It’s Cruel to Make a Writer do Math but Here Goes

Posted By on Oct 1, 2013


I wasn’t sure where to start in sharing my writing and publishing stories on this blog but today, being the first of October, I woke up and crunched the numbers for my first month of book sales for Girls I’ve Run Away With and I thought these calculations might interest some people. I’ve gotten a few messages lately from folks interested in self-publishing their novels, the way I just did (while also getting the ball rolling on starting my own press), and people have asked questions about the financial needs of such a project so here we go!

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Me enthusiastically selling a book at the book party. Photo cred @Jennariot

First off, I had to fundraise. I did an Indiegogo fundraiser and raised about $4,700, after Indiegogo took their cut. Most of the $ raised was pre-sales of the book. During the fundraiser I learned things I would have done differently, or would do differently, next time. Most importantly, I would have asked for MORE money. I could have gotten it. I needed more than I asked for. I lowballed myself because i was nervous and skeptical. My friend, who is an artistic advisor, believes that an artist only gets one chance to GO BIG with a crowdsourcing fundraising campaign, because people are only really willing to give you money once. So if this is your one chance then go big and reach for the fundraising stars.

If I could do it over I would also have done a fixed funding campaign (so Indiegogo didn’t take a big chunk of my hard-raised money), and used Kickstarter instead of Indiegogo because Kickstarter gets more random Internet traffic. Another HUGE financial mistake I made with the Indiegogo is that I didn’t requests enough money to cover international shipping for people who ordered books that needed to be shipped internationally. This little mistake cost my project at least $200 dollars. You learn from your mistakes! It’s hard to stab into the dark with all of this and figure it out yourself. I wish I had asked for more advice and help from others during the process. Feel free to email me and ask me specific questions if I don’t cover something here, or in this blog, in the near future.

Here is the complete financial breakdown of the project:

  • Book Printing       $3,200.00

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    Amy from 1984 Printers, the non-corporate Oakland based printers who published my book

  • Book Layout        $525.00
  • Book IBSN’s          $250.00
  • Book Cover          $200.00
  • ARC’s                   $150.00 +
  • Book Barcode     $25.00
  • Ebook                  $50.00 
  • Moon Domain     $25.98
  • Web Host 2yrs:    $133.06
  • Websites Design   $974.50
  • Shipping perks:    $310.00
  • ARC Shipping       $30.00

TOTAL = 5873.54

Total raised on Indiegogo = 4,700

Total cost out of pocket = 1,173.54

These numbers will look different for other people. One thing I did differently is that I used the chunk of cash I would have used to pay a book editor to pay a web designer instead. This is because I needed a website that I could sell the book through (the most profitable way for me to sell the book is directly through my websites), and I also needed good websites that would generate web traffic to the book. So far no one buys the book through these websites anyways, so perhaps that was a bad business move. Consumers are lazy and like to go straight to Amazon, which offers the lowest possible profit to the writer. I barely make any money off Amazon book sales (but eBook sales are a good deal).The money I spent on web design was what I would have spent on a book editor. Originally I hired an editor who quoted me $900 bucks and that was a good deal considering I was expecting to pay over $1,000. But then the universe threw me a rainbow and a very generous woman volunteered to edit my entire novel for FREE out of the kindness of her heart! 

Other things I got for free, or discount, that you may have to consider in your costs:

  • Cover Photographer: Cover was shot for free by one of my best friends
  • Author Bio Pics: Also shot for free by another best friend
  • Cover model: Gracious volunteer
  • Cover design: Was done at a discount by fellow small press publishers. I’m incredibly thankful for them and the awesome job they did.
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My ebook would bring in better revenue if Amazon didn’t let people return it after reading it. (Bad policy, corporate dudes)

So there are the foreboding budget numbers for ya. After crunching the numbers for my first month of sales the book has brought in $535.67 in sales. This leaves me with a $637.87 deficit that I hope to chip away at in the next few months. I do have $189.06 in consignment sales that should trickle in at some point. If I sell 42 books upfront, through my website or in person, my project will finally break even. Yay! I’m optimistic.

I forgot to mention, if you don’t want to do a fundraising campaign to raise your production costs you could do print-on-demand publishing. This should cut your budget costs in half since my printing costs were $3,200. You don’t need a huge chunk of cash straight up with POD and at least you will be getting your book out in the world. And then after it starts selling, perhaps you can then get the collateral to go with an artsy, independent, non-corporate small printer like I did. I will say  though that even though I’m in the red money-wise it was pretty satisfying to pay all kinds of rad people to help me make my book, like small non-corporate printers, a queer small press, fellow queer writers and artists, a queer web-designer… and so on. If the book ever does turn a profit I plan on paying my queer photographer friends, who I love, and who struggle financially just as much as we writers do. (or at least take them out to a very fancy dinner).

Also I must be honest and tell ya that this project was a TON of work. So count that into your budget:

THE HUNDREDS OF HOURS YOU WILL BE WORKING UNPAID.

Similar to how you spent two years writing your novel unpaid! Don’t worry, by now you should be used to it. This project was way more work than I ever expected. I’m an over-achiever though and I didn’t want to make a crappy product. I wanted the finished book to be a work of art so I gave it a massive and exhausting amount of love and energy. So much that it almost toppled me at times. Writing and publishing a book yourself is a FULL TIME job. You take on the jobs of writer, editor, project-fundraiser, book-designer, proofreader, tour-booker, publicist, creative director, distributer, person-who-fixes-mistakes-for-shitty-layout-designer-you-hired, accountant + MORE.

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Doing the job of the distributer, taping, wrapping, shipping, stamping, keeping track of orders, invoicing…

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Annoying the post office with all my media mail and giving them alot of $$

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 That’s all for now.

I promise to talk about more fun and exciting topics next time. I hope talking about finances wasn’t too depressing and that it was helpful to some of you who might be considering doing a project like this. I don’t like to think too much about the numbers and get anxious over them, I’d rather get high off my accomplishments and be proud of the fact that I put every single ounce of energy and love that I could muster into this pretty little queer book.

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Massive truck tire blows out in front of us on Moon Babes Tour and gives my car a smackdown. Unexpected Tour $Financial Crap Happens.