June 17, 2024
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How to Publish a Book for Less Than $500

In the olden days (which was not much more than 25 years ago), if you wanted to publish a book, you were pretty much at the mercy of the large publishers.

They were generally very selective about which books they would publish. Oftentimes you would have to front some of the costs to convince them to publish your book. And the royalties on sales were relatively small.

Yes, you could decide to self-publish your book to guarantee that your work would be printed—and keep all the profits. However, that meant paying for a print run before knowing how many books would be sold. And creating your own outlets for distribution. This could amount to many thousands of dollars before you even sold one copy.

Today, it’s much easier to self-publish a book. In fact, last year when I decided to collect 95 of the columns I had written for The Jewish Link and publish them in a book, I was able to create my book and have it ready for sale for less than $500.

I tell you this not to brag. Rather it’s to encourage others who might have an idea for a book or an unpublished manuscript already written to move forward with its publication.

Here are some of the details as to how I was able to get my book published so inexpensively…

There is an amazing website, fiverr.com, which is an online marketplace that connects freelancers with people and businesses looking to hire them. Freelancers can showcase their skills and services on the platform, which can include descriptions, images and videos. Buyers can browse and search for services using categories, keywords and filters, and then reach out to freelancers to discuss their project.

I was able to find a talented graphic artist from Nigeria who was able to design a book cover for me for $65 in two days. I think he did an amazing job. (See the design included with this article.)

Next, I looked for a person on Fiverr who would format my articles that I had edited in Word into a 6” x 9” book, number the pages, and create a table of contents. I found someone to do this for $60. Five days later he delivered a file to me, which was ready to be sent to the printer, along with the cover design.

Next, I registered with Amazon’s self-publishing division, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which allows you to publish both print and digital books. The process was extremely easy, all done online. I submitted the cover design and the formatted copy of the text, which they approved for publication a few days later.

The final item on my checklist was to create a website for the book, which turned out to be my biggest cost. However, for $325 I was able to hire a website designer on Fiverr, secure a URL (meet-me-in-the-middle-book.com), and pay the web hosting cost for one year. The website is simple, but functional—it has a photo of the book, my bio, and half a dozen testimonials, along with several calls to action to purchase the book, all of which link to the Amazon page where one can purchase my book.

For $450 in total, I was able to get my book published! I didn’t have to preprint any copies of the book … Amazon prints copies on demand.

Now it’s true I did my own editing and proofreading—some folks might need a freelancer to help them with this function (although I will tell you that a word processing program is able to catch 95% of any spelling, grammar or syntax errors). However, even adding the cost of a proofreader and editor shouldn’t break the bank for you.

Also, I did catch one typo that I missed after I submitted the book to Amazon for publication. But once I discovered the error, I immediately corrected the error, sent Amazon a new template for the text of the book, and they are now printing a corrected version. It’s not like I have thousands of copies of the book with a typo.

I should point out that there are several self-publishing companies you can choose who will guide you through the process. I decided to choose Amazon because I knew that I wanted to use Amazon as my main distribution outlet. Once I registered with KDP, they automatically created a page for selling my book. I decided on the price (I discounted the price for two weeks when I first launched the book, to encourage sales), and I get monthly reports on sales and an automatic deposit into my checking account every month with royalties. I cannot recommend them more highly.

As to royalties, because Amazon does all the printing and distribution, the royalty percentage is small. However, I did not decide to publish my book to get wealthy or even to earn a living. Very few folks in the Orthodox Jewish world who publish books sell more than 1,000 copies. So don’t count on making a lot of money if you do decide to publish your book. I was fortunate to do a little better than break even on my book, which is all that I wanted to do.

One thing that I do recommend which will help generate more sales for your book is to get many people to leave positive reviews on Amazon. Admittedly this is something that I failed to do … and something that I should have done. (If you did purchase my book and liked it, feel free to go to the Amazon page where my book is listed and leave a review.)

If you have any other questions about publishing your book, feel free to reach out to me via email at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to answer any other questions you might have.


Michael Feldstein, who lives in Stamford, CT, is the author of “Meet Me in the Middle” (meet-me-in-the-middle-book.com), a collection of essays on contemporary Jewish life. He can be reached at [email protected].

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