The ONE THING you should budget for if you’re going to self-publish

If you want to really give it your best shot at being an independent author, there are a few things that you have in your self-publishing budget. ONE THING that is an absolute must. Learn what that is in this episode of Write, Publish, Succeed.

In this episode:

Episode transcript is below.

Self-publishing budget

Hi! Welcome to Write, Publish, Succeed, the podcast that gives you the inside track on writing, publishing, marketing, and online platform-building. 

I’m Sara Whitford, the independently published author of the bestselling Adam Fletcher Adventure Series. 

I already have six published titles under my belt and a seventh on the way, along with 25 years of experience in website development and online platform building. 

I’m all about helping you take control of your success as an independent author-publisher — and that especially goes for you aspiring authors out there..

In today’s episode, I want to talk about the one thing you should prioritize in your self-publishing budget — above every single other thing.

But you’re wondering, “Hmm… speaking of a self-publishing budget. How much is publishing my own book going to cost me?”

That’s a totally fair question!

If you want to really give it your best shot, there are a few things that you should budget for, but there is ONE THING that is an absolute must.

What one thing must you include in your self-publishing budget?

You NEED a copy editor!

If you don’t pay for anything else. If you go the totally free route to self-publish, fine, I totally respect that. 

I even have a blog post about that — but if you only budget for one thing, budget for a copy editor. 

What does a copy editor do?

The copy editor is going to make sure your book is ready to face the public. 

They go beyond just proofreading by also keeping your style consistent, making sure your characters are staying in character, and catching content errors that can be embarrassing. 

If you have a series, a copy editor should keep a style guide for your series. 

That way they can keep track of how character’s names are spelled, their dialect, if they drop the “g” at the end of present participles and gerunds. 

In other words, if they say “runnin” instead of “running”, your copy editor will keep track of that. 

If you accidentally have a character putting a “g” on the end of the word, your copy editor will let you know and ask you if you meant to do it.

I’m so thankful I have the long style guide that my much beloved, late copy editor, Marcus Trower, started putting together for the very first book in my Adam Fletcher Adventure Series. 

Marcus continued adding to that style guide for every subsequent book, but sadly, he passed away in 2019. 

I’m using a new copy editor for the first time on my seventh book, Into the Backcountry, but it’s such a relief that I had Marcus’s style guide to turn over to my new copy editor. 

That way, she can refer right back to Marcus’s style guide and keep things consistent.

Another thing copy editors will do is they help you correct awkward or grammatically incorrect phrasing. 

Let’s just put it this way: 

Without a copy editor, your book is much more likely to have those nasty reviews that mock your book for not having an editor. 

I’ve seen reviews like that on books written by other independent authors. 

It’s so sad because people sometimes can’t get past reviews like that to give a book a chance if it’s not well-edited. 

Not to mention, it’s much easier on a reader to enjoy reading a book that is well-edited.

“How much does a copy editor cost?” you ask.

Great question! So let’s get down to brass tacks.

A copy editor might cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars, to a couple thousand dollars. 

It depends on the experience and popularity of your copy editor, as well as the length of your book, and the specific copy editing service needed. 

Where do you find a copy editor? 

You can find a copy editor a few different ways.

You can always google something like “copy editor” “historical fiction” or something like that. If you want, you can always throw the word “affordable” in your search. 

You also might want to check the Editorial Freelancers Association. Their website is

They have a search that allows you to look for copy editors by genre. 

If you’re on a very tight budget, but you still want to hire someone, you can always check Fiverr

That website is Be sure and check reviews. 

Make sure the copy editor is proficient in the language of your book AND the country of your book. 

There are different spellings and even different language conventions in US English versus UK English, for example.

By the way, FIVERR has all kinds of folks who are selling their services to do all kinds of things. 

It can be kind of like the wild west and you never know exactly what you’ll get with some of the freelancers on there, but it might be exactly what you need to find a budget copy editor, book cover designer, website developer, jingle writer, whatever you need.

If you have ZERO budget, you can at least use a service like Grammarly to check your grammar, although you’ll need to carefully evaluate everything it tells you to change since you shouldn’t always just accept all of the changes it offers.

Also, you’ll still want to get another set of eyes on your manuscript since you might read right past some really obvious error that another person might catch. 

It happens all the time after you’ve looked at a manuscript over and over again!

How do you choose a copy editor?

Once you find one or two or three copy editors who pique your interest, reach out to them. 

Let them know about your project, how many words are in your manuscript. 

Let them know the genre and that this is your first time publishing a book. 

They should be able to provide you with a standard rate which is often calculated per-word, although some do use a per-project pricing strategy. 

You don’t just agree on it right then, though. 

A good copy editor will offer a free sample edit. 

That’s how you can determine whether or not they are able to copy edit your work without changing your voice and the tone of your writing. 

Usually, the free sample edit will be no more than some set number of double-spaced pages. 

Sometimes they’ll copy edit a whole chapter as a sample edit. 

The point is, you want to see how they do their edits to find out if it feels right to you.

They also need a chance to see how much copy editing will be required for your work. 

And keep in mind, it’s not unusual when you write your first book to have A LOT of corrections for things you didn’t even know were a problem. 

This is how you learn and improve. 

By the time you’ve written your second, third, and fourth books, you will know how to avoid those errors and copy editing will become a much less time-intensive task.

How does copy editing work? 

Your copy editor will generally want a Word document of your manuscript. Ideally it will be double-spaced. 

If not, they’ll double-space it for you.

They will use the Track Changes function of Word to go in and make some edits that absolutely need to be made, but that you’ll still be able to go in one-by-one and approve. 

Then they’ll also make comments on areas where they will suggest that you perhaps rewrite something for clarity or just so it will sound better.

Once they’re done with their first round of edits, they’ll send it back to you for revision. 

You’ll go through and approve their changes one-by-one, or in bulk, depending on how you choose to do it, and then you’ll send that same edited manuscript back to your copy editor for them to go through once more. 

Sometimes you might have questions about some of their comments. 

Usually after this round, they’ll send it back to you for your last round of approving edits and making revisions, and then it will be ready for you to publish. 

That’s it! Then you know you have a professionally edited book that’s ready for prime time!

If you’re going to make a self-publishing budget, and you absolutely should, please, please, budget for a copy editor. 

I hope you found this information helpful.

Are you making a self-publishing budget? If so, what are you prioritizing?