The Real Costs of Producing an eBook

The cost of producing an eBook is more than the conversion process. The largest expenses are writing, followed by editing.

If you are publishing in an eBook-only format, you still need to design and format. Just like one does with print books.

The Real Costs of Producing an eBook

The Real Costs of Producing an eBook

As readers may know the cost of converting a Word file to an eBook format can be as low as $0. According to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo all you have to do is upload your book in one of the many common file formats such as .doc, .docx, .txt, .rtf, html—even PDF in the case of Amazon—and you get an eBook. Of course if it was this easy everyone would be doing it and there wouldn't be any work for AuthorImprints, or any other eBook developers. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it isn't that simple, at least in every case.

The best way I know how to describe the “conversion” process is to compare it to producing a print book. Assuming you begin with an edited manuscript there are two tasks one must complete regardless of eBook or pBook:

  1. Design: you need a basic design to follow. Perhaps even the addition of pleasing graphic elements.
  2. Layout and formatting: this is the process of making your manuscript conform to your design specifications (font presentation, headings, image placement, etc.).

Both of the above are important to any book. The second point is absolutely critical to eBooks—eBooks don't convert right if you skip or skimp on this step.

The conversion part, where you turn the file into a device readable eBook, is actually quite straightforward and can be inexpensive. Unfortunately the term has come to obfuscate the process of creating an eBook.

Update: Beginning in 2020, Amazon began putting more emphasis on on eBook quality and in some cases removing books from sale until the publisher fixes them. The errors range from the usual spelling, punctuation and grammar to hyperlinks not working and poor image quality.

To illustrate this point I created this pie chart of the basic elements of producing a book relative to writing it. While this chart does not include on going marketing costs it serves to compare the essential investments necessary to go from idea to shelf.

Costs of writing, developing and launching an eBook

Interpreting the Chart

This is based on my own experience and obviously can vary. But on a percentage basis I think this is pretty accurate and here's what I mean.

  • The majority of your investment is in writing.
  • Your next largest cost is editing, or it should be.
  • Most of the small slices are fixed costs or they don't vary much. If you write a small book these small slices would actually be much larger. (The writing budget for this chart is based on my ghostwriting rate of $1.25/word so my 36,000 word book cost $45,000 (if I thought about this before I started I'm not sure I would have gone through with it!).
  • Launch marketing and distribution setup total $700. Again, this expense isn't going to vary with the size of the book.

The crazy part is that even when you add conversion, design and layout/formatting you get only $350—a paltry sum compared to all other expenses. Yet that is where many authors focus their budget.

My advice is to either put off your book until you can afford this or learn how to do it yourself. Whatever you do don't obsess about this portion of the budget when you should be thinking about marketing and PR.

In fact, here are a couple recent posts on PR:
Author PR 101: Resources for Finding Independent Book Reviewers

Author PR 101: 5 Tips to Improve Your Chances of Getting Reviews from Book Bloggers

2 thoughts on “The Real Costs of Producing an eBook”

  1. I have already paid Hillcrest Media Group over $10K for the Professional Package, my book is done, now they want an extra $200. to convert my 100 page book to an ebook. They refer to “complexity.” Opinion

  2. Carol, $200 more after $10k seems odd. You didn’t change the requirements, right? When I give a bid I do it one of two ways. I look at the file and give a fixed price or I give a qualified price. Meaning I tell them it is $x assuming there is (for example) no index to convert, no endnotes, etc. If they didn’t spell it out exceptions in the contract I’d press them to explain the justification for the extra charge.

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