Essay–It Costs WHAT?

I have no problem pricing ebooks. They should be cheap (but not TOO cheap), well-formatted, and they cost me nearly nothing to produce (outside of editing and cover art). If I were to sell a ton of them, I’d be making a mint. However, due to my terrible marketing abilities and less than sane decisions, I’m in the red on them.

The Street is going to be sold as a paperback, an ebook, and an audiobook. The cover art has already been paid for. The editing, layout, and etc? Not so much. Also, the books haven’t yet been printed, shipped, or gone through a proofing process. In other words, there’s still a LONG way to go before I can even guess what the book should cost.

The Big 5-4-3-2-1 publishers order in bulk. By bulk, I mean like 2k copies at a time. This means their price per print unit is ridiculously low. However, if you’re an independent publisher, you won’t be ordering in those quantities. Usually, you’ll let a Print on Demand service take care of that for you.

The Street is not going on sale via a reseller or distributor. It will only be sold here at Shadowpublications.com. That means I have to order the books, pay shipping for their delivery to my home, and then ship them out again when they’re purchased. It’s a major headache, but it’s the biz.

Now, as I said, the cover art is paid for. The awesome art Scott Pond Designs created is already available as a poster. The editing is being done right now and that’s going to cost a few shekels. The layout is going to cost money as well. While the artwork can be used for the audiobook, ebook, and paperback, the layout is for the dead-tree version only. That means it’s an unrecoverable cost if the books don’t sell.

But there’s more. What about ISBNs? What about barcodes? What about shipping supplies? What about… Yeah, the list goes on. This is why a lot of authors still target publishing companies for their work. It’s a serious headache to get all this done, unless you have a lot of assistance. Royalties from publishers might be pretty small, but the alternative means the book you’re putting out will cost you money before a single copy hits the marketplace. And then there’s the question: how many do you have to sell before you recoup your investment?

I’m planning on only selling a small number of paperbacks. At least for the first printing. I’m setting my sights low and the truth is, I will barely make any profit off the book at all. Unless, of course, the audiobook and ebook sales make up for it. However, I plan to include the ebook for the price of the paperback. That’s going to be a bundle and it should be. I believe if you’re going to purchase the dead-tree version, you should get the ebook for free. Call it ethics or idealism. Whatever. It’s what I do.

The audiobook doesn’t cost me anything to make because I’ve already recorded the majority of the book. Hell, three of the tales have already been podcasted for free. If you want the others for free, you’re going to have to wait a while. But don’t worry–the audiobook isn’t going to break you either.

If The Street manages to spread like wildfire and folks just go crazy in purchasing it, then I should have no issues in paying off my investment. And once it’s paid for, the book is nearly all profit in its various forms. Nearly.

This is a gamble, but every book is a gamble. Every word I put on a page is a bet of some sort. People are either going to like it or they won’t. I’m betting they’ll like it and want to pay for it. I do my best to create high-quality products and will continue to do so.

For those of you watching this little experiment of mine (I know some of you writer types are), you need to be aware of these “hidden” costs that can bite you in the ass and it’s one of the reasons why so many Kickstarter projects end up actually costing the author more money than they make. Especially when you start adding all those “perks” together.

If I was to put a book out via PoD and use Amazon’s distribution arm, the book would have a better chance of selling to the entire world. Selling it yourself means you have to be the publisher and deal with everything a publisher does. That includes warehousing the print run, and you have to provide fulfillment yourself. But what readers won’t get from those distribution channels are signed, personalized books and the satisfaction that the money they pay is going directly into the author’s bank account.

So the experiment goes on. There will be more updates as my team reaches the new few milestones. For now, though, it’s back to editing and back to writing the next book.

Posted in Essays
2 comments on “Essay–It Costs WHAT?
  1. James Melzer says:

    “If I was to put a book out via PoD and use Amazon’s distribution arm, the book would have a better chance of selling to the entire world.”

    Then why don’t you? Why on earth limit yourself to selling the book on your website only? I understand you want to sell signed editions and eBook/paperbook bundles and all that, but you can still do that AND sell the paperback on Amazon. I mean, if the eBook is already going to be there, why not? You’re limiting your potential income that way.

    I’m not trying to be mean, but you keep talking about your “poor marketing abilities and less than sane decisions” and it seems to me that this is one of them. Yeah, you want the customer to have the experience of obtaining signed books and the satisfaction in knowing the money is going directly to the author, but really, that’s only going to come from your core readership. Having the book available in as many formats as possible AND at as many outlets as possible is only going to expand your reach and possibly grow your core readership for the next book, and the next book, and the next book, and…you get the idea.

    • Paul Cooley says:

      I will do that for the other books. However,

        The Street

      is, um, special. I believe what I’ve done is perfectly legal. However, that won’t exactly keep Disney or whomever from suing the shit out of me if they feel like it. Therefore I’m being careful with this one. Also, it’ll be much more difficult to track the donations I’ll be making for each book sale. And yes, I totally understand and agree with your comment. :)

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