How To Self Publish Without Spending a Lot of Money

How To Self Publish Without Spending a Lot of Money

We all know that self-publishing can be expensive.  It costs money for editing, formatting, cover design, and the biggest cost – printing books. This can be daunting for a writer who does not have much cash. But there are ways to self-publish your book without spending a lot of money. Let’s look at some of them.


While I am a strong believer in having your work professionally edited, I recognize that there are those of you who simply don’t have the extra funds. But you really cannot edit your own work. If there is a college or university in your community, see if you can find an English student to help you. Or try the local high school and  ask around if anyone knows a teacher who would be willing to go over your material. Make sure you are clear what kind of editing you want done – substantive or copy editing – so that there are no misunderstandings.

Cover Design

Next to printing, this can be the biggest cost to a self-publisher. But there are places to find covers for a reasonable price. One site is Everything is only $5.00! Have 3 or 4 covers made to choose from. Each graphic designer has a portfolio that you can look at. Or use and make a 2D cover for your book. Then you can make a 3D design to promote your book on your website.


This is a great tool from for publishing print books. Although they sell packages, if you have your book print ready there should be minimal cost. They are really a true POD because they print a book as it is ordered. They take a percentage of the payment and that is how they recover the print cost. They let you know how they want the book formatted and they also offer free cover design!


One of the easiest ways to self-publish is to put out an ebook. All the major players like Kindle, Kobo and Smashwords are set up to take you through the stages of making an ebook. There is also a lot of freeware, sites and videos online that tell you how to format  an ebook. After you upload it, your book becomes available to readers from all over the world. A couple of savvy authors have even gotten quite rich from their ebooks – Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey are millionaires.

It does not have to cost a fortune to self-publish your book. With minimal investment you can have your book out there for readers to purchase. If it becomes popular, then you can look at investing more money to get it out to a larger audience.

For more ideas on self-publishing, read Self Publishing in Canada: A complete guide to designing, printing and selling your book. Buy it from any independent bookstore or at for print or ebook format.


26 thoughts on “How To Self Publish Without Spending a Lot of Money

  1. I have a unique idea in that I want to publish a hard-copy book for my each of my grandchildren, nieces and nephews which is interactive in design. In otherwords, I would set up the basic format and then they would complete the rest. For example, the first page would read ‘Hi! I am ________’ where they would fill in the blank with their name and then above the text draw a picture of themselves. The rest of the pages would be the same (i.e. a combo of text they fill in regarding information about themselves with room to draw a picture as well). I’m having difficulty finding a way to self-publish this type of book. Any suggestions you could provide would be much appreciated. Many thanks.

  2. Hi Suzanne: After many years of writing and researching, I’ve finally completed the ‘finished’ draft of my self-help book entitled The Happy REALTOR; Harmonizing a Thriving Career with an Enriched Personal Life. It consists of approximately 200,000 words and 363 pages in 11 font, including a Table of Contents, References and Recommended Reading. Recently, I’ve learned that finding and choosing a publisher is also a daunting task, and rife with risk. So far, I’ve been considering a small and relatively newer boutique-style self-publisher in Toronto from whom a rapid response to emails is a rarity, as well as a Xlibris, a division of Penguin Random House, a huge multinational organization. I’m also torn between publishing with an American firm or a Canadian. Can you offer any tidbits of advice to set me down the right path? Thanks. RW

    1. Hi RW!
      Xlibris is a vanity press under the umbrella of AuthorSolutions. Penguin Random House purchased AS for $1.6 million this year. There is obviously money to be made in vanity presses. If you want to go this route, they or iUniverse will be fine for U.S. publishing. Just remember they make their money up front and you have to do your own marketing. A Canadian equivalent is Friesenpress in Victoria, BC. I’ve seen their work and it’s decent. Their clients seem to be happy.

      1. Thanks Suzanne: After considerable time and study, I chose to avoid self-publishing services. I hired my own editor, cover/interior designer and formatter, and uploaded myself to the e-tailers. In your opinion, how important is it to make my book available to all of them – Amazon (CreateSpace), Lightning Source (IngramSpark), and for e-book – Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords, BookBaby, Apple, etc. Obviously, I’m still a little confused by the vast array. Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Ross

        1. Hi Ross – I would recommend you offer your ebooks through Smashwords. They will put them out to all the readers with epub formats – including Kobo, Sony and Nook. They have good distribution. CS will put your print book on You have to go through KDP with an ebook. IngramSpark will also put your ebook on Kindle as well as the very broad distribution that they offer. BookBaby appears to be a subsidy print publisher that offers good ebook services.

          As I frequently tell my readers – you have to do your research.


    1. Hi Holly,

      I only use North American printers. In my research I found that by the time you pay for shipping, you haven’t saved a lot of money and the quality is not that good. Get RFQ from several printers and compare prices and products.

  3. Hi,

    I’m interested in publishing a children’s book. I plan on taking pictures as opposed to having an illustrator.

    What is the cheapest way to do this? For publishing? And books? If I did an ‘ebook’ does it work for children’s books with pictures. Please excuse my ignorance on ebooks I don’t know much about them.

    Thank you

    1. Ebooks are the least expensive way to publish a book. If you want print as well as ebooks, try using CreateSpace (a division of Amazon). It is free and gives you both options. For widest distribution of your ebook, upload it to Smashwords. When you put photos into an ebook, make sure they are of a fairly high quality or they won’t look very good.

      Good luck with your book!

  4. I am having trouble understanding the merits of Lulu vs. Createspace. I keep hearing about how CS has exorbitant shipping costs for Canadian readers. Which has the widest distribution? I am very overwhelmed.

    I do plan on using Smashwords for the ebook version.

    1. We used Createspace to print books for a client and I found it very reasonable. One of the perks with CS is that you can order small numbers of books and keep the price down. Our last order was 15 books and the shipping cost was only $17.28 for courier delivery. It costs me nearly that much to mail ONE BOOK in Canada.

      Lulu is a subsidy publisher like all the AuthorSolutions companies. You pay them, they publish your book.

      I am getting a lot of spam on this site so please email me directly at


  5. most self-publishing companies appear to be based in the US, even if they have a Can. subsidiary; I understand this has implications for authors in Canada, such as having to apply for IRS forms and coping with source taxation — perhaps sufficient reason to select no other than a genuinely canadian company, though this limits our choices considerably; any suggestions of how to deal with this hassle?

    1. Yes Afiena, if a Canadian author has a book printed in the USA through any medium from AuthorSolutions to Kindle, they must fill out IRS forms. Two reputable Canadian companies are Friesen Publishing and First Choice Books, both are located in Victoria BC.

  6. Dear Suzanne,
    I am writing a part of my biography as a bush pilot in Canada and the world. I write directly on the computer, using MS Word..
    How would I turn this into a book that is the size of an avergage paperback novel. This is my first attempt at writing such a document.
    There are presently 55 000 words in the document and I have about a third more to go.
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Joe,
      You can set up your book in MS Word. Dan Poynter does it all the time. You need to measure a paperback novel to know the page size and be sure to give it generous margins. Then write. Use Headers to make running heads.

      The other option is to write it as a document (your manuscript) and then have it formatted in a professional program like InDesign. There will be a cost, but it might we worthwhile to have that part done by an expert.

      I discuss this in my book Self Publishing in Canada. Check it out from your local library.


  7. Have you ever considered publishing an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog based upon on the same subjects you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information.
    I know my viewers would enjoy your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an email.

  8. I agree that it’s a good idea to hire a professional editor. However, if that isn’t possible, I highly recommend signing up at It only costs $60US per year and it gives immediate, unbiased feedback. Copy or upload your document (200 words minimum) and it helps to identity clichés or filler words, repeated words or phrases,and compares the work to published fiction. It also gives useful pointers and examples. While it isn’t 100% perfect, it is the next best to professional editing.

    1. Hi Kate,
      I have never heard of It sounds like it may be useful but you still need to have someone read the text. Mainly because something that is automatic (like a grammar checker is) might not “get” your writing style. I will look into it and write about it.

  9. Hi Alisha,
    One of the drawbacks of blogging is that some people think it is okay to infringe on your copyright. If I find something of mine that has been plagiarized, I contact the publication and let them know. Normally that solves the problem.

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