Expenses–and books don’t sell themselves

I came across this post in my Twitter feed.  TL;DR: an author lamenting how much it costs to produce a book, and how little she has sold.

The expenses side in her post looks fine. I tend to budget about A$1500 per book for editing, cover design and formatting. I have a line editor/proofreader who also formats my books. I use a variety of cover artists, and this is where the main variation in expense comes from. I’ve also recently started working with a paid content/developmental editor.

A$1500 per book serves me fine. This, of course, is a one-off cost and the more books you sell, the more you get out in profit. It is also where cover price affects your bottom line. At $2.99 per copy, I need to sell 750 copies to cover my costs. At $3.99, I need to sell less than 500. Everything else is gravy.

But the trick is: how do you sell 500 books? It is in this part of the equation that you can make a huge difference. To me, it sounds like the author of that blog post has not done an awful lot of effective promotion.

Promotion is not yelling at your social media friends. It’s not bookstore visits, blog tours or signings. It’s not even incessantly buying ads. There are only a couple of sites that are effective anyway.

Promotion is:

  • A good self-hosted website that you use as platform for:
  • Your mailing list signup form
  • Listing all your books and places where people can buy them
  • Write an engaging series of a couple of books
  • Make the first one free, and link to your mailing list signup in the front and back of the book
  • Now advertise the hell out of your free book.

A good dose of patience is also required. And writing a couple of books per year.

3 comments on “Expenses–and books don’t sell themselves

  1. Do you find the $1500 is worth it? That’s probably a dumb question as you probably wouldn’t have spent it if you didn’t think so. I haven’t seen many authors share how much they spent on book production so that is good to know how much to expect.

    • In the beginning, probably not. I begged, stole and borrowed. I used a lot of friends’ services, but a lot of these required me to do things in return for them, and I found I just didn’t have the time anymore.
      Aside from the fact that I can’t do everything equally well, paying for services frees up my time. I see investment as an overall strategy. My income is more than $1500 per month. I write a book every two months. So I win, regardless of which book I invest in.

  2. Sound advice! I follow pretty much the same plan and allow the a similar GBP figure for production. Then I sell them for $4.99/£3.99 GPB. Unfortunately it takes me 18 months to write a book but I have two parents with dementia and a 7 year old so I only spend about 3 hours writing each week. I probably would write two books a year if there was a way to increase that. I hummed and haad about whether it was worth starting while lacking the time to do it properly. But I’m a great believer in carpe diem and 6 years down, I have 5 books out. The trick is to enjoy it and keep moving forward no matter how long it takes! I’ll get there, eventually, it’s just going to happen at about the speed glaciers move! Mwah hahaargh.

    Your fab promos are helping.



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