One of my favorite magazines from my days as a young Heavy Metal fan was Circus Magazine. A series of articles I always looked forward to was by Twisted Sister guitarist Jay J. French that chronicled the trials and tribulations of taking a band from the garage to the arena. Thinking back on that helped me with this post.
So, you’ve finished writing your book and have joined an elite group of writers who can say they have written a book. Time to break out the checkbook. I cannot stress the importance of paying to have your work edited. You do not have to mortgage your home but be prepared to spend around 200 to 300 dollars depending on what you feel comfortable having done. A good cover is worth more than a hundred good reviews so you will want to hire a graphic artist to do your cover. 100 to 500 dollars will cover that and give you a cover to take to the bank. Once it is edited, you will need to format your book for printing. This too, unless you are a word processing guru, would be better left to the professionals. Prices can vary and services can cover much. Don’t forget about the eBook version as well.
By this point you have a finished product. You also have a slightly or majorly smaller checkbook balance. Now comes the part where you have to try and recoup some and hopefully all of these expenses. It’s now time to put on your snappy suit and barker’s hat and sell your work. You are going to need business cards, bookmarks and other materials. This is also time to stake out a place in cyberspace. That entails purchasing a domain and leasing space to host your site. Hiring someone to create your site used to be a luxury that has since come down to earth enough to make it an alternative if you are not technologically inclined. Of course if you are selling your books, the government is going to want their cut. Make sure to apply for a transaction privilege license, (sales tax), in your state, county, and municipality. You will pay a fee to start and then a renewal on the anniversary date. Some states consolidate the license across all three so check first with your state’s department of revenue first.
Now that you have your book, your materials and are square with the government you need a place to sell your tomes. Of course your book is up on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or Lulu, or any other online marketplace. You may even be lucky to be in good with a local book seller and have a place on their shelves. Personal appearances have been the most lucrative for me, even outstripping my online sales. The hardest part, aside from scheduling, is the cost involved. Different events will charge different fees for a table. Generally, and predictably, the more attended the event the higher the cost for a table. An event like Comicon here in Phoenix can cost upwards of $500. Smaller events will be in the range of $100 to $200. To get a better sense of what these costs mean let’s look at the math. For Undead Heart, if I sell a copy at $10 I make $5.79 a book. In addition I have chosen not to charge customers for the sales tax so that comes off my bottom line taking my $5.79 down to $5 a book. To even break even at an event where I’ve paid $100 for the space I’d have to sell 20 books. Most of these event last a day, so assuming a standard work day of 8 hours I would have to sell 2 1/2 books an hour. Doing that I still have not made anything for myself, and are still in the hole for the business cards and bookmarks. I essentially spent the day working for free. There is some value in these events, I get to sit at a table with my business cards and receive the ego stroking of seeing my name listed as author on the place card. to be fair these events serve a larger purpose, so they can be rewarding even if no sales are made. Your name is out there, your books are out there, plus you can network with other authors opening up other opportunities.
Can you ever make money doing this. Sure just be ready for a long haul. I don’t mean to discourage you, but at some point reality will come around and you need to look at what you’re doing as a business. You will only last so long reaching into your own pocket for these costs. I’m not hear to burst your bubble or rain on your parade, just think of this as that little dose of reality peeking around the corner as you reach for your dream.