The Economics of Self-Publishing a Book
a guest post by Louise Herman
Hello everyone, and I hope you are enjoying the week.
I have decided to take a week’s respite from writing the third book in my YA urban fantasy series, Split Blood, to catch up with author interview and guest post requests. I am looking forward to discussing my thoughts and opinions on the economics of self-publishing a bookas well as giving some advice on what aspects of self-publishing is essential to a budget and what I have experienced as a waste of time and money.
Why did I decide to Self-Publish my books?
I would love to say it was a choice, however, after I sent a number of emails to literary agents and received no replies, I decided to close my eyes and jump straight into the self-publishing ocean.
It was nerve-racking at first because I had no idea about self-publishing but after a lot of research and learning from my mistakes along the way, I am enjoying the self-publishing journey.
What are the common misconceptions of self-publishing?
I think the biggest misconception about self-publishing is anyone can publish a successful book in today’s technological world.
For example, you have a great idea for a story, you get so engrossed in writing it, you take the leap and self-publish it on the internet and then you sit back and wait for the big bucks to start rolling in, along with literary agents fighting to represent you, right?
The reality is only a handful of self-published authors break even (the total cost of publishing against the profits of the sales, after each website has taken its percentage) and if you do not have a regular presence on social media sites then you could find it difficult to be seen and network with influential people who can help potential readers find your books.
These people are bloggers and reviewers.
I have built up a good relationship with many bloggers and have added them to my list of ‘Go to People’ when I need to do author interviews (to discuss my past, present and future. This is not all about promoting my work. It is for potential readers to get to know the person behind the books), Guest Posts (topics related to writing that are important to me) and Spotlights (a full discussion about myself, my work and upcoming projects).
It’s also fun to communicate with these bloggers because it is a two way process. They advertise an author on their blog and social media sites, therefore, as an author, I also do the same (I will post the promotional item on my blog, which advertises their blog to my followers, and on my social media sites).
However, not all bloggers work the same way.
Some specialise purely in reviews but some are open to other forms of promotion.
I have found that trying to get reviews can be quite hard because many are overwhelmed with requests and often close their review request channels until they can catch up with the backlog.
While others will state they do not accept requests from self-published authors, with some going as far as to state that they have a problem with the quality of the self-published books they have previously read.
I used to find this slightly insulting but when you take into consideration that they are doing these reviews for free, they should be allowed to have an opinion on what types of books they want to review.
NOTE: Reviews are usually free and reviewers usually have full or part time jobs but review in their spare time. This means try to give at least three months’ notice to your reviewer. If you are asked to pay for a review, try somewhere else! Not only is it slightly frowned upon in the self-publishing industry but it’s just an unnecessary, extra cost to your ever rising budget!
What are the advantages of self-publishing?
I like that I have the opportunity to learn about online publishing first hand and that I have the chance to communicate with a range of people with similar interests.
I learn something new every week to help enhance my writing and advertising skills and I really enjoy having full control over every aspect of publishing my books.
What are the challenges of self-publishing?
Although I enjoy having full control over publishing my books, I do sometimes think that it would be nice to have a literary agent to help take on some of the advertising tasks because having full time job, restricts the time I can dedicate to writing and sometimes the advertising infringes on the writing time.
I have also found that it takes a lot of work and effort to gain a strong following. I write Young Adult Urban Fantasy novels, which is a popular genre and I have found that it is extremely difficult to get new followers interested in looking at my new pieces of work if there are no reviews to give them an inclination of how the book has been received by other readers.
There will be potential readers and followers who will read the synopsis and give the books a try but there are some who use reviews to help them decide whether or not it is the kind of story they would enjoy reading.
It is the latter type of follower that bad reviews can affect your potential sales.
Some reviews that are lower than five stars can be disheartening to an author but if they offer constructive criticism (e.g. “there was too much fighting in it”) then it could be a case of what one person dislikes about the storyline, another reader maybe looking for this type of drama.
However, if they give you one star because they “just couldn’t read it because you should never write again”, it offers nothing to a potential reader about the story and many would not take this type of review seriously.
And lastly, I have given out copies of my eBooks for a review in the past, only to be disappointed to never receive one.
It is disheartening but all these things are part of the learning process and have helped me focus on what works and avoid what wastes time and money.
What are the costs to publish your own book?
Here are the basics of what it cost me to self-publish my first book (The Orcus Games: Blood Moon):
- Book cover artist – This is difficult because it depends on the type of cover you want? You can get book cover images from a variety of stock photography sites and prices vary on each site. For a basic book cover with an image that does not need to be edited and text, I would estimate between £50 (~$70) and £150 (~$212).
- Proof-reader or Copy Editor – Between £600 (~$850) and £1,000 (~$1418) (depending on word count, how many hours it takes them to work on the book and how much work the book needs).
- eBook Conversation Costs – If you cannot convert your eBooks yourselves then it might be worth getting a professional to do this for you. I convert my books myself but I have received quotes in the past for this type of work and the prices were between £50 (~$70) and £150 (~$212).
- Distribution costs – (for reviewers who only accept hard copies): I have heard that some websites do give a small discount to authors who buy their own books but I am yet to find these sites. Therefore you would be paying the same price as a customer to purchase your paperback books to send to reviewers. Many authors buy in bulk for this purpose and can spend between £599 (~$849) and £1099 (~$1558) for an order of 100 books.
- URL for website – Having your own website is essential for an author and you can buy domain names from nearly anywhere on the internet at the moment.
I have a website through Fat Cow and bought my URL through them as soon as I set it up.
It cost me approximately £8.99 (~$12.75) to buy the domain name + £60 (~$85) for the year (with added extras).
However, different extensions can either increase or decrease the cost (e.g. com, co.uk, org. Etc.)
- Publishing sites percentages
- Amazon – There are two royalty options. (correct as of January 2016)
- Option 1: Keep 70% of the royalties. However this option is only available to books sold in a specific territory of countries set out by Amazon Kindle. Any books sold outside of these regions will give you a 35% royalty.
- Option 2: Keep 35% of the royalties. This is the standard royalty rate.
- Smashwords – (correct as of January 2016)
- “Smashwords authors and publishers earn 85% or more of the net proceeds from the sale of their works. Net proceeds to author = (sales price minus PayPal payment processing fees)*.85 for sales at Smashwords.com, our retail operation. Authors receive 70.5% for affiliate sales. Smashwords distributes books to most of the major retailers, including Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and smaller retailers. Sales originated by retailers earn authors/publishers 60% of the list price.”
- Lulu – (correct as of January 2016)
- Lulu prides itself on working on a 90/10 royalty split, therefore if you have published your book after 6th September 2011 and it is priced at $1.24 or higher then you can qualify for a 90% royalty revenue.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to self-publish their first book?
There might be something I have missed out because every week I am learning something new about the self-publishing world but so far I have eight tips that would help a new author get started:
- Test it out on free sites like Wattpad first to see if there is an audience for it and find Beta readers in these groups to help highlight elements that may need extra attention (e.g. such as continuity issues, plot holes, creating believable characters or scenes, etc.)
- Build up a following and make amendments based on the feedback
- Get a professional book cover artist (unless you are good with graphics software or you are a good artist)
- Get your work proofread or copy edited
- Publish on the main publishing sites
- Build up a group of regular reviewers
- Be active on social media (not just to talk about the book but share your interests and get involved in group discussions)
- Remember success doesn’t happen overnight (it could take years), so continue with your passion and never give up!
About the author
Louise Herman is a North London Fantasy author obsessed with pear drops sweets and 80s Fantasy films.
In between reading James Herbert novels and drinking too much coffee, she writes Young Adult Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance novels.
Louise Herman has currently written five YA Fantasy books to date (December 2015); The Orcus Games Prequel Trilogy and The Split Blood series, which take the reader on a journey of magic, mystery, obsession and forbidden love with seductively dark consequences.
For more information, please go to: www.louisehermanauthor.com
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