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How Much Does It Cost To Publish a Book? (A Breakdown for Picture Book Writers)

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

When it comes to writing your first children's book, you may be wondering: how much will it actually cost? In this blog post, I'm going to lay it all out for you.

How Much Does It Cost To Publish a Book?

So...How Much Does It Cost To Publish a Book? depends on what publishing route you've decided on.

Traditional publishing is 100% free to the author, but you might want to consider services that will help you perfect your craft and query. When you self-publish, you are the publisher so you have all the expenses of a publisher.

Here's the breakdown of what those are, why you need them, and what they cost:

Expense #1 - Professional Editing

Editing is a must even for children's books because it's what makes a good book great. Lots of new writers assume that editing is just correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc but the truth is that it's so much more!

There are three different types of professional editing you'll need for self-publishing a children's book:

  • Developmental Editing: This stage focuses on the overall structure, plot, pacing, and character development of your story. Developmental editing helps refine the narrative, ensuring it engages young readers and the adults reading to them. (Want to see a developmental edit in action? Check out this blog post!)

  • Copyediting: Copyediting involves correcting grammar, punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure. It improves clarity and readability and is what most people think of when they hear the word "editing."

  • Proofreading: Once your book has undergone several rounds of developmental editing and copyediting, a final proofread is essential to catch any remaining typos or errors.

The cost for editing will vary depending on the type of editing and the editor themselves but most authors pay anywhere from $50-300+ per round of editing.

⭐️ What if I want to be traditionally published?

Expense #2 - Illustrations

With picture books, the illustrations tell half the story so it's important that they're good. Unless you're an illustrator yourself (or you're planning on traditional publishing!), you'll need to hire a freelance illustrator to create stunning visuals.

The cost of illustrations varies based on the complexity of the artwork, the number of illustrations required, and the illustrator's experience. For beautiful, high-quality work, expect to pay $1,500 to $10,000 or more, depending on your style preference.

You can read more about the children's book illustration process here.

⭐️ What if I want to be traditionally published?

Expense #3 - Formatting & Book Design

Once the illustrations are done, it's time to put the book together! A professional book designer or formatter will put the text on the art and make sure the layout and files align with your printer's specs. While it sounds easy, this is a graphic design skill that is deceptively difficult.

Some illustrators are also graphic designers and are able to offer this within their illustration package. But not all artists have this skill set. If you hire an artist who is not a graphic designer, make sure they leave enough room for the text!

The cost of formatting a picture book can vary but is usually between $300-500+ depending on the complexity of the design and the formatting professional you hire.

⭐️ What if I want to be traditionally published?

Expense #4 - Printing & Distribution

There are two main ways to self-publish a children's book: print-on-demand and offset printing. For a detailed breakdown, you'll want to read this blog post but here's the gist:

Print-on-demand services, like KDP and IngramSpark, make your book available in online retail stores and act as both a printer and distributor for you. When someone purchases a copy, the POD company prints your book, ships it to the customer, and then pays you your cut of the sale. They keep a portion of each book sale so you don't pay them anything upfront.

Offset printing is when you print your book in large quantities and then distribute them yourself on your website or on Amazon. This will cost thousands upfront but offers a higher profit potential per book sale. This does come with added logistics and limitations on distribution, however.

⭐️ What if I want to be traditionally published?

Expense #5 - Marketing

Marketing is crucial for getting your picture book in front of your target audience. A solid marketing plan is made up of many different strategies that all work together to get your book visibility and sales.

Marketing costs vary wildly: there are lots of free or low cost things you can do but it will take time and expertise. If you don't have time or your hands or just don't want to learn, outsourcing marketing can cost hundreds or thousands.

For more marketing insights, check out our other blog posts and YouTube videos.

⭐️ What if I want to be traditionally published?

Other expenses to consider

No matter which publishing route you choose to pursue, there are some optional investments you can make that can create opportunities, improve your writing, and scale your success.

Professional Coaching

Whether you're working on your first children's book or you've published in the past and weren't happy with the results, a professional coach can help you. A publishing coach offers valuable expertise, guidance, and personalized support throughout the writing and publishing process, saving you time, effort, and potentially costly mistakes.

You can do well in the book industry without one but if you find the process overwhelming or you don't have time to waste, working with a book coach will allow you to learn industry insights faster, refine your writing skill, and stand out from the crowd faster than you could on your own.

Writing and Publishing Courses

Investing in courses can accelerate your growth, increase your chances of success, and help bring your stories to young readers! These are best for authors who like working at their own pace and revisiting content frequently.

Courses can help with:

  • The mechanics of writing children's books: They delve into the nuances of storytelling, character development, age-appropriate language, and captivating illustrations. By gaining a deeper understanding of the craft, you can enhance the quality and appeal of your children's books.

  • Publishing guidance: Publishing courses guide you through the different parts of the marketing process. Most only teach a specific subset such as writing picture books or how to self-publish, for example. If you want a course that walks you through everything from pen to publication (self AND traditional), you'll want to check out the Profitable Picture Books program.

  • Keeping up with industry changes: The publishing industry is ever-evolving, and staying updated with the latest trends and developments is crucial. Children's book publishing courses often incorporate current industry practices and changes, ensuring authors are equipped with up-to-date knowledge and strategies to navigate the market successfully.

Conferences and Pitch Events

Writing and publishing conferences bring together aspiring authors and industry professionals to create valuable networking opportunities where authors can connect with like-minded individuals, build relationships, and potentially collaborate on future projects. These events also offer a platform to meet literary agents, editors, and publishers who specialize in children's literature and potentially pitch them for publication and open doors for traditional publishing opportunities.

Writing conferences and events often feature workshops and sessions conducted by experienced authors and industry experts. These sessions can enhance your writing skills, provide valuable knowledge about the publishing process, and help you stay updated with the latest trends in children's literature.


So how much does it cost to publish a book? That really depends on your goals. What it comes down to is that writing and publishing children's books is an investment - of your time, money, or both. By understanding the costs involved and leveraging the support of publishing professionals and industry events, you can bring your story to life.

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