Self-publishing on Amazon For Under $200: The Definitive Guide 2021

Gone are those days when authors would hunt down an agent, praying and hoping for representation so that they could be taken seriously by a major publisher.

Traditional publishing is still a very slow process with an outdated model. Because they have made it so difficult for authors to get published, they aren’t able to keep up with the fast-paced content with being generated in the world today. In contrast, print on demand or self-publishing allows you to have 100% up to date content and information and also allows authors to walk away with a nice profit, even with a low priced book.

Many people choose to take the self-publishing route and make the most of Amazon which is an absolute GIANT in the online retail industry. What Amazon has done for book publishing has truly been revolutionary. And, for the first time in history, an independent author can make a huge profit on a shoe-string budget. This allows authors to let their creativity do the talking, rather than the luck of the draw.

Think about how many times huge, now-successful authors had been declined by some of these major publishers and how many great works the world would never have encountered. Even J. K. Rowling could share a few tales of rejection… Thankfully she persevered!

But it doesn’t have to be that way, not anymore.

172,000 books are published each year, but only 1000 of these books hit 50,000 sales. Your book could also be one of these if you use the right strategies and methods (of course, you must have a great book to begin with, too!).

Amazon has millions of worldwide users, so it provides a wide range of accessibility to the author. In addition to individual book sales, Amazon KDP Unlimited (which is a service Amazon offers to users to read eBooks under their subscription) paid a quarter of a Billion Dollars to indie authors in 2019.

Why 70% of authors use Amazon for Self-Publishing a Book

Traditionally published books pay only 8-10% royalty. By self-publishing a book on Amazon, you can easily earn anything from 3 to 7 times as much money per book. Brand new indie authors can also publish a book on any topic having no previous history of publishing.

  • Self-publishing on Amazon seems to be the best, most affordable and profitable among all the platforms.
  • It provides a decent royalty structure and is easy to use.
  • Amazon KDP does not demand digital selectivity and is open to everyone who wishes to enter.
  • KDP provides many free tools to minimize cost.
  • Amazon already has the customer-base which makes running Amazon ads the most effective book marketing strategy online.

How to Self-Publish Your Book on a Budget (Under $200)

For an independent self-publishing author, one of the most important things to consider is your budget. Every publisher wants to publish the best book they can, on the lowest budget they can manage. From cover design to proofreading to marketing, it is not uncommon for an author to spend $1000-$2000 to publish and launch a single book.

If you have a limited budget this is of course, out of question for you, just as the post title suggests, I’ve got you! In this post, I’ll show you the ways you can self-publish a book within a budget of $200 and still have access to maximum sales.


Proofreading and Editing

As you can imagine, self-publishing on Amazon is highly competitive, the book cover and description will get people in the door but if you want people to come back with positive reviews the only way to achieve this is by properly editing or proofreading your book until it is clean and easy to read. You had better believe a disappointed reader will be asking for a refund and leaving a negative review faster than Amazon Prime can deliver!

Proofreading is the first cost that self-published authors face after writing the content of the book. Proofreading and editing are done to remove grammatical mistakes and to maintain a flow of reading, taking out the fluff and fillers (unnecessary text that affect readability).

There are three main types of editing:

Developmental editing – is a form of writing support that comes into play before or during the production of a publishable manuscript, especially in the area of non-fiction writing.

Copyediting – is the process of revising written material to improve readability and fitness for its purpose, as well as ensuring that text is free of grammatical and factual errors.

Proofreading – is the reading of a galley proof or an electronic copy of a publication to find and correct production errors of text or art. Proofreading is the final step in the editorial cycle before publication.

29% of authors pay to have their book proofread professionally. If you also hire a proofreader they typically charge between $0.02 to $0.08 per word. This could greatly disturb your budget depending on which type of deal you get but many people find that using platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork they can achieve hiring a proofreader at the lower end of the cost scale.

An alternative or cheap way is to do the proofreading by yourself. You can self-edit by using tools like Grammarly or ProWritingAid. They will help you a lot in nailing and structuring the content. Don’t be a great teacher, be a good learner. Again and again, go through the manuscript to make it clean and to minimize the mistakes.



In summary, your budget proofreading options are:


1. The cheapest way to proofread and edit:
Grammarly – Free to use or you can upgrade to premium for extended features. Might be best to use the extended features in the pro version if you are hoping to use this in place of a proofreader/editor.
ProWritingAid

2. Affordable professional editing services:

Fiverr: Professionally proofread and edit from $5 for 1000 words

Design Book Cover

Cover designer on Upwork or Fiverr can cost you anywhere between $5-2000 depending on the level of experience of the seller. If you have space in your budget, and you are not particularly artistic, hiring somebody is highly recommended. Cover design is not something you want to cut corners on – everybody judges a book by its cover.

Another option is to learn how to use a free tool like:
Cover Creator
Canva

Or Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator

Amazon also have a service called KDP cover creator. The is fairly easy to use and you have an option to use this during the book submission process. KDP cover creator creates a suitable cover according to your selected book genre.

Provide basic details like title and subtitle and upload the manuscript, KDP cover creator will make a personalised cover design for your book. It uses the details you enter during title setup and customizes designs with a variety of layouts and fonts.

Alternatively, you can use YouTube tutorials to learn about cover designing.
There are some great YouTube channels for tutorials of Graphic design and learning design software. Many of them will show you a complete step-by-step guide for how to use things like ProCreate, Illustrator and Photoshop to try your hand at making a cover design free of cost.

Remember, an eye-catchy cover design is crucial for anybody hoping to succeed in self-publishing on Amazon.


Book Formatting

Manuscript formatting is the general plan and makeup of presenting a book to make it worth reading. The professionally-formatted manuscript makes the book up to industry standard. Formatting can cost you $50-200, which means your whole budget will be used on formatting. You might not like it to use. You can use these free ways of formatting a book.

  • Amazon KDP provides Kindle Create to format your book.
  • Microsoft Word and PowerPoint
  • Tools like Draft2digital, Reedsy, Vellum, and PublishDrive

Learning how to use these free tools will save you the cost of hiring somebody to format and ultimately provide you with a better experience as you will know how to format your own books again, in future. Formatting on Microsoft word will be the best option for most beginners due to how simple it is. You can also access many free templates online, again, saving you a lot of money in the long run.


ISBN

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, which is required for each book you wish to publish and each format. The ISBN is used to track books and their sales, globally.

For example, paperback and hardback versions of the same book will require their own seperate ISBN numbers. The criteria is different for ebooks, however as different platforms have their own rules for this.

EBooks: An ISBN is not necessary for eBooks. You will find that the major retailors of ebooks have thier own method of tracking and when you upload your book for sale they will assign their own serial number to it. For example, Amazon gives a free alternative for their kindle books, once you upload your book KDP will assign an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). This is a 10 digit code that is unique for each eBook and takes place of a regular ISBN number, at no cost to you.

Paperbacks & hardbacks; ISBN is necessary for Paperbacks. You can buy an ISBN from the web including the official ISBN body and have the option to use that one on Amazon in place of the free on they provide.

You might ask, ‘why would I buy one elsewhere when KDP provides a free ISBN?’ The ISBN provided by Amazon is strictly for use on Amazon and for distributors of Amazon, not for other publishers. You cannot take books with Amazon’s own ISBN and publish those on other major platforms or book shops.


EBook Delivery Cost

Most people do not know that eBooks actually have a delivery cost. They assume that it is a digital file with a passport around the internet, travelling for free. While that is somewhat true, there is a price on the transfer of data.

The delivery cost of an eBook depends upon the size of the book. For Amazon, the cost is $0.15 per MB of the eBook. This should allow you to work out a rough estimation of the delivery cost, based on your ebook file size (and also incentivise you to compress it if you can).

But the most precise way to calculate this cost is to upload the file on KDP’s pricing page, the tool will show you the exact cost. As our budget is under $200, saving the delivery cost is a good option. If the book price is below $2.99 and above $9.99 then there is no delivery cost. Manage the price of a book to maintain a budget.


Distribution

Ebooks:

The next cost after publishing a book is distribution. But do not worry, just like the ebook delivery cost, this is not an active cost that you are paying out. When self-publishing on Amazon, you have the choice of getting a 35% or 70% royalty option depending upon your pricing of the book.

  • 35% Royalty: it applies to books priced below $2.99 and $9.99.
  • 70% Royalty: It applies to books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.

But there are certain rules and regulations regarding the 70% royalty. Not all eBooks are eligible for 70% royalty. For the eBooks sold in Japan, Brazil and Mexico pay only 35% royalty unless enrolled in KDP select.

Paperbacks:

For paperbacks distributed on Amazon, there is a minimum you can charge, which is based on the cost to print your book and a maximum charge of £250. The royalty on physical books is 60% regardless of the price.

You also have the option to enable your book for expanded distribution. In doing so, book stores and libraries all across the world will also have access to your books if they puchase via Amazon. This comes at no extra cost to you, but you will need to price your book accordingly to meet this higher tier distribution cost (for the US).

This means that if you planned on selling your book for $6.99 but want to enable it for expanded distribution, you will likely need to bump the price up a bit to meet this. That is for you to decide if it is worth it.


Marketing

Another major cost for self-publishing on Amazon is marketing.

Marketing is used reach more readers and increase ales. Most authors don’t bother with marketing beyond sharing their book on Facebook or Instagram. However, some will make an attempt by opting for running ads on Facebook and Google. These tend to cost a lot while being highly ineffective.

If you are selling your book on Amazon, it should go without saying that Amazon Ads are the best choice. And with a long-term strategy you can really make your money work for you.

It works in a similar way to Google Ads in that you select your targetted keywords and then pay for amazon ads. You can also use Kindle Countdown deals and free promotion to promote your books. To maintain a budget within $200, you can utilise your social media account, Pinterest, email-lists or promotional websites like book bub to aid in marketing.


Rough Pricing Chart

DIYFiverr Freelancer
Proofreading and EditingGrammarly $0-$13$5-$25 per 1000 words
Cover Design$0$10-$25
Formatting$0 $15-$80
ISBN$0
Marketing$186$69

So I admit, this chart wasn’t the easiest to make because personally, there are things I wouldn’t cut corners on. But this goes to show that you could potentially and rather easily do the entire submission completely free if you want to.

You could use Grammarly as it is ( the free version covers grammar, punctuation and spelling. While the premium version covers everything in the free version plus fluency, readability, word choice, plagiarism detection plus much more). If there was only one thing I was going to spend money, it would be getting the premium version of grammarly as the other things I could learn.

On a budget of $200, doing the DIY method, you could then get the entire thing done and blow the rest of the budget on marketing for $199.

Likewise, you could mix and match. If you decided you wanted somebody to design the cover (a decent range I’ve found, persoanlly for cover design is $15-$25) and somebody to format, plust the premium Grammarly subscription – you would still be well under your 0 budget.

The bottom line

  • The bottom line is to minimize the biggest costs as much as you can without jeopardising quality.
  • Make use of freelancers wherever possible.
  • Do not hire the first person you speak to, shop around, make sure they have a good rating and that you are getting a good deal.
  • Search for free templates for your preferred editing software to save on the costs of formatting.
  • When hiring illustrators, be sure to see as much of their work as you can. You want to make sure that their style matches what you are looking for.
  • Provide sketches and storyboards going into very fine detail ie. colour schemes, font, character look etc.
  • Learn skills to help you through on Youtube. For example, learning how to run ads on Amazon properly will save you a lot of money in running them ineffectively or running them on the wrong platforms.
  • Price your book wisely to make the most of the royalties available.

1 thought on “Self-publishing on Amazon For Under $200: The Definitive Guide 2021”

  1. Pingback: What are the Best Self-Publishing Platforms for eBooks? - Selfpublished Whiz

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