon provides works just fine from a practical standpoint.

Having said that, an ISBN gives your book added credibility and has more universal recognition than an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) when searching for a book by number. So I opt for an ISBN.

Buying ISBNs

However, buying an ISBN costs money. In the United States, buy ISBNs from Bowker. Currently, the standard price for one ISBN is $125, ten costs $295, and one hundred costs $575.

Note that you will need one ISBN for each format your book is in: Hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio, so that’s four ISBNs. Given the costs, I see why many indie-published authors skip them.

Writing and Publishing

Writing a Book Versus Blogging

If you want to write a book and blog, what should you do? It’s a book versus blogging debate. Too many writers starting out try to do both and end up doing neither one well. Or they try to write a book before they’re ready.

Then they end up with something not suitable for publication, waste a lot of time, and cause much frustration. That’s assuming they finish the book, but more likely is that they’ll give up before they finish—because they’re not yet ready to write a book.

Unless you’ve done a lot of writing—say about one million words and invested about 10,000 hours honing your skill—I recommend you start with blogging or writing short articles, essays, or flash fiction.

Blogging and short pieces offer several advantages:

  • Blog posts are short and easy to write.
  • Blogging is a great way to hone our writing skills and find our voice.
  • Feedback is quick.
  • Errors are easy to fix.
  • Bloggers develop a habit of writing regularly, even when they don’t feel like it.
  • Blogging according to a schedule—which is what all bloggers should do—helps prepare us to meet deadlines.
  • Blogging prepares us to write longer pieces, up to the length of a book.

There are many other benefits associated with blogging, but these are some of the key ones, which is why I recommend that you start with blogging or writing other short pieces. Save the book for later.