What is the cost of writing a book?

Calculating the cost of writing a book

Whenever I am asked the question ‘what is the cost of writing a book’ I want to respond ‘ what is the cost of NOT writing your book?’. This is a dreadful but pointed coaching question. Take time to ponder it, before moving on.

Hold these three words – cost, price, value

So what is the COST?

In accounting terms it is the cost of producing something e.g.:-

  • Time
  • Materials
  • Research and development
  • Prototyping
  • Overheads (recurring costs)
  • Marketing
  • Any one off costs
  • Outsourced items, time, products, manufacturing

From a writers point of view, cost is the amount of money and time spent to produce his or her book. So here’s the funny part, if you sell you books at the production cost, no-one would ever buy them. Even if you did everything yourself it is still not FREE.

From a readers point of view cost is the PRICE that he or she is willing to pay. This is the amount that the author charges and a mark up, the difference being the profit.

Pricing a book is different to pricing for example, a computer. There are many factors involved:-

  • What do books in your genre typically sell for?
  • What is the appetite in your market for books like yours?
  • Are you well known?
  • How professional (quality, did you get it edited, etc.) is your book?

As a self published author the price you set is ultimately your choice and whilst you want to make a profit, a simple calculation (you did work out your costs didn’t you) will tell you how many you need to sell to break even and to make a profit.

You didn’t calculate the costs?

Ok – quick side step

You do all the work yourself – keep a note of all of the hours you put in from idea generation, outline, writing, editing, cover design, formatting, uploading, etc. I read somewhere that it takes about 700 hours to produce a non-fiction book for someone who does it all themselves, so for ease I will use that in the calculations.

If your time cost is £10 per hour – your production cost is £7000

If your time cost is £75 per hour – your production cost is £52, 500 (ouch)

(and if you worked on it for 4 hours a day, 7 days a week it would take 175 days – approx. 6 months)

There are of course variations on a theme:-

  • DIY and some low cost outsourcing
  • DIY, workshops and some low cost outsourcing
  • DIY, workshops hand over to professionals who take it to publication
  • One to one coaching with some of the above

Each one of these will successively reduce your TIME cost and ultimately the cost of producing your book. E.g.

If you paid £3000 in workshops, £750 for one to one coaching and another £1000 for editing, formatting, cover design and uploading, your costs would be approx. £5000 and then you add on your reduced labour costs, reduced stress and time to market (it will be much quicker).

  • At £10 per hour – £600 (assuming 60 hours)
  • At £75 per hour – £4500 (assuming 60 hours)

Either way it is more cost effective and less stressful to get some help! Plus getting your book to market, if you put in the time and effort can now be around 90 to 120 days (yes really) and if you wanted some leeway for life, factor it around 180 days (6 months).

Ok we digress.

Cost and price

Cost is what it costs to produce. Price is what the market will bear for a book from you.


The value of your book has nothing to do with cost because that is a sunk cost, it is the cost of producing something beautiful and far more valuable than a book.

The value comes in what a book gives you:-

  • Brand awareness
  • Credibility
  • Profile building
  • Platform
  • Ability to find and share your voice
  • Enables you to shape the future and influence change
  • Educate others by reaching out with your knowledge, skills and experience
  • Promote yourself more effectively
  • Connect to a wider audience
  • Build a community, campaign for a cause, create a different future
  • Build your confidence
  • Enable collaboration and collaborative thinking
  • Personal growth and development
  • Motivation and inspiration
  • The list goes on….

If your dream is to get more clients, have more speaker opportunities, build your brand, and be more success a book will help you to do that.

If on the back of your book, you were able to book more clients at a higher price, get more speaker bookings, the cost of your book would be re-couped in no time at all, so the cost and price of your book is largely immaterial, it is the value of it to you which is more important.

It’s good and wise to understand the economics of producing a book, of course it is, but ultimately, let me say it again –  it is the value that YOUR BOOK brings YOU which is more meaningful.

One Reply to “What is the cost of writing a book?”

  1. Thank you for sharing this, I think the cost for not writing my book is far higher than the cost of writing it. I’ve lost countless hours of sleep to work through this thing…it is valuable to me, for sure.

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