Laina Turner, Author
L.C. Turner, Author

Why You need a budget if you’re a self-published author

Why you need a budget if you’re a self-published author

If you’re serious about making a living as an author then you need an author budget. You have to spend money to make money. It’s what it takes to create a sustainable business.

One of the many struggles of the self-published author is money. That’s the main struggle of any entrepreneur. Hell, that’s what most normal people would list as their number one stressor. It IS the leading cause of divorce. Though I’m waiting for Facebook to take that spot any minute if it hasn’t already. I haven’t checked lately.

Unlike traditionally published authors there is no royalty advance for the indie. But unless you’re a big-time author, you’re not getting millions in an advance. Many new and mid-list authors are lucky to get 5 -10 grand and the key with advances is it’s not free money.

You have to earn that money back. That’s why it’s called an advance.

18 2 Why You need a budget if you're a self-published author

Most new/midlist authors also aren’t handed a huge marketing budget and must hustle like us indies. It’s why so many awesome traditionally published authors have come over to the dark side (the dark side is awesome).

Authors have more control on the indie path, and if you’re going to bust your ass, you might as well do it for yourself. Obviously, there are also downsides. Nothing is 100% awesome all the time but that’s life.

The Indie Author Budget


It’s a word feared by many both personally and professionally but one we also know is necessary.

The writing part of your indie author career takes your time. Time, the most valuable commodity you own, is also money but not in the form of laying out cold hard cash like hiring an editor or a cover designer. Which makes it easier to work with and much less scary because you’re not spending outright.

Money is tangible, and if you don’t have extra, you don’t have it. So it can be hard to rationalize using the money you don’t have to start your author journey when you’ve got bills to pay.

A fear I hear from indie authors is,  I don’t have any extra money to pay for the things I need to publish so what’s the point of writing the book?

They feel defeated before they start. If you feel that way at all STOP.

As Marie Forleo says (I just LOVE her) everything is figureoutable.

Lack of money is a legitimate concern but by no means should it ever stop you. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The first step to solving a problem is addressing it and not hiding from it. I know, denial can be way more fun, but it’s not going to change things.

So let’s tackle this head on. First, you need to identify what a self-published author needs to pay for?

Besides a ton of coffee of course.

The main items you will want to budget for are:

Editing – Not one but several rounds. Editing is by far the most expensive part of your self-publishing journey.  I typically spend about $2000 on editing for each book for 3 rounds of edits. The cost can vary due to length and sometimes, if I’m really struggling on a book, I may have a second content edit done. It’s money well spent. As I’ve said a million times, don’t skimp on this part of your production process. You want your book to be as perfect as possible.

Cover art – You can buy pre-made covers such as the ones offered here anywhere from $50 on up. Or you can hire a cover designer that will work with your vision which will start at about $250 and go up.

Formatting – The cost for this depends on how many different formats you want your book. I get mine in Word, PDF (for Create Space), mobi, and epub and it runs about $150.

Advertising – While I believe in working to organically grow your readership, I also feel that advertising is a must these days to get the word out there. Especially for book launches and special events, you might have. But, this is a line item you have to closely manage or run the risk of spending a ton of money without a good return on your investment. There are so many different ways out there to advertise, and many are a trial and error. To see what works for you and what doesn’t.

When it comes to setting your advertising budget, I would suggest you work backward. Figure out what you can spend. Keep in mind this could potentially be throwing away money. Then find the advertising that fits in that budgeted amount.

When I first started, I spent about $100 a month, and today there are more low cost/free places to advertise your book then there was 10 years ago. I don’t spend that much more now on average. I put most my dollars in special events. The momentum from those carries me through the rest of the times.

Social media schooling tools – I want to point out that you can get away with no cost social media tools. As with anything you pay for convenience which is what most of us are looking for when we pay for tools such as Board Booster, Tailwind, and Hootsuite.

I currently pay for these things because as I’ve grown my business I wanted the more enhanced aspects the paid versions offer. But I made it for years without the paid versions and you can too.

Website hosting – You can get hosting for a low cost anywhere from $5-$25 er month. Most of us authors have simple sites that don’t require huge amounts of storage.

Website design – for a basic template web design can start at $500 and for custom work in the thousands. You can do it yourself for free if you like that sort of thing but I firmly believe in not wasting time doing what you’re not good at.


Put your focus on your writing.

The above isn’t an all-inclusive list. But it covers the major expenses incurred when producing a novel.

Then there are some of the incidentals that aren’t a must except to me. These would include:

  • New notebooks
  • Colored pens
  • Assorted post-its

If you don’t need those things to spark your mojo and get your creative juices flowing, then you can skip that part of the list. But who doesn’t work better with colored pens and post-its?

I know this list can seem like a lot and be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. The positive thing about the author business is it takes time to write books so you can spread out some of the costs.

For ease of budgeting purposes, it might make sense for you to calculate how much you think you’ll spend on editing and cover design for the year based on how many books you plan on writing. Then you can spread out the cost and it won’t seem so bad.

It’s why you need a production plan!

Happy Writing!


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