Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.
Self-publishing is an entrepreneurial activity. You are completely in control of the product from R&D (writing and editing) to manufacturing (digital, audio, and/or print copies), distribution channels (again, digital, audio, and/or print) to marketing (online and retail stores, as well as all social media endeavors).
If you are going to go the self-publishing route, spend some time doing research on Amazon’s website. If you are considering printing copies of your books and not just selling digital copies, spend some time on CreateSpace or a similar site to figure out what printing and shipping costs. This is important; if you product costs more to print than you list it to sell, you will lose money, not make money. While I want a copy of my book on every nightstand, I need to keep Sweetpea in diapers too.
You write a 75,000 word book at 250 words per page = 300 page book. You decide to go to conventions and order 200 copies. Each book is $4.45 to produce. To ship 200 copies to your house is $83.00. $973 divided by 200 units is $4.87. Based on this math, you would need to sell your book for $5.00 or more to make a profit.
Let’s add your convention costs to the equation, say $500 for hotel, food, and convention fees. You are now spending $1473 divided by 200 units = $7.37. If you had sold this book for $5.00 as I suggested above, you would have lost money, $2.37 x 200 = $474.00 in fact. You need to sell your book to con-goers for $7.50 in order to make a profit.
Now let’s say your book is only 50,000 words = 200 page book. Each book is $3.25 for produce, so 200 units is $650. Shipping is the same at $83.00, so your investment is $733.00. Adding $500 for convention costs, you are $1233 in the red. Divide by 200 units = $6.17 per book. If you sell for $6.25, you’ll make a profit.
Point to note: People don’t buy books based on the number of pages it has. If the story is good, 200 vs. 300 pages doesn’t factor into it. If you sell both books at the same price point, say $7.50, then you will make more margin per unit with the shorter book. You would make $26 on the 300-page book, or $226 for the 200-page book.
I am not saying short books are good and long books are bad, but if you are in charge of your own production, you need to be aware of these operational cost elements.
Also, go read this book by Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath titled Be the Monkey. The title comes from videos of a monkey taking advantage of an amphibian, but the message is that the relationship between legacy publishers and authors is like the monkey and the frog — someone is going to take advantage of someone. If you find yourself, and you will because you’re writing a book, in that situation, which animal would you like to be? Their book is free, and the advise is sound, but don’t click on those links. You’ll know which ones those are. Just thought I should warn you.
I got so inspired by this TED Talks video from entrepreneur and wool goddess Laura Zander, founder of Jimmy Beans Wool, that I was motivated to share it. I have so many ideas rattling around in my head, but I’ve probably only talked about my writing ones. There are also lots of business ideas floating around in my cranial stratosphere too.
I like to knit, and I like coffee, and I’m gonna be an entrepreneur one day. Laura, will you adopt me?