Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Economics

My trip to Chelmsford has given me a new appreciation of the economics involved with writing and its selling and marketing. Let's look at what the self-publishing writer is up against.

Before a book is even available for purchase, the writer has pay:

  • Hundreds of dollars for editing
  • Maybe $60 for book cover images and creating the cover himself or paid for a cover 
  • For an ISBN; depending on how you plan to distribute your book, you may be able to get one for free, at least for your electronic oftening
  • For a distribution plan; wherever you self-publishing you'll never help getting the book in bookstore
  • For physical printed copies to sell. This can easily cost $100 or more.

So by reckoning the writer is in the whole $1000 or thereabouts. Which means to make a profit, at $14.99 he has to sell over 67 copies. That doesn't sound like a lot, but try doing it when no one seems interested in your book. Also keep in mind that however you are distributing the book, someone is taking a piece of the pie. It could be Smashwords or Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Apple or some other bookstore. So the actually number you need to sell to turn a profit is more like 70 or 75 copies or more depending on the percentages.

You'll notice I didn't even discuss promotion. The self-published writer will have to do that too. And that adds to the cost.

Now if you go through a publisher, you can subtract the editing costs since they'll do that for you. And the costs for cover images and the ISBN, and the distribution plan. But you'll still have to pay for physical printed copies to sell. So it sounds like you better off this way, right?

Well, maybe. Publishers are slow and don't share your vision for the work. Plus still they pay for lots of stuff you get less per copy. So if you spend a $1000 on books to sell, you'll have to sell a lot more that 67 copies. The exact number depends on your royalty percentage. For example, if you get 40% royalty after the publisher's cost on $14.99 you are only getting $3 or $4 per book. Which means you have to sell somewhere between 250 and 334 copies just to break even.

Kind of daunting, huh? No one I'm having a crisis of faith. Perhaps this whole publishing idea was a bad one. I don't know. What I can say is that without physical copies of my book, I'm not making another appearance. It is just a waste of time.

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