How much does it cost to publish a book?

This question came up at a recent writing group. The answer is that you can publish a book 100% for free. The chances are that you will need or want to pay for some services along the way, but let’s look at how it can be done.

Step

DIY/Free option

Professional option

Writing your novel Using free software such as Google Drive, there’s no cost to writing If you hire a ghostwriter, expect to pay $10k+. You can also buy dedicated writing apps such as Scrivener ($77).
Editing your novel It’s risky do to this yourself, but there’s no requirement to get an editor For a novel of up to 100,000 words, around $3,000
Formatting your novel If you have good word processing skills, this can be fairly easy for eBooks as they don’t need much formatting. Printed books are trickier, but you can find formatting guides online and some platforms offer downloadable Word templates For eBooks, from around $100 on Fiverr. For printed books, from around $300 for a professional interior formatting, but it can be $1000+ for more complex works (with graphics, photos etc). There are also professional software packages such as Vellum (~$340) that some authors use.
Designing a cover Use a free photo from Unsplash and overlay text, or try a free online cover creator From ~$15 on Fiverr, ~$40 for a pre-made cover on Goonwrite, to several hundred dollars for custom artwork by a professional designer
Publishing your novel You can upload and sell an eBook for free on Amazon and other sites, for a print-on-demand book you’ll probably have to buy at least one proof copy (~$10 +postage) Hybrid presses charge a couple of thousand dollars to publish through them and handle everything for you. If you want your own ISBN, in Australia you’ll pay $44 for 1 ISBN, or $88 for 10. If you want to buy copies of your book and sell it directly, then expect to pay around $5-10 per unit + postage, depending on the number of copies ordered.
Marketing your novel Promote your book through your own social media channels, contact book reviewers and bloggers Google Ads, Amazon ads, review services such as Booksirens.com, professional marketers, it can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.
TOTAL FREE, or around $10 if you also want your book in paperback (as print-on-demand) Most authors who prefer to self-publish using professional services will spend around $3,000 to $4,000 (excluding marketing).