Although it is possible to self-publish for a very small amount of money—have friends edit your manuscript, do your own interior layout, design your own cover, upload the files to a POD printer and/or ebook service—the reality is that by self-publishing, you are essentially launching a new business. And publishing a professional-looking, high-quality book will cost you some money.
So what can you expect spend for a book that looks as good and reads as well as the trad published stuff on the shelf next to it? Well, let’s say we have a 65,000-word manuscript in the self-help genre (nonfiction); there are no images, but several different levels of headings and a few tables that need to be created.
Every writer needs some kind of editor. Even if your sister-in-law’s cousin’s neighbor’s father was a former college professor and has offered to read your manuscript for free, I recommend you still hire a pro. As an editor myself, I have edited plenty of works written by academics—and other very smart people—who are awful writers and probably even worse editors.
You can expect to pay a minimum of $1,200 for a professional copy edit of a manuscript of that size. You might be able to find an editor who does it for a bit less and who probably has less editing experience. You can also expect to pay a lot more, depending on the level of editing required, anywhere from $2,600 and on up to several thousand dollars, depending on the experience of the editor. I’ve read some people estimate a developmental edit at $18,500, but that does seem quite high to me.