writer calculating how much does it cost to publish a book

How Much Does It Cost to Publish a Book with a Publisher?

The Short Answer: $0

Traditional publishers do not charge authors up front. Publishers put up money to prepare the book for publication. They cover editing, design, printing, and marketing costs. Authors also receive an advance. In exchange, the publisher retains all profits until the advance is earned out, after which they still take a cut of the profits, paying the author a royalty percentage.

Traditional publishers do not make money off authors. They make money off readers.

Professional Editing Costs

The most significant optional cost for traditional authors is professional editing.

Traditional authors do not need to hire a professional editor in the same way that independent authors do. If you are self-publishing, you are responsible for all editing. As your own publisher, you have no backup.

If you are publishing traditionally, that’s not the case. If you are represented, you will likely go through a few rounds of editing with your literary agent. Then you’ll go on submission, land that book deal (yay!), and go through more editing. You will likely work with the publisher’s in-house editors, and some publishers hire freelancers as well.

The primary reason that traditional authors hire a professional editor themselves is to get to that yes.

For this reason, I generally recommend that traditional authors focus on story-level editing. While line editing can be useful and a great learning experience, developmental editing is the most beneficial option for traditional authors.

According to the Editorial Freelancers Association’s latest survey, the median rates for developmental editing for fiction is $.03–$.039 per word (or $46–$50 per hour). Note that rates vary based on several factors, including the editor’s experience level and the complexity of the project.

Other Potential Costs

Once you decide to publish, your writing becomes a business. And what do all businesses have in common?

You guessed it. Write-offs.

While you may not feel like you’re spending much on your writing, you probably have. Even if you haven’t published work yet, it’s smart to keep track of all costs related to writing. These will be business expenses, so keep those receipts.

Here are a few potential write-offs for writers:

  • Computers and devices
  • Home office
  • Research trips
  • Office supplies
  • Writing software like Scrivener
  • Social media management software

Note: This information should not be construed as professional guidance. Please consult a tax or accounting professional.

How Much Do Literary Agents Charge?

A literary agent’s commission is typically 15% of the author’s royalties. For that 15%, the authors is getting support and editorial feedback, publisher connections and access, and negotiation support.

Reputable literary agents do not charge fees up front. An agent will never charge a fee to read your work, review your query, or submit to publishers.

There are scams where individuals will impersonate an agent and solicit fees from authors. If you experience this behavior, cease contact and report the behavior to the agency.

What If a Publisher Charges Me?

A vanity press is a type of scam where a “publisher” charges authors to publish their books. This can take different forms, including an up-front fee or a required purchase of author copies.

Do not fall prey to a vanity press. These “publishers” make money off authors, not readers. They have no incentive to provide professional, high-quality editing and book design or to invest in your book’s marketing.

How Much Do Publishers Charge?

Nothing. A traditional publisher does not charge authors to publish their book. Publishers make money by retaining a percentage of the profits when the book is sold. If you work with a literary agent, they will typically receive a 15% commission.

Of course, if you choose to self-publish, you will be acting as your own publisher and will be responsible for editing, design, and marketing costs.

If you decide to pursue professional editing before querying agents or submitting to publishers, our team of experienced editors can help.


What is the average cost to publish a book?

The average cost of publishing a book varies widely. Costs for traditional publishers will be different than those for independent authors. However, all books require professional editing and book design.

Is self-publishing cheaper than traditional publishing?

For authors, self-publishing requires a much higher initial financial investment. As an independent author, you act as your own publisher, which means you are responsible for every aspect of the publishing process, including editing, cover design, interior layout, and marketing.

How much does it cost to print a book?

While indie authors rely on print-on-demand (POD) services, traditional publishers can afford to do large runs with offset printers, significantly reducing the cost per book. Other factors that impact printing costs include format, page count, trim size, ink color, and paper quality. Indie authors can use the KDP royalty calculator to estimate their printing cost.

How much do publishing companies charge?

It’s important to define “publishing company.” A traditional publisher does not charge authors up front. A vanity press charges authors up front and is not a reputable type of company. An author services provider, such as Blue Pen, charges authors based on the editing, book design, or marketing services they require.

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