Publishing 101 – Money

Hi, sweet readers.

I really, really, really wanted to do a post about money and self-publishing. Money’s a difficult topic to discuss, because some of us have more of it and some of us have less, social stratification, privilege, opportunity, etc etc etc. I know. But we’re all adults, professionals, and hidden safely behind our computer screens here, yes? So this will be easy (-ish.)

One of the first questions I ask people who are considering self publishing is whether they have the money to do it well. I see other self-publishers giving the advice to “only spend what you can afford,” and I think that’s wrong.

Yes. It’s wrong. What I think they should say is “If you don’t have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don’t do it at all.”

Yes, it’s sort of a harsh message. Yes, I stand by it.

Before I made the final decision to publish ONE and TWO, I spent some time quietly gathering estimates from the various professionals I’d need to hire to make these books a success. I talked to Trisha, who helped me add things to my list I didn’t even know I might need or want, and put myself through a reality check, too. (For example: In theory, I could organize a blog tour myself, but would it drive me crazy? Yes. And did I have any of the right experience to do a good job? No.) She also helped me assess whether I needed some of the professionals I was waffling on. (For example: ONE had been through so many revisions with agents and I felt so good about it that I did not hire a developmental editor.)

Then I made an Excel spreadsheet of all the costs, and added up the total.

Then I sat down with my family’s (very tight, four-kids-in-full-time-daycare) budget and hemmed and hawed and sweated and groaned and SQUEEZED until I figured out a way to make it work. (Basically, there will be no date nights or new clothes or electronics or, like, any luxuries for….awhile.)

So,  you guys want to see ONE’s budget, right? 
Well, I’m not going to do a line-by-line, because I don’t want this post to become some sort of standard for the professionals on my team should any of my readers want to hire them. Further, I just don’t really want everyone to know who I paid for what tasks, and how much. Everyone has different comfort levels

But here’s a basic breakdown: 

Editing, formatting, packaging, and distribution services: $825
Promotional materials and services: $700
Print ARCs (including shipping): $450
Audio book studio time*: $150

Grand Total – $2125

Included in some of those categories are some deeply discounted services, that could have easily added $1500 to the project if I had kept them at full price. All writers have different connections and different personal skill sets, so this is not meant to be a guide for any individual author or project – just one example of  one person’s budget for one particular project. (ONE.)

You might be wondering why I spent so much money on “unnecessary” stuff, i.e., everything that’s not the book itself. After all, I didn’t have to spend money on swag, or send physical ARCs. But, remember – my goal for ONE is for it to look and read and be marketed no differently than a traditionally published book. 

Traditionally published books have postcards and stickers and magnets. So does One. Traditionally published books have a street team. So does One. (An incredible one!!!!) And a surefire way to tell a book’s legit? It has paper ARCs. It can send copies to high school classrooms across the country and reach its readers even before release. Paper books are power. (I would never have thought this, by the way, but it’s amazing how many people think that self-publishing and paper books are mutually exclusive. Printing books not only for sale, but for advanced readers as well, shows that you’re serious, that your book’s worth the hassle. Readers will pick up on that.)

I just want to stop right here and say that I fully recognize that putting money into publishing a book up front is the biggest drawback to self-publishing. So, here are the reasons that I decided it was worth it:

I was speaking (read: complaining) to a prominent literary agent about the stress of putting money into the project at the outset. She responded with something like, “Yes, but just think – if you got a book deal today, your book wouldn’t be out until 2015. All the money you make between now and then, consider your advance.”

And, of course, she was right. One year after I made the decision to publish my own books, I will have not one, but two published books on the market, collecting royalties of up to 70% of sale price. They’ll never be pulled from the shelves, remaindered, or put in the bargain bin (unless I strategically decide to put them there myself.)

In short, from where I sit, the capability to publish often and to price strategically with high royalties makes up for the fact that I paid so much up front.

But, will I make my money back? 

*shrug* I don’t know.

Of course, that’s the first goal of most self-publishers – recoup their losses. It’s likely that any self publisher will make back every cent she’s spent…eventually. It could take one month, and it could take two years or more, to see profits that exceed costs.

If money is tight, or if you’re borrowing to publish, know how many books you have to sell to recoup your costs, and how long you can afford to wait for your money to come back...before you make your decision.

Okay, I think that’s all I have to say for now about money and self-publishing. But I will answer some questions in comments, and if you yourself are considering self-publishing, shoot me an email at leighannkopans [at] gmail [dot] com and we may be able to speak more candidly.

As always, thanks for reading! You all make this a joy. <3 b="">

*Yes, you read that right. There will be an audiobook of ONE. I’ll do a longer post on that – the decision and the method – later.

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