It is 120 days since I pressed publish on my debut novel, Keep Away from those Ferraris. I’ll deal with revenues next month. Today I want to talk about costs.
It goes without saying that any self-publisher wants to keep costs to a minimum. You can get a paperback up on Amazon and a plethora of eBook platforms without spending any money. You can promote this book with free social media tools and the time it takes to write a blog. But I wouldn’t recommend it. Why? Because there were 27,294 new releases on the Kindle Store in the last 30 days. A generous slice of those will be riddled with typos. They will have a cover that could have been designed by a colour-blind drunk. And no one will buy them.
Self-Publishing is an investment. There is a minimum outlay required to place your book above the colour blind drunk typo brigade. Here is where I spent (and in some cases, wasted) money on Keep Away from those Ferraris.
- The Cover. I won’t waste time on this. If you are a graphic designer who specialises in book covers, then you can save yourself some money. If not, you need to hire one. I plan to sell my current and future books for twenty years on Amazon. That means building up a fan base who are willing to choose my work over the 27,294 new releases every month. That means being as professional and eye-catching as the other titles in my genre. That means spending some money. I spent €320 (incl. VAT) on the cover for Keep Away from those Ferraris. This gave me a cover for the book along with an eye-catching image for my Facebook page, book-related tweets and links on my website. That’s money well spent. If you are looking for a list of cover designers, start on the Cover Design page under Resources here on writing.ie.
- Editor. First things first. A good copy editor for a 70,000 word novel will cost about €800. You need to spend that money to get a good copy editor, because there is no point in hiring a bad one. Bear in mind this is not a structural editor, who works with you on plot and character development. This is an editor who will format your work correctly, iron out plot contradictions, suggest different use of language and correct typos. I’m a professional writer. I write every day for a living. And I would not be comfortable putting my book up for sale before it flowed under the harsh eye of a professional copy-editor. It comes back to my long term strategy. I want to sell my books to fans over a long period of time. That won’t happen if I start a novel with ‘It was another quite day at the office.’
- Proof Copies. This applies to those of you planning to release a paperback version using a publisher such as CreateSpace. (I think you’d be mad not to, by the way.) Once you have uploaded your text and (professionally designed) cover, you will be offered the option to buy a proof copy. You don’t have to do this – CreateSpace will allow you to see what each page will look like on-line. I strongly recommend you pay the money and get a proof copy (it might cost about €25 if you go for express delivery.) When the proof copy of my book arrived, I could see that the double-spacing looked ridiculous and that it would push up the price of the book with all the extra paper. My wife correctly pointed out that it was an insult to the reader’s eye-sight. I changed the line spacing to 1.5 and ended up with a much better end product. If you plan ahead (like I didn’t) and leave yourself enough time before publication, you can get a proof copy delivered for about €10. That’s money well spent.
- Giveaways. I ran a few giveaway competitions on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter when I launched the book. A Goodreads giveaway is a powerful tool as it places your book in front of a worldwide audience of book lovers who never heard of you before. I had over 500 people enter my 5 book giveaway, which cost me €40 (the price of 5 books). I used BookDepository.com for this as they have free worldwide delivery. I will do this again when the new book comes out. I will also do a twitter ‘retweet this for a chance to win a book’ competition because it is a cheap and easy way to get word out about a book. It also harvested a batch of new followers on twitter. And then we come to Facebook. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a very wealthy man. I decided to make him even wealthier by using Facebook ads for my book. In all I spent €90 boosting posts. The only effective one was a post advertising a 99c sale of the book. It cost me €11 and got 7 click-throughs to the Amazon page. My total royalties if all of those people bought the book (unlikely) would have been €2. So, yes, I took a loss. But my Kindle sales around that time suggest that some other people bought it later. So a well-targeted post with a value proposition like a 99c sale can work on Facebook.
- Advertisements. The internet is keeling over with people who will spread the word about your book for a small consideration. I spent about €10 advertising a 99c sale a few months back. The advertiser did what it said on the tin, sending out emails, tweets and Facebook posts to tens of thousands of followers. I didn’t sell any books. I’m not surprised. My inbox and Facebook timeline is swamped with these posts. I tend to ignore them. Advertising only makes sense when you are putting your work in front of a relevant audience – that’s why I have an ad here on writing.ie for Keep Away from those Ferraris. Advertising also makes sense if you are an established author who is putting a book for free on Amazon and would like to shout about INCREDIBLE VALUE. I’m not there yet.
So there you have it. I think you need to spend around €1200 to give your self-published book a fair wind. What do you reckon?
(c) Pat Fitzpatrick
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