How Much Does It Cost?

I was at the Portage District Library last Thursday talking with a group of writers and one woman asked how much it cost to publish an ebook. I had to give the unsatisfying answer of “It depends.”

I decided that would be a good topic for a blog, especially since Friday I uploaded the file for my first mini-mystery short story, EYE OF THE CROW. This short story is a continuation of the P.J. Benson Mystery series. It takes place two months after the end of EAT CROW AND DIE on P.J.’s and Wade’s wedding day, and it starts when P.J. steps into a bank where a robbery is taking place.

This week is my official release of EYE OF THE CROW. It’s available on Kindle and Smashwords (which distributes to iBooks, Nook, Kobo, etc.) for the low cost of .99¢ . So that answers how much it would cost you to buy the book, but the woman in the class wanted to know how much it was going to cost her to publish a book.

EYE OF THE CROW is my first publication that wasn’t originally vetted by a traditional publisher. Since it is a short story, I decided I wouldn’t hire an editor, but I did have three different writers carefully read and edit the manuscript. Although even my traditional editors and I sometimes missed errors, I’m hoping my critique partners and I caught 99% of any errors in this short story. Hiring an editor varies is cost. Some give a set price for x number of pages, some charge per page. It also depends on if you’re hiring the person to edit content (does the story hold together?) or line editing (grammar, spelling, and punctuation), or both. (Cost for the editing on EYE OF THE CROW? $0.00, unless you count the lunches I had with the three writers.)

While my critique partners were vetting the ms, I had a cover made. My cover designer is Florence Price, who also created covers for the 80s and 90s romances I’ve been republishing as ebooks. Florence works with me regarding what I want on the cover and puts it together using stock photos and graphic designs. Since an ebook only requires a front cover image, it takes less work than a wrap around cover (no back copy or spine design). Covers can cost anything from around $10 to thousands depending on the design, if it’s a stock cover, if a photo shoot, if live models are required, if Photoshop is used, or if you’re paying a graphic designer. (Cost for EYE OF THE CROW’s cover $64.00)


Formatting for an ebook also depends on how much work you want to put into the project. Kindle kdp and Smashwords both have excellent guidelines that can be downloaded or printed free of charge. They vary slightly, but don’t require many changes from one to the other. I’ve formatted my own stories and so far they’ve all passed the vetting Amazon and Smashwords put them through. Also, I always use the free previewer provided by each site to check how the uploaded version will read. Any mistakes can be corrected at this stage. There are people who do formatting for hire. Again, prices vary. Check them out. (Cost for formatting? $0.00)

The next step involves writing a paragraph or two describing the story; something that will catch a potential buyer’s interest. You’ll also need to decide how to categorize the story and how much you’re going to charge. (Cost for these steps? $0.00)

Those are the main areas where you might incur any costs. ISBN numbers are not required for ebooks, but both Amazon and Smashwords provides those free of charge. Or, if you’ve already purchased ISBN numbers, you can use your own. (But you can’t use the same ISBN number for both companies.)

Your work, by law, is copyrighted the moment you write it, but if you want to make sure you have an official copyright (in case you ever need to go to court regarding the story), go to  and follow their instructions. Cost is $35.00.

Once the story has been uploaded and activated, your cost of publishing the ebook has ended. Total cost for EYE OF THE CROW: $64.00. The next expenses, I’ll have will be in publicizing the fact that the story is now available for purchase.

I’ve started with a teaser from EYE OF THE CROW at Gina Conkle’s blog Stop by and take a look.


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14 Responses to How Much Does It Cost?

  1. Sue Myers says:

    Hi Maris,

    Love your “Crow” books. Can’t wait to read your short story.

    This was an excellent topic for blog. I think the bottom line is, we write because we have a story that wants to be told. If it were for only money, we’d select another career.

  2. Melissa Keir says:

    The cost can go quite a bit higher with the additional costs of editing and formatting. It’s even harder to justify the little money that comes in then…

    • Maris Soule says:

      Melissa, you are right about the additional costs going up with editing and formatting. I’m willing to pay a good editor because I know I get too close to a story and a good editor can make it better. But, with formatting, I have the time and can do that myself, so it’s foolish for me to pay others to do that. (The key is I have the time.)

  3. A very interesting blog. Good info.

  4. Paula says:

    I’m saving this one for future reference. I have two suggestions from you and another friend to publish devotionals as ebooks. This info will come in handy. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  5. Carole Price says:

    Thanks, Maris. Excellent topic. I appreciate your openness about the costs, something I’ve been wondering about since I’ve been considering writing short e-stories.

  6. Lucy Kubash says:

    Really enjoyed the Crows trilogy and look forward to reading this short story. I still love reading them and am thinking of writing them again. Good luck with this venture!

  7. Nice information on how cheaply you can get an ebook out, but still ensure quality. I’d add that if you do hire editors and more expensive cover artists, and a formatter, you can probably add $1000 to the cost (for a full length novel). Obviously you charge more for the book. I think it’s important to realize many self published authors put in a lot of time and money into the process. It’s a huge endeavour.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks for taking the time to respond, Toni. Those are good points. Actually, for a full length novel, I’m sure the cost would be even higher than $1000, with most of that money going to an editor. But it’s worth it if you have a good editor. They can make the difference between a good book and a great book.