Many writers want to be published authors and tell me their goal isn’t to make money, it’s to share their story to bring others hope, to leave a legacy, to motivate, to share God’s word, to make people laugh or cry.
At one point I felt the same way about making money from my writing. I wanted to write stories and it didn’t matter how much money I made.
But now I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to make money. I do. I want to cover my expenses. I want to be a successful entrepreneur, and I want to write stories that entertain, motivate, and inspire readers. And I don’t want to give my work away for free because it’s cost me too much to create. There’s a certain amount of pride that goes into learning the craft and building words in a way that others find entertaining.
How much money will I have to spend to cover my expenses or reach the top? Many businesses feed off of authors who have huge egos and want to see their names at the top. They’ll take your money if you let them. That’s why it’s important to know the costs before you get in and budget accordingly, budget reasonably.
Treat authorship as a business. Every new business has start-up costs and typically most don’t make money in the first year, some don’t make money in the first three years. According to the website NOLO Law for All, “If your business made a profit in any three out of the past five consecutive years, it is presumed to have a profit motive. This means that if you claim a loss for the third straight year after starting your business, you may be inviting an audit.” Give your business time. Be patient. (But write.)
Different authors will spend money in different ways–just like they do in life. How you spend your money is up to you, but knowing some of the costs can help. Here are a few I had in 2013. I hope you find them helpful.
1. Writer’s conferences – Plane tickets, gas allowances, meals, the conference fees, extra appointments, the cost of writing and editing your pitch or your book proposal, a new outfit, a tape recorder or any other supplies you tell yourself you need. This can be a huge expense, but is often a great gain too. You learn more about the author business and meet important people in the industry.
One of the best parts about self-publishing your book is that you no longer have to attend conferences to pitch agents and publishers, so there’s a huge savings if you don’t go to conferences. (You don’t have to write a book proposal either. Yay! I do recommend that you write an elevator pitch though because you’ll need that any time you’re talking about your book and at Amazon and other ad places.)
Even if you’re a self-published author, there’s a lot to gain from attending a writer’s conference. You learn about the industry and gain support from fellow authors by attending.
2. Books on publishing and the craft – Staying current in the author business is important just like it is in any career. You could cut costs here and peruse the internet for answers to publishing questions or use your local library, but there are occasional books you’d like to keep as references. Plan on how much you will spend a month and stick to your number.
3. Ads – Once your book is published you’ll have to spend money on advertising. (Make yourself a MEDIA PAGE so you can submit your books in a timely fashion.) The most popular place to advertise is BookBub, but it’s also the most expensive. The fees they charge are based on your genre. The more viewers they have at their site the more expensive their ad.
For instance, last October I placed an ad with them for CACHE a PREDATOR in the thriller category. It cost me $360 but I had over 3100 downloads of my novel that month. Placing an ad with them is effective, but costly. Yes, it paid for itself and moved my ranking to the #1 bestseller spot and #37 in overall Kindle ebooks. But here’s the BIG catch: THEY HAVE TO APPROVE YOU. Yes, even if you’re a paying customer they can turn you down. They rejected CACHE a PREDATOR three times before they accepted it.
There are other places to advertise, too, but most don’t cost as much. (To see some effective ad places I’ve used click HERE.) Plan on a budget for ads every quarter and for each book. If you run a Kindle Count Down Deal it’ll be more effective if you run ads along with the sale. Your goals should be to a.) make double what you spent on an ad and b.) move to the #1 spot in your genre. Aim high! No harm in that!
Goodreads is another awesome site to place ads. They have a great site to teach authors how to use their site HERE. Plan on spending a good chunk of your day there to figure it all out. You won’t be sorry. I like the exposure I get there and the good thing is that I don’t pay a dime unless someone clicks on my book. More times than not they add my book to their TBR shelf too.
4. Book covers – Many cover artists range from around $300 – $400. I used Avalon Graphics. She worked with me until we had a “match.” Your artist is only as good as the information you give them. Be sure to read my post on book covers HERE. This is an expense you don’t want to skimp on. Readers judge books by their covers. Period.
5. Book trailers – These can cost little or a lot. You don’t have to create one, but the more exposure over the internet the better. Some people really like the visual of a good trailer. I know I do. If you design one yourself be careful about sharing music, movies, and photos. Don’t violate copyright laws. I hired this done and paid around $400. (The second novel I wrote I hired my cousin’s son design it, but we won’t talk about what I paid. It was one of those oops moments.)
6. Editors – This is where I’ve spent a huge chunk of money. I felt that it was one of the most important things. The editors I use cost around $2000. This is for a developmental and a line edit. You might be able to find an editor for less, but make sure you’re getting what you personally need to make your book the best it can be. (To watch a fun video on the differences of editing click on this You Tube Video.)
7. Formatting – Before you can load your novel you have to format it properly for Kindle, Nook, or iPads. A different format is required for Create Space. One author friend bought Joel Friedlander’s templates and saved money that way. Others have learned how to format themselves. I hired my formatter because I didn’t want to take the time to learn how and Joel didn’t have his templates back then. Plan on spending about $100 -$150 for this service, but it depends on how long your book is too.
8. Magazine subscriptions – Joining an organization that will help you learn tricks and tips in this biz can help, but don’t go overboard. If you find that the value isn’t what you thought it was, don’t resubscribe.
9. Contests – Once your novel is published you’ll want to enter contests so you can have bragging rights if it wins. Wouldn’t it sound amazing to see “Award-winning author” in front of your name or book title? Unfortunately it costs money to enter these contests. Some are $40 and others are $99. That adds up. Find the contests in your genre. This takes time and money. Find the ones in your region. Find the ones that accept Indie author entrants.
10. ISBN – Contact Bowker for these. When you load your book to Create Space you can use the ISBN they assign, but some people don’t recommend that option. I used CS’s ISBN because I believed it helped me get my books into libraries. It costs $250 for 10 numbers.
11. Make your business an LLC, partnership, or corporation. This might take a few dollars too. You’ll also have to register with your state for local sales tax information if you plan on selling books at local stores or fairs. This fee varies.
12. Create Space – is FREE. You can load your book and sell it in the EXPANDED DISTRIBUTION channels (other countries) at no cost. Yep, it’s one freebie. You can also load your ebook at KINDLE PUBLISHING for FREE and join their “Select” category. This allows you a promo in either their Kindle Countdown Deal or their FREE PROMO once every 90 day period. This has helped me make it to “Bestseller” status.
13. Blog/Website Fees – Hosting a blog site and paying for domain names is a part of building your platform and shouldn’t be ignored. Typically these costs appear annually. HERE‘s a great article on the costs associated with a blog.
Also, you may have to pay a tech guy/gal who can teach you the ins and outs of WordPress or whichever blog host you choose. For instance, I had a problem that whenever I posted a link to an article a VIAGRA ad would appear. I was mortified and didn’t know the first step in solving this problem. I had to hire someone to help.
14. Newsletter Service Fees – Mailchimp – Most authors have an automated newsletter they send out. I’ve found Mailchimp to be the most economical, but I’m still not a pro when it comes to understanding this service. The costs associated with this service vary depending on how many subscribers you have. I paid an initial $30 which gave me what I needed to start and that was over a year ago. However, I haven’t mailed my first newsletter yet.
15. Reviews – I’ve never paid anyone to read and review my novel. For more information on how I find reviewers you can read this post.
16. Blog Tours – I spend money on book promotional tours. In this situation, I work with one person who contacts up to 30 different blogs (or less) who review my novel, write reviews, conduct interviews, include excerpts, and basically blast my novel across the internet for a specific period of time. You can spend between $100 – $300 depending on the length of your promotional tour. I’ve used PROMOTIONAL BOOK TOURS and BECK VALLEY TOURS. (But book early because you may have to wait in line.)
17. FB and Twitter Parties – This can cost around $50 – $100. I’ve only done a FB party and had a blast, but it won’t sell books unless you have a great deal going. Typically these events are great for increasing your Goodreads TBR shelf, adding LIKES to your FB page, and increasing your Twitter and Pinterest followers, which might result in sales later on. These events draw a crowd of people who are sweepstakes/giveaway hunters. They want the prizes. Not always, but often. However, don’t misunderstand–all efforts to get your books name out there is good, but don’t expect to generate mega sales with these blasts.
18. TIME – The largest cost for the successful author is time. What’s your lost opportunity cost? If you’re going to lose your paying job by staying home to write, what will you lose? Is it worth the pay-cut in the long run? Can you live on nothing for 3-5 years? Do you have another source of income? Only you know how to answer those questions.
19. Audio Book – The costs for this vary based on the length of your novel. For a novel around 80,000 words plan on spending approximately $2000. This fee can be more or less depending on who you contract. I went with ACX.com with my first novel, but I haven’t published the audio version yet to report how long it took for me to recoup my expenses.
SUCCESS in any business is costly. Success takes patience, perseverance, motivation, and money, but remember that the most important thing for you as a writer is to keep writing because the costliest mistake is to stop writing.
Having realistic expectations is important to your success as an author. It helps to understand what they are.
What other expenses can you add to my list?