Authors write books for a variety of reasons, but I will bet one of the primary reasons is to be paid for the effort. Most people go into self-publishing for the same reason: they wish to make money from their writing. Money is not a bad thing, but to make it, you will have to consider several points.
Before you begin to write, analyze your reasons for writing this particular work. Are you trying to make a living from the proceeds of this book? Or, are you writing the book to benefit some aspect of your community? If you are writing for altruistic reasons, that is great. However, if you are intending to live off of the book income, you had better plan that book carefully. The old statistic “only one in eight books makes its money back” is too optimistic in today’s new book publishing climate. With the rise of self-publishing, especially e-Books, there are over 350,000 books published every year and most of those sell only 100-350 books. You are not going to buy groceries with that income.
So how can you write a book which will create an income for you? Here is the information to assemble before you make that final decision:
1. Consider the topic, then analyze the possible reading/buying audience. Be honest and don’t wear rose-colored glasses when you do this. Be harshly realistic about these statistics, for this is your future. Are you writing a history of the local museum? Are you writing a guide to local real estate? Do you intend to write a biography on an obscure candle maker in the 1700s? As you can see, each of these topics has a limited audience, and because of that, the work will probably not make a great deal of money. As a self-publisher, think like a traditional publisher (one who buys your rights, pays all of the bills, and pays you a royalty): what is the potential audience for this book? You are making no judgement call on the value of the content; you are only analyzing whether your book has the potential to make back the cost of its production. In other words, is your book idea commercially viable? This is especially important if you are self-publishing.
2. Gather information on how much the production of the book will cost. Items which should be listed on your spreadsheet include:
- professional editing (an absolute must for a self-published book)
- formatting the eBook version
- if going hard copy, the cost of a professional typesetter (sometimes your printing company can supply that service)
- printing the hard copy version
- any other miscellaneous expenses you can think of (cover artist, photography rights, etc.)
- AND an often forgotten expense, but your most important one: MARKETING
Divide that total cost by the number of copies you are producing and you have your unit cost. Multiply unit cost by 9 (up to 13) and you have your retail price. Can you sell the book for that price? How many copies do you need to sell at that price to cover your publishing expenses? Is that realistic? This is a simplistic way to approach a very complex issue, but it will work in helping you to understand the true cost of your endeavor BEFORE you start.
After all is said and done, what is left over (if anything) is your “profit.” A lucky few self-published authors have been successful and carved their empires from their wordsmithing, but most have not.
I do believe that there is a way to be successful in self-publishing, and I am preparing a blog on that very subject. I also welcome any comments or experiences you may have had. By sharing, we all can benefit!