The other side of the equation, of course, is what I might earn from it.
Here are some interesting facts on the “earnings” side of the money equation.
I decided to price the paperback at $12.95 and the e-book at $9.99.
At those prices I earn about $3.50 every time someone buys a paperback from Amazon.
I earn about $6 when they buy a paperback straight from Createspace.
I earn about $5 for every e-book sold (earnings on e-books sold through Amazon vary depending on book download size and which country someone is in when they buy it).
What is the bottom line in terms of breaking even?
I estimate that I need to sell about 875 books just to break even on this project. And when I say “break even”, I’m only taking into account money that I’ve spent.
I’m not going to calculate how many books I’d need to sell to pay myself minimum wage for every hour I spent writing this book or prepping it for publication. That would just be depressing, and money wasn’t the point, anyway.
Or perhaps I should say “it wasn’t the point of writing this book for me.” However, if you’re aiming to earn a living from your writing don’t forget to factor your time into your accounting – your time is perhaps your most valuable resource.
So, 875 books to break even. 875 books!
That’s a lot of books for someone to sell off their own bat without the help of a marketing team or a publicist. I’d say the launch for Love At The Speed Of Email is going well and I’m nowhere near that number yet. Not even close.
Things to think about
Here are a couple of things I’ve learned with regards to earning money from self-publishing.
1. Do not self-publish a memoir aiming to make money from it (not unless you are Kate Middleton or Justin Bieber, anyway): Publish a memoir because you have an important story to tell that you care deeply about. Publish it because you have been more passionate about writing the memoir than anything else you could have chosen to do with your time. Publish it because you have worked hard hard hard on writing an excellent story and professionals have helped you shape and polish it.
But do not publish it thinking that you are going to make a lot of money.
It’s not impossible that you’ll make money from your book, but statistically it’s unlikely – at least in the short to medium term.
2. Figuring out how to price your book is tricky: Many people who self-publish price their paperbacks higher than $12.95 in order to earn a bit more on each copy. I decided not to because I wanted to keep my book in line with what you might expect to pay if it had been traditionally published.
Conversely, many people who self-publish price their e-books lower than $9.99 (often as low as $.99 or $2.99). Again (at least for now) I decided to keep my price in line with what you might expect to pay if the book had been traditionally published.
There are some compelling arguments for pricing e-books low, but I think that this sort of very low pricing risks artificially depressing the e-book market in the long run. And while it’s true that there are no print production costs associated with e-books, there are still many behind-the-scenes costs associated with producing a polished, quality product even if it’s read digitally.
3. Ironically, it’s giving things away that may eventually earn you money: People who know a lot more about marketing than I do have advised me to look for opportunities to give things away to potential readers.
On the basis of their advice I’ve made the first chapter of Love at the Speed of Email available for free and put a prominent link to that sample in my sidebar (I’ve also made that chapter available on Amazon, GoodReads and elsewhere).
I’ve also written a book called 201 Great Discussion Questions for Couples in Long Distance Relationships that I’ll be releasing soon as a free PDF product. Hopefully, in additional to being useful, that e-book will lead people interested in stories about long distance relationships to my website.
OK, your turn. What lessons have you learned about earning money by self-publishing? How did you decide how to price your books? And, what marketing strategies have best helped you reach new readers?