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Monday, October 4, 2010

How Much is that (Self-Published) Book in the Window?

Welcome Guest-Blogger Jamie DeBree!

I forget where I met Jamie first. I follow her blog (fabulous!) and I follow her on Twitter (funny!), but it's possible I met her on FaceBook. Wherever we met, she impressed me as a hard-working, creative individual. She's encouraging, insightful, and full of surprises. I asked her here today to share the hard numbers behind self-publishing.

Numbers seem to be the dirty secret in publishing. Blogs and reviews are happy to tell you that a book is for sale, but it's hard to find an author who is willing to talk numbers sold and profit made. Thank you, Jamie, for being brave enough to share.

First, thanks to Liana for having me here on her blog today, and for throwing down the challenge to take a hard look at the actual finances involved in self-publishing a book.

This post was the motivation I needed to create some spreadsheets and collect my financial information in one place with regards to Tempest, and when all is said and done, I'm more optimistic than I was before for my first little novella.

You have to understand – I'm a realist at heart, so my expectations for sales with Tempest were very low considering it's my first book, and I'm relatively unknown as far as readers go. And I'm certainly not selling a huge amount of books by any means – sales are slow thus far. But I understood when I started this that sales probably wouldn't pick up until after I'd released several books, so I'm content for the moment.

I'll share first what I spent on both the print and electronic versions of Tempest. I'm not counting web site costs, blog costs, or anything "general" to being a writer. Just the cost of publishing this one book.

Cover art: $100
Expanded distribution through CreateSpace: $40.00
Two proof copies of the print version with expedited shipping: $60

Total cost: $200

I didn't spend anything on editing, and that's because I have a friend with editorial experience who edited Tempest for me (I offered to pay, and she declined). Here's where social networking can really reap professional rewards – I met both my editor and my cover artist through blogs and twitter respectively, and they were both friends before I even knew I'd be self-publishing. If you decide to self-publish, check with your friends – they may have skills you don't know about that you could tap into for either money or bartered services.

If you can design a professional-looking cover yourself, you can save that cost. I had no inclination or time to do it myself, so I was (and am) happy to pay for professional work. The expanded distribution option simply makes my print book available in the catalogs that bookstores order through – so theoretically, if someone walked into their local bookstore and wanted to order Tempest, they could. The expanded distribution also made it so I could lower the cost of my print copy – without it, I would have had to charge around $9.99 per copy. This allowed me to price it at $6.99, which I feel is more reasonable.

My proof copies were all of $2.97 each (which is my cost on my print copies). The rest was all shipping because I didn't give myself enough time between revisions and release day. So a mistake on my part cost money...it would have been much cheaper had I not been in a rush.

You'll note most of the cost was for my print version. Unless you hire someone to format your ebooks, other than the cover art there really is no cost to upload an ebook to Amazon or Smashwords (the two sites I used). If you can do your own formatting and cover art, it really is free to publish your ebook most places online. No hidden fees.

Now for what I've made. I released Tempest on August 16th, so it's been out for about eight weeks now.

Ebooks sold: 21
Gross profit: $17.47

Print books sold: 12
Gross profit: $39.84

Total gross profits to date: $57.81

You may want to note that I've done very little overt marketing, mainly because I've been busy this fall, and focused on getting my next book revised so I can send it out for editing. I'm confident that Tempest will sell enough copies to cover the costs of publishing and I'll eventually make a net profit on it – it just takes time. Self-publishing isn't a "get-rich-quick" scheme, it's simply another option for getting our work out there. While I probably could approach local bookstores and consignment stores about carrying my print books, I really only did a print copy for people I knew who prefer print to ebooks. My focus is on ebooks, and that's where I'll be focusing my marketing efforts over the long run.

So there you have it – my first foray into self-publishing in dollars and cents. I realize most people probably look at these numbers and are discouraged, but to me they represent the start of a small business that I hope will grow into something strong and profitable. Time will tell.

For more information on my self-publishing adventures, please visit Beyond the Words, my publishing & marketing blog at http://bookbiz.jamiedebree.com. More information on Tempest and my current projects is available at http://jamiedebree.com.

Have a question? Leave a note for Jamie in the comments box and later this week we'll have the answers posted.

Thank you, Jamie, for coming out to give us some hard numbers on self-publishing. If anyone else has some publishing numbers they'd like to share (self-pubbed, large press, small press, with or without an agent) I'd love to have a guest post from you as well. Just hit the e-mail button on my profile and send me a message!


  1. Thanks to Jamie for sharing her story. I also self-published through Createspace and can totally commiserate with $40 shipping!! ;)

    I found it so interesting that Jamie's sold more eBooks than print books. I've sold twenty times more print books than ebooks. My book, though, is a middle-grade kids book so maybe that's why. Fewer kids with kindles...

  2. Love to see this, Jamie. :) It's fun to see other people's numbers because everyone's journey is so unique. I think I owe you an email soon, huh? :)

  3. Michelle - You know I love seeing numbers! Call me nosy, but I'm curious what actual sales are for people.

    FYI- I read the sample chapter for Tempest, and Jamie isn't kidding when she says it's hot! Consider yourself warned!

  4. Oh, I've read it already. It's pretty steamy. :)

  5. Meaning I've read the whole book. Jamie and I swapped books and reviews. :)

  6. Thanks for the insight. Interesting that you are focusing on ebooks. There are so many ways to do it now. I'm just beginning to build my Platform so publishing a ways off.

  7. Ugh on that shipping, right Amy? Crazy. LOL

    The reason I'm focusing on ebooks is that romance readers have flocked to e-reading in droves, at least partially because you don't have to let other people know what you're reading that way - it takes the stigma of reading "those books" away. Whether there should even be a stigma with regards to reading romance is a moot point - the fact is, a lot of people are uncomfortable reading a book with a romance cover in public. I read somewhere that romance readers are the largest group to embrace e-reading, and I'd believe it.

    I would imagine parents aren't buying e-readers for their kids just yet...but I bet they will be in time...

    Thanks Michelle - and yes, or I owe you one. One or the other. ;-)

    Now I'm wondering if I should put a heat warning in my blurb on Amazon...would probably help sell books, actually. LOL

  8. A.R. - good luck building your platform...and more importantly, getting the book done!

    Options are good. :-)

  9. Jamie - I've seen heat warnings sell books. It's good to know what you can get out of the book.

    E-readers... my only problem there is I don't have one yet! I can't decide which one I like enough to spend the money on one. Otherwise, yes, I'd probably have the e-book in hand this afternoon. The print copy means explaining to DH why I get a new book, and he can't have the new Dresden. E-books are easier to hide!

  10. I also spent an additional $250 for 10 isbn numbers I think I have 10 books in me. I haven't pushed the marketing either and will wait for paperbacks in the future. I have the release of novel #2 on Halloween. So I'll be marketing heavily and no doubt blocked by many friends.LOL I think building readership takes time!!

  11. Liana - even before I bought my kindle, I read 90% of my romance novels on my PDA. Hubby has no idea how much I spend on books, or half of what I buy, and that's just fine with me. ;-)

    WP - I'll be buying a bank of ISBN's as well for the next release, and I also bought a business license and registered a name for my self-pub. company. I just didn't include those here since I used free ISBN's with Tempest, and just published it under my personal name to start out. :-)

  12. Great post! Interesting to see what all goes into it. I would have thought it would be a lot more expensive for the print books, glad to see it's not ;o)

    Thanks for sharing! Nice blog Liana ;o)

  13. Thanks for sharing, Jamie! I love that you managed to get your print copies down to an affordable price. I think that's the biggest issue with self published books. I ran into a guy who wanted 20 bucks for his. That's too much for any paperback.

    I think you will be much more successful with your pricing. :)

    I loved Tempest, btw.

  14. Thanks for sharing, Jamie. I agree that this is encouraging. It's difficult to find a "bottom line" when it comes to how much this process costs. You've been such an inspiration to those who want to self publish - really going out there and sending back reports from the front lines. Your effort is definitely appreciated. I owe you a video review. It's on my list. :)

  15. Thanks for stopping in, ladies! :-)

    And Brooklyn, I agree. I really have a hard time with high priced books (no matter how they're published), so it would be hypocritical of me to price them higher than I'd pay.

  16. Great post, Jamie.

    It used to be that the period after release was the most critical and that is when the bulk of sales would occur, but this tends to be a carry-over from traditional publishing when publishers actually invested money marketing and promoting all their authors' books. Then you might expect to be backlisted rather quickly.

    Now however, it's more of a long haul rather than a spring and momentum takes time to build. 8 weeks is a drop in the bucket given that your book will never be backlisted.

    Association of Independent Authors (AiA)

  17. Hi Mel - and thanks! I try to keep it in perspective...and from what I've heard, I've already done better than a lot of self-pub books do this early, so I'm optimistic. :-)