Sunday, May 5, 2013

Publishing 101 - Money

Hi, sweet readers.

I really, really, really wanted to do a post about money and self-publishing. Money's a difficult topic to discuss, because some of us have more of it and some of us have less, social stratification, privilege, opportunity, etc etc etc. I know. But we're all adults, professionals, and hidden safely behind our computer screens here, yes? So this will be easy (-ish.)

One of the first questions I ask people who are considering self publishing is whether they have the money to do it well. I see other self-publishers giving the advice to "only spend what you can afford," and I think that's wrong.

Yes. It's wrong. What I think they should say is "If you don't have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don't do it at all."

Yes, it's sort of a harsh message. Yes, I stand by it.

Before I made the final decision to publish ONE and TWO, I spent some time quietly gathering estimates from the various professionals I'd need to hire to make these books a success. I talked to Trisha, who helped me add things to my list I didn't even know I might need or want, and put myself through a reality check, too. (For example: In theory, I could organize a blog tour myself, but would it drive me crazy? Yes. And did I have any of the right experience to do a good job? No.) She also helped me assess whether I needed some of the professionals I was waffling on. (For example: ONE had been through so many revisions with agents and I felt so good about it that I did not hire a developmental editor.)

Then I made an Excel spreadsheet of all the costs, and added up the total.

Then I sat down with my family's (very tight, four-kids-in-full-time-daycare) budget and hemmed and hawed and sweated and groaned and SQUEEZED until I figured out a way to make it work. (Basically, there will be no date nights or new clothes or electronics or, like, any luxuries for....awhile.)

So,  you guys want to see ONE's budget, right? 
Well, I'm not going to do a line-by-line, because I don't want this post to become some sort of standard for the professionals on my team should any of my readers want to hire them. Further, I just don't really want everyone to know who I paid for what tasks, and how much. Everyone has different comfort levels

But here's a basic breakdown: 

Editing, formatting, packaging, and distribution services: $825
Promotional materials and services: $700
Print ARCs (including shipping): $450
Audio book studio time*: $150

Grand Total - $2125

Included in some of those categories are some deeply discounted services, that could have easily added $1500 to the project if I had kept them at full price. All writers have different connections and different personal skill sets, so this is not meant to be a guide for any individual author or project - just one example of  one person's budget for one particular project. (ONE.)

You might be wondering why I spent so much money on "unnecessary" stuff, i.e., everything that's not the book itself. After all, I didn't have to spend money on swag, or send physical ARCs. But, remember - my goal for ONE is for it to look and read and be marketed no differently than a traditionally published book. 

Traditionally published books have postcards and stickers and magnets. So does One. Traditionally published books have a street team. So does One. (An incredible one!!!!) And a surefire way to tell a book's legit? It has paper ARCs. It can send copies to high school classrooms across the country and reach its readers even before release. Paper books are power. (I would never have thought this, by the way, but it's amazing how many people think that self-publishing and paper books are mutually exclusive. Printing books not only for sale, but for advanced readers as well, shows that you're serious, that your book's worth the hassle. Readers will pick up on that.)

I just want to stop right here and say that I fully recognize that putting money into publishing a book up front is the biggest drawback to self-publishing. So, here are the reasons that I decided it was worth it:

I was speaking (read: complaining) to a prominent literary agent about the stress of putting money into the project at the outset. She responded with something like, "Yes, but just think - if you got a book deal today, your book wouldn't be out until 2015. All the money you make between now and then, consider your advance."

And, of course, she was right. One year after I made the decision to publish my own books, I will have not one, but two published books on the market, collecting royalties of up to 70% of sale price. They'll never be pulled from the shelves, remaindered, or put in the bargain bin (unless I strategically decide to put them there myself.)

In short, from where I sit, the capability to publish often and to price strategically with high royalties makes up for the fact that I paid so much up front.

But, will I make my money back? 

*shrug* I don't know.

Of course, that's the first goal of most self-publishers - recoup their losses. It's likely that any self publisher will make back every cent she's spent...eventually. It could take one month, and it could take two years or more, to see profits that exceed costs.

If money is tight, or if you're borrowing to publish, know how many books you have to sell to recoup your costs, and how long you can afford to wait for your money to come back...before you make your decision.

Okay, I think that's all I have to say for now about money and self-publishing. But I will answer some questions in comments, and if you yourself are considering self-publishing, shoot me an email at leighannkopans [at] gmail [dot] com and we may be able to speak more candidly.

As always, thanks for reading! You all make this a joy. <3 b="">

*Yes, you read that right. There will be an audiobook of ONE. I'll do a longer post on that - the decision and the method - later.


  1. Thanks for sharing this information :) It's both useful and great advice.

  2. This is a great post!! I just wanted to put out there, there is crowdfunding, too.

    1. Yes! Crowdfunding is great! I've never looked into it myself but I have contributed to some campaigns. (Good luck!)

  3. Oooooo yesssss! So glad you did a money post. You're my favorite model for how to do this, so seeing a little more on what were the most important investments for you is SUPER.

  4. Awesome post. Something to think about. :(

  5. Leigh Ann...again, I just have to say how much I respect what you're doing. This post is entirely interesting. Just very professional and realistic. You're a trailblazer, baby! :)

    1. Sarah, you make me feel warm and fuzzy every time you say that. You've been such an amazing support. ALL THE HUGS. <3

  6. Ok, this was an excellent post about self-pub money. I respect and am in awe of how hard you worked for this and it is almost time! I so need an audio book too. Heehee. I going to get all formats of One. I think I am almost there. Very professional blog with informative information for people who want to self-pub. My sister has been thinking about it so I shall send her this way!

    1. LOL thanks Tawney! You should hear our girl for the audio book, her name is Jess and she's SPECTACULAR! I can't wait for you all to hear her.

  7. "If you don't have the resources to do it right, either wait and save up or don't do it at all."
    Agreed! I'm trying to make the best of my budget but I made sure I had one that was realistic. I really don't want to "waste" $500, or whatever a low budget might me, on a poorly produced book.(talking about my own)

    I'm spending most on two editors and cover designer. I have yet to figure out the promotional material but before I get to that I want to make sure my work is worth it, I want to be proud and.... well, I also have to shop around o_0

    I have to look into the "street team" idea and now you have me curious about the stickers and magnets, thanks lol

    1. Editors and cover designer are absolutely the most important things. YOu have that exactly right. Everything else is a bonus.

      Honestly, your best promotion is word of mouth - it's all about trying to harness that, but I really don't think it has to be expensive. I just wanted to have some fun with marketing. LOL.

      Best of luck to you!

  8. I'm really impressed by how you've handled your self-published title. I think it's great that you've worked to make it like any other traditionally published book. I'm sure your hard work will pay off! Can't wait to read ONE. :)

    1. Aw, thank you so much! Fingers crossed!

  9. I think everyone who decides to self-publish should do everything you say. Seriously-- such great advice! All of it!

  10. You've definitely gone about this the right way. Your cover is one of my favorite book covers of the year (from any sort of publishing). It's absolutely perfect. Even aside from the financial investment, though, is the insane amount of time you've put into the whole thing, through research, organizing a street team, etc. It's not just getting everything right and then throwing your book at the market and hoping for the best. There's a huge investment right there.

    I can't wait to be able to tell people they can go buy ONE, because I know they're going to love it! :D

  11. Hi there! I hopped over from the Passive Voice blog. I really love how Passive Guy covers all sides of every issue as I think it's the best way to learn. Thanks for putting out what you've learned so far. You've got me rethinking about whether or not I should wait until Book 3 to put out a print book since I'm working in MG. Thanks again!

  12. Hi. I also came from passive Voice's blog. This is a great article for self-publishers. I wish it was easy to share it on twitter and elsewhere from your blog.

  13. Having now held a copy of One in my hands, I can say that it isn't just like the "real thing" - it IS the real thing! The cover is gorgeous. If I ever self publish, I'm doing things the Leigh Ann Kopans way!


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