Book production consists of many steps, each of which should be properly completed before moving on to the next. This helps to keep production costs down, a major priority in publishing, especially self-publishing where budgets are generally limited and economies of scale cannot be taken advantage of through large print runs. To help you gauge the kind of investment you’ll be in for when publishing independently, we have included an estimate of professional costs for each step.

Book production is broken up into three main categories:

  • Editing and manuscript preparation – This covers manuscript evaluation; editing; translating; permissions; proofreading; manuscript preparation for production
  • Book design, typesetting and make-up – This includes book design; scanning; typesetting (text formatting and layout); creating DTP artwork; cover design & makeup; ISBN application; barcode generation; copyright insertion; supplying page proofs; creating a print-ready PDF file; converting to ebook
  • Printing or ebook creation – This covers large-run litho printing; low-run digital printing; printing as and when books are purchased, also known as print-on-demand (POD); ebook creation.

Step 1: Completing your manuscript and getting a quote

It will be very difficult to obtain an accurate production and printing price on an incomplete manuscript, so the first step, before you approach us for final pricing, is to get your manuscript as near to completion as possible. This is because production prices are usually based on a combination of a page rate (typesetting) and a price per 1000 words (editing), so a fairly accurate word count is required. Text-based books that are A5 in size usually contain 300-350 words per page.

We can, however, provide a rough estimate for planning purposes, even before you have started on your manuscript. Bear in mind that these costs could change substantially depending on the quality and length of your final manuscript.

When providing a quote we look at the following:

  • manuscript evaluation (optional but recommended if publishing seriously)
  • editing (complex or standard edit, depending on the quality of the writing)
  • book interior design and stylesheet set-up
  • text formatting and layout (typesetting)
  • cover design and makeup
  • ISBN application and barcode generation
  • insertion of copyright
  • proof-reading
  • litho or digital printing
  • ebook creation
  • online distribution of ebooks and print-on-demand versions of the book

If you are requiring bookstore distribution, or if your professional reputation is going to be linked to your book in any way, it is very important to invest in professional production with experienced service providers – people who are familiar with professional trade publishing requirements and standards.


Total production costs for Steps 3 to 8 on an average text-based self-help book or novel could range from R35 000 to R65 000 depending on the amount of editing required and whether the interior of the book requires special features such as tip boxes, pull quotes, photos, etc. The more complex the book and the greater the number of words, the more expensive it will be. A 50% deposit on the full publishing cost is usually required upfront, with the balance being due on completion of the job.

The steps below show how the total publishing cost is made up.

Step 2: Preparing your manuscript for editing

Once you have agreed on a price, the next step is to hand your manuscript over for editing. It is very important to have everything ready at this stage, including the end-matter (glossary, references, bibliography, etc). The only thing that you won’t supply is the index if your book requires one. This is because the page flow after the book has been typeset will be different to the original manuscript. The index is usually the very last thing to be completed. If you have any images or artwork in the book, these should be supplied as well. Image resolution for litho printing should be 300 dpi at the size the image is to appear in the book, while digital printing is a bit more forgiving and can tolerate images as low as 200 dpi without any compromise on quality. If you are in any doubt as to the suitability of your material, kindly contact our offices and our inhouse designer will check your files for you.

Any material sent to the editor after the editing has begun may incur additional costs.

Step 3: Editing

Your manuscript may require a complex, standard or light edit. The type of editing required depends on the condition of the manuscript, and will usually be specified in the quotation after the editor has had a chance to assess the manuscript.

A complex edit is where sentence structure, story flow, logic, consistency of writing style, grammar and fact checking is corrected. A standard edit usually includes the correcting of grammar, spelling, punctuation, consistency, and the checking of basic facts, etc. A light edit is similar to a standard edit except less work is involved and usually won’t involve fact checking. Many editing quotes will be subject to sight of the final copy, so if you would like an accurate quote upfront, you will be required to send your entire manuscript (or at least a few representative chapters) through for review.

Editing can take anything from two to four weeks, depending on how busy the editor is, how much work is required, and how quickly you respond to the editor’s queries if he or she has any. If it is a complex edit with many queries, this will delay the process. It is therefore better and more cost-effective to take the time to get the manuscript as correct as possible before handing it over for editing.

Once the editing is done, the editor will send the edited manuscript back to you for checking. The editor may be in touch with you during the editing process, asking for clarification on something, or to request further elaboration. When you have approved the edit, the manuscript will enter production.

Note: It is possible that your book will require additional edits, particularly if the first edit was an extensive one with many changes. Bear in mind that manuscripts processed by traditional royalty-based publishers normally undergo multiple edits! So do not expect your first editorial pass to be flawless – it won’t be.


Professional editing rates can vary from 24c per word to 40c per word. The editing cost forms part of the overall production bill quoted above. Proofreading costs range from 10–18c per word if the manuscript has already been professionally edited. Proofreading costs will likely be higher on manuscripts that have been edited by a non-professional. To keep your editing costs down, have a couple of other people read and correct your manuscript before you hand it over to a professional editor. Receiving general feedback about your book from others can also be helpful.

If you would like an honest and unbiased opinion of your manuscript, why not have your manuscript professionally evaluated first? You then have an opportunity to get the basics right before the manuscript is edited. An evaluation can also help guide the editing process. Evaluations range from R4500 to R10000 depending on the evaluation service you use, the length of the manuscript, the subject matter, and the length of the report required.

Step 4: Book interior design and typesetting

Book design is where the interior look of the book is decided on and a style sheet set up to ensure that this look remains consistent throughout. It includes choosing a font style for text and headings, determining margin widths, setting word and letter spacing, choosing a chapter heading and number style, and so on.

Once the style sheets have been set up, typesetting begins. The typesetting stage (also called book makeup) involves flowing the edited text into the template and applying all the preset styles. The combination of book design and typesetting is what gives a book it’s professional look and feel on the inside. An industry professional (bookstore, book marketer, book reviewer, etc.) can usually tell the difference between a properly typeset book and one that has been put together using MS Word.

Book design and typesetting may take anything from one week to three weeks, depending on current production commitments.


Book interior design prices will range from R1200 for novels to R3400 for educational books. Complex books, full colour coffee table books and speciality books with a strong focus on intricate design will be more. Typesetting charges for novels and self-help books are usually between R25 and R45 per page, respectively, which includes one to two sets of author proofs, in PDF format. For educational books, typesetting prices can range from R50 to R120 per page depending on the book and the complexity of the setting. Coffee table and speciality books are quoted on after a full brief with the author.

Step 5: ISBN application and barcode generation

Every book needs an ISBN number (unless it’s a personal book for private distribution), which is a unique identification number. If the book is to be sold through retailers or a distributor, then a barcode will also be needed for your back cover.


Free if you order the ISBN directly from the National Library in Pretoria. Please read the ISBN and Places of Legal Deposit information on this website before you do so. Barcode prices vary – we charge R250 per barcode with discounted pricing when ordering more than one.

Step 6: Cover design and makeup

Cover design is an art and a book cover is considered prime real estate. People do judge a book by its cover, so it is very important that the cover is carefully considered and put together. The title, byline, blurb and cover images should all work together to create a cover that has impact and conveys the essence of the book. The cover is also a dead giveaway of a book that has been professionally produced versus one that has not. As mentioned elsewhere on the site, book marketers and bookstores tend to steer clear of books that look self-published, so it is important to have a professional-looking cover.


Expect to pay anything from R5000 to R8500 for professional cover design. Customised artwork and illustrations, such as creating a specific character in the book, will cost more.

Step 7: Page proofs

First page proofs is one of the most exciting stages of production for any author it is where all your work for the past few months, or years, materializes into something that looks like a properly formatted book.

This is your opportunity to make final changes before the book goes off for printing. It is advisable to let a few trusted friends or family members help you with the task of reading the proofs and highlighting anything that may have slipped through. It is also highly recommended that you have a professional editor or proofreader proofread your first page proofs for you. Corrections that need to be made should be done so in writing – a copy of which should be kept by you. You will then be provided with a second set of proofs so that you can check that all corrections have been made. You may require an additional set or two of proofs to effect any further changes. Once you’re happy, you will be required to sign a proof sheet or send written approval giving the go-ahead for printing or ebook creation.


The cost of first and second page proofs is usually included in the typesetting fee. However, should the book get to third or fourth pages due to changes you make that have nothing to do with any typesetting errors, then you may be charged an hourly rate for those corrections. This is why we said earlier on that it’s important to properly complete each step and to hand your manuscript over only when everything is ready and the manuscript has been properly edited.

Step 8: Ebook conversion and international distribution

Your book file is prepared and then converted into the two main ebook formats: reflowable ePub and Kindle. Ebook creation and international distribution account setup and uploading may take 7–12 working days depending on currect production commitments.


Ebook conversion and international online distribution account setup and uploading may cost ±R6500.

Step 9: Printing

Your book is now ready to enter the last phase of the production process. Litho printing (usually recommended for 750 books or more) can take 2–4 weeks if done locally and about 6–10 weeks if done overseas, whereas digital printing (recommended for up to 500 books) usually takes 5–7 working days.


Average printing costs in South Africa for a 148 page book printed one colour throughout with a full colour cover and perfect bound could be anything from R20 to R30 per book for a print run of between 2000 and 1000 books respectively. That’s a minimum outlay of approximately R30 000 when litho printing. Expect to pay between R35 and R45 per book for 100+ books when printing digitally. We recommend a minimum digital printing order of 100 books for better economy.

In conclusion

The prices included on this page will vary depending on the service provider and the particulars of the book in question. Some service providers offer cheaper pricing but beware of the end quality. It may be fine for smaller projects, but larger commercial projects should be handled by experienced service providers so that your book is well-received by the media and bookstore buyers, and meets professional book publishing standards. By the same token, don’t assume that a higher price means better quality – that’s not always the case! 

By having a rough idea of the costs, you can better decide whether self-publishing is the route for you and whether you have the available financial resources needed for such a venture.