The other day, I casually mentioned to a friend (and reader of my books) about how little I make in a year on my books, she was shocked. "But your books are so GOOD!" she screamed.
Sigh. If only it worked that way. I’m going to tell you a little secret: many indie authors don't make a
ton on their books. That said, I think it's important for readers to know how much money indie authors put into their books.
For some perspective, I'll tell you that in five years, I've put out 6 books; I even had an agent for a few years. So why, readers ask, am I not making more money on my books? Because being an Indie author is expensive.
While the platforms I use to upload my books are free, everything else comes with a price tag. Now, bear in mind, I'm a small time Indie so I can't afford the same professionals that larger indies can, but here is a breakdown of roughly what I spend per book:
- Editing. This is one step that absolutely should NOT be missed if you are going to produce a book. Many new authors skip this step because of the cost factor and only have a friend or relative that’s ‘good with grammar’ check for typos, but that will no longer cut it. Editing is way more than punctuation marks and readers will point that out to you in their reviews. Amazon will even remove your title if there are too many of them. So it’s better to just find a good one. But what does an editor cost? Some charge by the hour but it’s generally by word. I have a mid-priced editor. She charges .007 to .0012 cents a word depending on how much the author’s work needs to be edited. Well, that doesn’t sound like a lot of money…until you break out the calculator. A 65,000 word novel (an average length for me) at the cheapest rate per word is $455 bucks! That’s before you earn a penny back on your book. Be sure to save up for this before pushing the publish button.
- Cover Design. This is not an area to skimp on either. Think about it; people get a tiny thumb nail of your book in a row of page after page of other books all vying for attention. Authors get that one tiny image in which to make an impression on a potential reader. Even before the buyer reads the blurb, the cover has to pull them in first. That takes a special skill set. Designers for e-books can vary wildly by site. I’ve paid as low as $60-90 for a pre-made cover (this means you use the image they created and add only your name and title to the design) and as high as $650 for custom covers (where they take a concept you come up with and make it a reality.) You want a model? Better tack on more money for them AND the photographer…lots of money.
- Formatting. This has to be done with both paperback and e-books. Each requires a bit of a different format. It can be self-taught but it is time consuming to do so you need to decide if your time or your money is more valuable. Formatting isn’t that bad, $35-55 depending on how large the file is.
- Marketing. It doesn’t matter how great your book is if no one hears about it. It’s pay to play in the indie world. Gone are the days you could just post on social media and cast a wide net. Now you need to use their paid marketing platforms to be seen. Get ready to dish out some more $$$ before you’ve made a cent.
- Swag. In addition to paid advertising you also need to make print things like business cards or bookmarks that you can mail out to readers or take to events.
- Signings/Conferences. These are a great way to market yourself and to grow readership and network with other authors, but these come with a big price tag. If you can drive to them, you’ll probably be able to get away with spending only about $500 bucks or so (Table costs, print book costs, more swag, hotel, food, gas/tolls…) If you fly, add another $500 or so.
- Paid ads outside social media. There are some big ones out there that can give you GREAT exposure…if you can land them. Most take only 20% of the authors seeking to buy ad space. Depending on the genre you write in and the sale price you choose the ad can cost up to $2,500! Not only do you have to pay to place the ad, you have to put the book on sale in order to list them! Why does putting them on sale matter? Royalty rates. A book has to be $2.99 or higher to get the 70% royalty rate, or about 2 bucks per sale. When you drop it to anything lower than that, you only get 35%. A .99 cent book gets you about .34 cents. At that royalty rate, it’s going to take a LOT of sales to make up for what you have already spent.
- Time. This one is a little harder to place a monetary value on, but think of it as an hourly rate at a day job that you aren’t getting because you are writing instead. Remember, we only get royalties, which depends on actual sales…No bills can be paid unless people buy our books. Period.
So for giggles (or tears if you’re me) let’s tally up the cost of a book I just put out.
Business Cards: $65
Square Chip Reader to accept credit card payments $49
Post office (to mail the swag you’ll send) $50
Picmonkey subscription to make my own teasers$33
Social Media Marketing for release$100
Books needed to sell to break even at .99 cents (.34 cent profit)3,035
Books needed to sell to break even at $2.99 ($2.09 profit)494
I didn’t factor in any signings or my hourly rate because that would have just been depressing. My last release, which came out in May that is at the higher price point? So far it’s only sold about 100 copies…Yeah.
Here is how you can find out more about Danielle Bannister:You can visit her website at: http://daniellebannister.wordpress.com/
Find her on Facebook:
Twitter: @ dbannisterbooks
You can also join her newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/bNvK7D
Isn't it amazing? It surprised me too as to how much it was for a book. Tomorrow I will post about how we the readers can help. Stay tuned..............................