Self-Publishing Costs and Benefits
by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
I don’t know how many copies of Becoming Mother I truly expected to sell on its release date.
Maybe 20? That could as least cover some of the costs that I’ve shelled out of the last few months. Yeah, 20 seems reasonable. Okay, maybe 15.
When I checked that evening around 10:00 p.m., I braced myself.
Success in publishing can be measured in a lot of ways.
Before I published this book, I braced myself for how the whole publication process might affect my own feelings of accomplishment and self-worth. Anyone who knows me knows that it’s easy for me to take criticism too close to heart. I have to mentally prepare myself for any heartless comments that may come my way.
I knew that by taking on the challenge of self-publishing, I was putting the responsibility for book promotion and sales entirely into my own hands.
I’m inviting you behind the curtain today, to show what self-publishing has been like in this first year post-publication. The nuts and bolts. The costs and benefits. The frustrations and joys.
Here we go.
Summary of Expenses
- Cover design: $200
- ISBNs: $300
- NetGalley listing: $400
- Booth fees for selling events: $400
- Wholesale copies of book: $516
- Facebook ads: $130
- Book award contests: $240
- IBPY Catalogue listing: $230
- Misc: $285
Books sold, August 2015-August 2016:
- Printed (through Amazon): 70
- Printed (in-person sales): 37
- Kindle: 39
- KENFP earnings (by Kindle pages read): 3,107 pages
- Total copies sold: 146
Earnings: approximately $900
Book reviews published:
- Burrito Buzz, MothersAlwaysWrite, Project: Women
- Amazon reviews in August 2016: 15 different buyers
Countries where my book has been sold:
- United States, Great Britain, Japan, Australia
- Blog followers in August 2015: 45 followers
- Blog followers in August 2016: 421 followers
- Total blog views: 11,407
- Total blog visitors: 6,814
Most visited posts/pages:
Other publications that have helped to promote my writing:
- Kiwi Magazine
- Project: Women
- Imperfect Life
- Fearless Formula Feeder
A lot of people could scoff at me for choosing the “easy way” to publication. I would scoff right back at them and say, “Easy? Are you kidding me?”
The only “easy” quality about it is that I didn’t have to spend the time flirting around to find an agent who might be interested enough in my work to get it in the hands of an editor at a publishing house, who might actually want to take the risk of publishing my work, who might not completely change my vision. In that sense, I was able to spend more time in honing the quality of my work and deciding exactly how I wanted to market the book.
Self-publishing wasn’t the easiest way to publish. But it did help me accomplish a few goals:
- I was able to publish this work while I am still a mother of a young child. This helps me identify with my readers.
- I had total control over my content, organization, and book layout.
- I had immediate access to my sales records–so I could know when certain promotions were working or not working.
- I retained my rights over my creative work.
- Interested readers could easily access and purchase my book through Amazon.
- I was able to market this book however I saw fit.
Some of the things that I did to market this book flopped. Some things worked well. Here’s what I’ve learned. Take it or leave it.
- Do not do a Goodreads giveaway with the expectation that the winners will actually review your book. They just don’t. If you want to do a Goodreads giveaway, just do it out of the goodness of your heart and be thankful that someone who is not part of your regular social circles may read your book.
- Facebook ads didn’t really produce many sales. Maybe they get your book cover in front of eyes and lead to a few clicks, but it never made a huge difference in sales for me. This was mostly wasted money, I thought.
- Don’t be afraid to charge a fair price for your book.
- Sometimes your buyer isn’t your reader…
- Selling events are great… for figuring out how to market your book. They might not be great for actually selling that many books.
Instead, do these things:
1.) Above all: KEEP WRITING.
If you’re really a writer, this will not be hard at all. You love to do it anyway. You love it even though it doesn’t pay the bills. You love it even though you are rejected over and over and over again. You. Just. Love it.
2. ) Promote your most trafficked blog posts through Facebook promotions. (Hint: Being vulnerable often leads to highly trafficked blog posts. This means that you write about the tough stuff.)
3.) Blog. Regularly. But…
… save some stellar work to submit to other literary magazines or websites who are looking for original, unpublished work.
Find other places to submit your writing and submit often. Take the rejection. Take all of it because there will be a lot. Swallow your pride and keep going. You’re in this for the long haul.
- Follow other people’s blogs.
- Identify tags for posts that appeal to your target audience.
(For me, this meant following tags like pregnancy, motherhood, writing, baby, and parenting.)
- Like and comment on other people’s posts.
- Respond to every comment on your blog.
4.) Embrace the Power of Social Media
Disclaimer**: I was born in 1981, the very beginning of the Millenial Generation, and God, it shows. I graduated college before the advent of Facebook and smartphones, so I have a weird mix of social media literacy and social media repulsion. And yet… I cannot deny that it has helped me reach readers that I otherwise would never have reached.
Blogging has helped me connect with readers in Australia. Facebook has helped me promote my book to Facebook friends and friends of those friends.
I have not walked through the dark, dark threshold of Twitter yet. I fear I might never return. I have too doggone much to keep track of, so I limit myself to Facebook and blogging.
- Establish an on-line presence through social media.
- Create a Facebook page for your book and regularly update it with new blog posts, book reviews, book progress, and other related readings that you find noteworthy.
- Like other Facebook pages for websites and books that are related to your topic.
- Start interacting with other bloggers whose work you admire. Comment on their posts. Follow their blogs. Like their Facebook page. Then, see if they are open to receiving a free copy of your book and reviewing it. Graciously accept whatever review they create, be it positive or negative.
- Attend writer’s conferences and workshops. Network. Learn about their writing, their blogs, and their books. Help them out and they’ll help you out. Oh, and while you’re there, learn about writing.
Be honest. Be authentic. Be you. No one wants a martyr. No one wants a superhero. People want authenticity. They want to see you down in the mud where they are–but they also want to see you climb out of it and shine.
Shine on, fellow writers.