I’ve been at this indie/small press author gig since 2011. In that time, I’ve written 18 titles. Some of them actually made a profit. Most have not. Why? Well, let’s break down the cost a minute.
It takes about $500 (roughly) for me to produce a novel (novella’s slightly less) to produce. While there is no cost to upload your books on distribution sites (Amazon, Apple, Barns & Noble, etc.) there is a cost to produce them. Unless you are with a press, then these costs are absorbed by them, but publishers come with a lower royalty rate for you as the author. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll assume this is an indie project.
Editing: It costs me about .0065 cents per word. The longer the book, the bigger the cost. So my Where You Left Me novella series is approximately 32,000 words, or about $208 bucks. A typical novel for me is approximately 65,000 words or $425 bucks. in an ideal world, I’d also prefer to hire a second proof-editor to do one final pass-through. They typically charge a little less, like maybe, .004 cents a word, but that’s an additional hundred or two. Often, I can’t afford that final proof. Which is frustrating. I don’t want typos in my books any more than you want to see them. Trust me.
Cover Design: This varies wildly by designer, but most will have a pre-made selection for less, where you can pick from certain designs but with the ONLY change being the title/name/back blurb. If you want images swapped out or other alterations, you’re now looking at a custom design, and your designer needs to be compensated for that. For the Where You Left Me series, I found a pre-made. For $69 bucks (*snicker) But that’s $69 for each cover in that series because she’s making some slight tweaks to each pre-made.
Marketing: You could drop some serious money here. Either with ads, NL promo swaps, and swag, it all adds up to your final budget before a book goes live.
Once it’s out there in the world, there is about a 90-day window in which to make your return on investment. Sure, your book will still sell after that day, but, on average, your book will sell the most in that 90-day window. After 90 days have passed you add up your profit and subtract your expenses.
In the red, then you need to look at where you’re spending money and where you can cut back. For me, that means marketing has to be gutted. Which is ironic because without marketing, how does your book get seen? Excellent question and if you know the answer, let me know. One of the horrific catch-22s. Some, choose to cut back on editing and only pay for a proof round, which will leave their manuscript with more issues than they would probably like. Or, they’ll take a chance and try to design a cover of their own. Another gamble.
It’s a personal choice every author has to take when looking at their ROI (return on investment.) For me though, cover and edits have to stay. I know my limitations and graphic design and grammar ain’t my strongest attributes. (Yes, I used ‘ain’t’ on purpose.)
Even with those cutbacks, my last book, Where You Left Me, Vol. 2 has not earned me back an ROI, as of yet, as you can see below. It still has 2 months to earn back but usually, sales drop off after the first month so it will be an interesting one to watch.
To add insult to injury, as of this writing, there are only 4 reviews for Vol. 2 on Amazon. Thems the breaks, kid. So, Danielle, why bother writing this series if isn’t earning back your ROI? An author’s dilemma.
I’m continuing to write the series no one is currently reading, not just because of author ego (because there is absolutely some of that) but mostly because I assumed this lack of sales from the start. I’m writing under a new pen name and writing my first ever series in a world that wants to binge content. Readers don’t typically enjoy starting a series that isn’t finished. So, right at the start, series are a hard sell until they are complete.
I’m writing this series with the full knowledge that I likely won’t see an ROI until all five books are out. In fact, I’m not even really marketing these hard anywhere until all five books have at least a pre-order link up. I’m not running ads, I’m not doing NL swaps, and I’m not even buying/making swag (gasp!) right now. That will come once there is a clear funnel for all five books. Until then, I’m writing the content that I’m hoping readers will want to binge read once the series is complete. I’m playing the long game. If I write it they will come. (double entendre intended. It is a spicy romance after all.)
If you haven’t jumped aboard this ride, and want to before all five books are out, I won’t object. You can even start the story for free.
WHERE YOU MET ME (Bonus free prequel chapter)
WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 1
WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 2
WHERE YOU LEFT ME, Vol. 3 (Pre-order)
Until next time, I’m going to keep on writing.