The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers
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Profit and Loss in the Micropublishing Biz
Using predesigned Word templates that my little micropublishing business contrived to purchase for a modest price (one was under $50 for a permanent, no-holds-barred license!), I created hard-copy layout for Slave Labor and converted it to PDF for the printer. My graphic artist, who thought the interior layout was decent enough, created a wrap-around cover for the desired trim size, accommodating the existing front-cover art, a spine, and new cover-4 copy. Then it was off to a local print-on-demand outfit.
If your bookoid is low on images, or if you’re willing to print the images in black and white, the cost for print-on-demand services is amazingly low. To put Slave Labor together and perfect-bind it costs $3.33/copy for 10 copies. Per-copy price stays the same at print runs of 100 and 1,000.
Slave Labor, being my sandbox project, cost something but not much: I traded out the e-book design in exchange for editing the designer’s upcoming book on marketing e-books. So the only cost had to do with the cover design and with the experiment in Word layout. I did have to pay something for the template, but not much.
30 Pounds / Four Months, the diet guide & cookbook, was what we might call the stage-two sandbox. The template worked well for the print-on-demand production, but because the interior design was so complex, with many lists of ingredients, several heading levels, and other complications, I ended up having to hire a professional e-book formatter to get that thing into Kindle.
So I regarded the costs for these two books as tuition for Micropublishing U. Once I’d done a couple of the things, I figured it should be pretty easy to put the rest of them online.
And I did have a “rest of them”!
As soon as Slave Labor went off to the printer and 30 Pounds went to Amazon and to the printer, I began work on packaging the eighteen books that Fire-Rider had lent itself to serializing. These I put online at the rate of one every week or two.
That installed twenty-three titles (including the three that have emanated from real publishing houses) on Amazon under my name. If I weren’t inclined to equate “publishing” a bookoid on Amazon with posting a blog post at WordPress, my ego would be as big as the moon.
We also published another twenty titles, give or take, under the Camptown Races Press imprint.
The people at Romance Writers of America claim you start to make a noticeable income after you’ve posted about eight titles—of any genre, fiction or nonfiction. So they claim.
I have yet to prove this, and as of this writing, I have more than forty indie titles up. Plus three from real trade and scholarly publishers.
Income from micropublishing depends not on how many titles your business has put online nor even on how good your books are. It depends almost solely on the strength, vigor, and accuracy of your marketing program. Good marketing equals good sales; good sales equal a noticeable income.
This means you have to like marketing. Some writers are good at it. But most: not so much. If you felt comfortable hustling a product and schmoozing with strangers on and off-line, you not would be hanging out in your garret writing books: you’d be making a decent living in a sales career.
It is possible to hire marketing agents. But alas, marketers can only do so much. Ultimately the job of selling a book falls to its author.
To make a living at writing, you will need to learn how to market books, and then you will have to do it. We’ve seen the volume of work involved in producing a self-published work. Add to that an equal volume required to sell it. Then, maybe, you’ll see a profit.
So. . .why self-publish?
Herein lies the reason I suggest your primary motive for self-publishing a book should never be profit. To produce a book to give to family and friends: fine. To make a book to publicize and raise funds for your charity, community group, or church: good. To self-publish a book to inform customers, clients, or patients: excellent. To print your novels or share expertise in your hobby for your own gratification and the entertainment of a limited audience: legitimate enough.
None of these endeavors is designed to turn a profit directly. By creating goodwill or informing a specific target audience, one or the other of them may generate donations or clientele. As a hobby, self-publishing may make you feel good and surely can lead to opportunities to meet new friends.
But to pay money to publish something because you think it might become a best-seller and turn you into a famous author? That is a bad idea.