Simple, clear, straightforward answers to the most frequently asked questions about self-publishing.
SELF-PUBLISHING PROCESS AND COSTS
On average, self-publishing a book takes between three and six months.
If your manuscript is finished and edited, and you already have some experience with the process you could be able to publish even sooner, but we always advise our authors to avoid rushing the process, so as not to overlook important aspects including cover and interior design.
For projects that have particularly complex layouts or still need editing it could take up to a year to have the book available for sale.
Good to know: Self-publishing is always a much faster alternative to traditional publishing. The average time to publish a book with a traditional publisher is between two and four years.
Self-publishing a book can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how much you do yourself or how much professional help you need for things like editing, book design, publication and distribution, and book marketing.
If you plan to do everything yourself (highly discouraged), you could have a book available for sale with $400 or $500 (this includes basic expenses like ISBN, software licensing, and images, fonts, or illustrations for your cover and interior).
The average cost for self-publishing professionally is between $2,500 and $5,000, based on length and complexity of your book design. The price usually includes all fees and basic costs, some editing, professional cover and interior design, and assistance in the publishing process.
If you want to be able to publish with very little involvement, or you need things such as developmental editing and hands-off marketing, the price tag can easily be over $10,000.
Good to know: At Luminare Press we believe in offering professional services at an affordable price. You can choose among our complete publishing packages (starting at $1,499 for children’s books and $2,499 for most novels/memoirs), or pick what you need with our book design services.
Author copies are copies of the book authors order for themselves before or after the book is published and available for sale. Self-published authors can usually order copies of their books directly from the printer, paying only for printing and shipping costs instead of the retail price.
This is particularly useful when ordering advanced reader copy–copies you want to send to selected readers before the book is published to get reviews and final feedback—or for book signing, presentations, or direct distribution.
Good to know: Some hybrid publishers charge more than the printing and shipping costs for author copies. Luminare Press authors receive five complimentary copies upon publication as part of all our core packages and can always order author copies at printing costs only, directly from the printer.
Printing costs for books vary, depending on the type of book and the number of pages. For instance, a 250-page black-and-white book, standard size, would cost about $3.85 per copy to print. If the book has a color interior or is hardback, the cost would be significantly higher. You can refer to our article on how to price a book to see how printing costs are calculated.
Good to know: Print-on-demand costs don’t change based on volume, that means there’s no advantage to order, store, and pay for a large inventory.
Use this simple formula: Retail price (price on the cover), minus printing and shipping costs, minus sales fee and wholesale discounts = your royalties.
Every time a book is sold, you are responsible for the cost of printing the book, and, if it is sold through a third party (online retailer, bookstore), you also pay a percentage of the retail price to the third-party. This is called the sales fee. You do not pay either printing or sales fees up-front when you are selling through a third party, though. When the book is sold, those costs are deducted from the sale, and your royalty equals the amount that remains. Luminare Press authors retain 100 percent of the royalty.
Good to know: Sales fees vary depending on the sales channel, but will not be affected if your book is sold at a discounted price. For instance, Amazon may choose to offer your book at a lower price than your cover, or retail, cost but doing so will not affect the amount of royalty you receive from the sale. Likewise, the cost of shipping the book from the seller to the buyer will not affect your royalty.
PRINTING AND DISTRIBUTION
Print-on-demand technology is an affordable option that removes the risks of self-publishing by allowing you to print books when you sell them, and to make money on each sale. Print-on-demand erases economies of scale—there is no need to purchase large quantities of books to reduce the per-book price, because the printing cost for one book is the same no matter how many you order.
Print-on-demand uses digital design files. Once your files are uploaded, it’s possible to produce one book at a time, usually upon receipt of an order. You can learn more on our page dedicated to print-on-demand publishing.
Good to know: When using POD for your self-published book, you won’t have to deal with large stacks of books and you won’t face any up-front costs to buy books in advance. Luminare Press uses cutting-edge print-on-demand technology to publish and distribute your book.
Most self-publishing authors use a print-on-demand printer, which means your book is only printed if it is sold. Print-on-demand books are usually available for distribution through Ingram Content Group, which makes your book available to online retailers, who usually sell single copies directly to the consumer, and to bookstores, which may either special-order for a customer or choose to stock the book. When someone orders a book through an online retailer, or when a bookstore orders a book for a customer or to stock, the book is printed and shipped. If you are interested in knowing more, you can refer to our comprehensive guide on book distribution.
Good to know: Your print-on-demand book will be available for sale on all major distributors and online stores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, and Apple Books.
Yes. But while physical distribution is available, it’s not usually suitable for most self-publishers. This means that, even if it’s possible, most self-published books won’t be available for purchase on bookstores’ shelves unless you have a plan to promote to bookstores. But be aware: bookstores do not want to order books that are not returnable, so there is a risk of having to buy back unsold books. You can read more about the book distribution system on our blog.
Good to know: Most of the book sales are completed online where your book will be able to compete with any other book on the market.
TYPE OF BOOKS
Yes, you can self-publish both children’s picture books (with lots of images or illustrations and limited text) and chapter books for kids. While picture books are usually less complex than a regular, longer book, chapter books are similar to a fiction book when it comes to design. If you are working on a picture book and you have your illustrations ready, you can see our dedicated package for self-publishing a children’s book.
Good to know: Children’s books can benefit from print-on-demand technology, too. This means you won’t have to order a lot of them in advance. Also, because of their limited length, the printing costs are still low even if they have a full color interior.
Luminare Press can design and assist you publish almost any fiction, non-fiction, or illustrated picture books. However, as hybrid publisher, we reserve the right to decline work on books whose content we find objectionable, for whatever reason. Our core packages are limited to the formats available through POD, but we can work with you on formats for non-POD printing for an additional fee.
Good to know: There are a lot of different formats printers offer to self-publishers. Choosing a more affordable format will reduce printing costs and increase book availability on the market.
EDITING AND BOOK DESIGN
Producing a polished book requires a professional copy edit and meticulous proofreading before the book is printed. Self-published authors often overlook these crucial steps, but as publishing professionals, we know that no matter how good your grammar skills are, you are going to need to have someone else review your work before it is published.
Publishing houses employ an army of copy editors and proofreaders because they understand that no writer has enough distance from the text to proof and correct his or her own work objectively. If you are self-publishing, you need to take the same approach. Your book must be free of errors and stylistically in tune with other books on the market in order for it to be competitive.
Good to know: Make sure to get editing done BEFORE layout—it will save you time and money. Proofreading is usually done once the final book layout is done. There are different levels of editing available. Consider what you need before talking to an editor.
Book layout design is the activity (and the art) of correctly (and beautifully) placing and styling the text of your manuscript on the pages of your book. Creating a book interior involves many decisions and requires technical knowledge. To achieve a professional result, designers use dedicated software, like InDesign, which is complex to use and has a steep learning curve. On average, it will take a professional designer between six and ten hours to design the interior of a book, depending on its complexity.
Good to know: Hiring a designer for your book interior costs you less than you may think, and you will get a result that’s more professional than a self-designed book.
Yes. Luminare offers the option of printing a hardcover version of your book, and it is possible to make both a hardcover and paperback available. Likewise, books with full-color interiors are available through print-on-demand.
Good to know: Designing a full-color interior doesn’t cost more than a black and white book. However, since the cost of printing is much higher for full-color books, we advise you to use this option only when necessary.
ISBN AND COPYRIGHT
The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a 13-digit number that identifies books and book-like products published internationally. The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, meaning each book edition (i.e., hardcover, paperback, second editions) will have a separate ISBN. The ISBN allows for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers, and distributors.
The ISBN also identifies the publisher of the book. Luminare Press provides ISBNs for all our books, but we are happy to work with authors who already have an ISBN, or who want to establish a unique publishing entity.
Good to know: If you are planning to publish multiple editions, or a book series, you can buy ISBNs in bulk, getting a discount. If you publish with Luminare Press, the ISBN is included in your publishing package.
If you are planning to sell and distribute your ebook, yes, you need an ISBN. Each book edition requires an individual ISBN, and ebooks are no exception. However, if you’re creating an ebook version for marketing purposes that’s not for sale, you don’t need to buy an extra number.
Good to know: Creating an ebook version of your book can be very beneficial in terms of sales and distributions. There are, basically, no downsides to publishing a digital version of your book and the extra costs of creating the ebook version are very limited compared to the benefits.
Do you have a question we haven’t answered yet? You can ask using the form below, we’ll do our best to give you a complete answer. If you are ready to publish and you are interested in publishing professionally, you can also schedule a free consultation.