After you’re done with your first final draft, I suggest finding an editor that does manuscript critiques or editorial reviews. You really need an assessment of how you’ve done and what type of work your manuscript needs in terms of plot, characters, dialog, voice, etc. Two or three critiques/reviews is better than one, because each editor will have a different opinion of your work. $0.005/word and up.
At a minimum, you’ll need a REAL editor to do copy-editing. Not your family. Not your friends. Not your English teacher from high school – unless that person edits fiction on the side. Some people think that editing is the same as proofreading for grammar and typos, but it’s much more than that. You need someone with experience in developmental editing, copy-editing, and manuscript evaluations/critiques. Yes, all three. And preferably in your genre. $0.02/word and up for copy-editing, depending on the editor and how much work your manuscript requires.
Then there’s the cover art. If you’ve got the talent to take an awesome photo or draw/paint/color it yourself, awesome. Perhaps you even know someone who will do it for free. If you have someone else design your cover ($200-300 and up), then the cover art is usually part of the deal – otherwise, you’ll have to find a stock photo (minimal cost) or commission an artist. Commissioning a good artist to do a cover with one or two characters will run you roughly $500.00 and up.
I decided to commission a cover artist, consult with a professional book designer regarding the font, font layout and promotional copy (a 30-minute consult cost me $175), and I did the cover layout myself using Adobe Photoshop CS.
If your book is also going to be available through print-on-demand, don’t just rely on the online preview to check your book. You’ll be disappointed. You’ll need to order proof copies and pay for shipping. As the author, you don’t pay full price for proofs. Shipping will depend on where you live.
In total, I spent $2,439 to self-publish my book. Some might say that’s a lot, but the cover looks great and the manuscript was professionally edited. I’m happy with the services I received and I got some good advice on what I need to improve upon as a writer.
If you’re in the process of writing a manuscript and haven’t set aside some money for the real cost of self-publishing, fire up a spreadsheet and come up with a budget for what it’s going to take to turn your words into a high-quality book. Good luck!
Check out my Writer Resources page for a list of editors that I recommend.