I get asked with fair frequency how much money I’m making as a author/publisher and how my books are selling.
It puts me off for two reasons. One, this is the first time in my life someone besides an investor, my accountant, or my wife cares what I make. Two, not one of these people has bought one of my books to date. (I’m just sayin. . .)
But, in the spirit of diplomacy, here’s your unabridged answer:
Book selling is essentially retail sales. Retail has peaks and valleys. Sometimes, the peaks are high and the valleys are deep. The key is to plan to stay as long as you can in one state and as briefly as possible in the other. As a sole proprietor, my outcome depends on the grace of God and my efforts alone (that includes outsourcing, which I do from time to time).
I would love to stay home all day and write books. Wouldn’t you? But that’s not all I’ve done over the past nine months. It’s not even the majority. I study my profession like I’m in school for a degree.
Running a business is difficult in the building stages. It requires capital, planning, resources, marketing research, and know-how, or, at least, connections to people who know what you don’t. You have to surround yourself with people smarter than you. If you’re the smartest person in your circle, you need a new circle.
I work in a changing industry. Last year, for the first time, electronic books outsold paper books. This is a good thing.
Publishing a book the traditional way means you have production costs, which vary according to book length, cover style and vendor. Divide that by the number of printed copies and that’s your net production cost. So, in theory, if you sell a book for $13.95 and it costs $4.35 to produce, you’ve made $9.60 from a direct sale. That’s 69% of your net income immediately in your bank account — about 5% less than what I saw after taxes as a teacher.
Now, if that same consumer says to themselves, “Hey, I’ll buy it on Amazon because it’s $12.49,” the formula changes drastically. In order to be listed there, you have to classify your book as “returnable” (self-explanatory) and 55% off your retail price for retailers. For a $13.95 book, that means $6.27 comes down. Minus $4.35, that’s a whopping $1.93 you’ve made. That’s 14% you receive 3 months after your sale IF it‘s not returned.
Conversely, if you buy an electronic version of the same book for $9.99, you’ll get to keep 70%-80% ($6.99-$7.99). Conversion to e-book costs vary, but you can save on cover design. There are no printed copies to be concerned with. If they buy through Smashwords, you get the money immediately. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. pay according to the 90-day rule.
All these sales vary from month to month. So, I can’t accurately answer the question of “how much do you make?” on the spot. I don’t give myself a steady paycheck like an average 9 to 5.
But I don’t wake up with a love/hate relationship with what I do or pray for days off anymore either. I learned this lesson along time ago: you cannot put a price on peace of mind, no matter how hard you try.
To me, that makes success: not that you hate what you do and make enough money to survive, be comfortable, or even rich, but that you love what you do and are blessed enough to be profitable at doing it.
Author Brian L. Thompson is the president of Great Nation Publishing and author of the Christian fiction thriller The Lost Testament, and The Revelation Gate, due for release on June 7, 2011. You can read more about Brian by clicking here.