I like to share my End of the Year Report for a few reasons. First, I believe in truth-in-lending. You guys are my stakeholders, and every book you buy, in my opinion, goes toward investing in the business. In the second place, I like sharing my dirty laundry because it’s not unique. I’m doing about as well as most everyone out there (minus the outliers and the 1%ers) and there’s no shame in building your empire brick by brick. This business is difficult to survive in–even if you do everything right.
The figures you’ll see below are the actuals from my ledger. I use a Microsoft SharePoint site (yes, I can build you one too if you’d like to hire me) to track every expense, sale, and free book download. Using a metadata, I can slice and dice my data into logical groups and summaries super easily. I can also see, per book and per series, how much I’ve spent, how much of that I’ve made back, and how many sales across the board I’ve made.
Basically: it’s a data-lover’s wet dream.
ANYWAY, this isn’t an exhaustive look at all my data, as some of the smaller expenses like bank fee credit card fees add up to less than $100. As well, some of the numbers may not add up to the big numbers, because I’ve left out some of these smaller categories. Numbers with asterisk may not be complete for the entire 2016, as I’m still expecting expenses for the end of the year.
Without further ado… here’s the Sush End Of Year Summary:
Event Costs: $4,009
Y’all know I do a lot of events, and that’s where a lot of my money went this year. Cons are great investments if you work them right and smart. Here’s how the largest pieces of the pie broke out:
Advertising/Banner/Swag Costs: $496
This is an expense I’m glad to pay. Although 99% of the people who walk away with a bookmark toss it in the trash or lose it before they can ever hit my website, there’s that 1% who follow-through. The banners are also an expense I’m glad to pay because it does draw in crowds and can be reused again and again
until I change the damned covers.
Table Fees: $1,352
You have to have a table to sell books, and I do about 1-2 per month in the Spring and Fall. I like to mix it up with small, local cons (lower costs, fewer sales) and larger big-ticket ones (higher costs, more sales). This number also includes some of the 2017 events (RT and Pensacon). One of my biggest issues is having to pay for events that are sometimes six months to a year away.
This one actually surprised me. I’m normally very good at keeping food costs low. There were two cons – Dragon*Con and Dallas – where it was a bit more complicated to feed myself cheaply, and those comprised the largest percentage of costs.
I’ve started splitting tables with authors, and, in some cases, hotels. I might be able to reduce this cost even further if I start using AirBnB versus staying in hotels.
When I saw that number, I thought: That can’t be right. But it is! These costs include all the eBook ads I run every month, plus a one-year subscription to Co-Schedule (worth every penny) and a blog tour for Spells and Sorcery.
eBook advertising is hit-or-miss: if you find one that works, use it until it no longer works. The best for me have been eReader Today, Read Cheaply, and my favorite, Book Barbarian. I generally make back 100% of every penny I invest (although sometimes it’s thanks to backlist sales vs. sales of the book being advertised).
I try to keep the books on a three-month rotation for promotions, although I’ve decided to pull Empath as a regular because it just won’t sell online. Advertising Double Life is always a good investment (usually pops me to #1 on the Amazon freebie list for space opera), and I’m interested to see how Island and Lexie fare as more books are released.
Book Production Costs: $9,036
YIKES! Did I really spend all that money?
But broken down, this number actually isn’t that far off. Here’s a couple of the big things that are included in that number:
Bulk Book Purchase: $5,941
For me to go to these events and to sell books on SGR-P, I gotta buy them myself first. This is, by-and-large, my largest expense at the business. But selling books myself also nets me the largest profit, especially the sales I can make online without having to pay for a table (another hint-hint for sgr-pub).
I had a TON of projects completed this year that needed editing: Chasm, Spells, a re-do of Double Life, Razia Short Stories, Beginnings, Union, and Prince and Heiress. Editing is one of those must-have things that you can’t skimp on. Need an editor? Dani is a Goddess.
Next year, I’m hoping to slow down the book production machine, which means reducing this number significantly.
ISBN Purchases: $575
Publishing 4-5 projects per year (in both print and hardcover) means that I need a ton of ISBNs. I blew threw a 10-pack in 6 months, and when time came to get a new set, it was clear: I needed the 100 pack. In the first place, they’re $5.75 per (versus $25). And in the second place, it should last me through at least the next 5 years.
To boot: I’ve already gone through 9 of the 100 since May.
“But Sush, this doesn’t add up…”
Basically, spending all this money this year put me in a position to capitalize on it next year. Before we get there, let’s break it down:
Event Sales: $7,061
If you compare expenses to sales, I actually made $1700 profit on events this year, until you add in the cost of buying the books sold. Then it’s a net loss. But there are folks who buy a book at a convention, and then stick around for the next thing I put out. And some of those are reading this blog right now (*waves*). I’m also changing my pricing strategy to see if I can’t capitalize on all these multi-book series I have.
SGR-P Sales: $2,663*
I set up SGR-P in April to start capturing online sales, and to try my hand at eCommerce. Included in that amount are the Kickstarter PB/HC sales, so it’s a bit inflated. But I’ve been doing 5-10 sales per month since summer, and I expect that number to grow. It’s actually my favorite way to sell – there’s no work on my part other than to sign a book, print a shipping label, and slap it in the mail.’
Amazon Kindle: $1,061*
My eBook sales are steady, but nothing to crow home about. I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t tapped into the eBook market the right way, or if my audience is just more a paper crowd, or what. I also had only one book in Kindle Unlimited, and considering it netted 28 sales total for 2016, the program has been a bust for me.
Speaking of total sales, here’s an interesting tidbit:
- Free Books (including KU free days): 6,937*
- Total KU Reads: 29*
- Total Paid Sales: 814*
There’s also an interesting study I did on the Razia series: I found a 3% follow through from Double Life downloads to Alliances, but 90% from Alliances to Conviction and even higher for Conviction to Fusion. That tells me that first-in-free-series still work (also I know that I download a lot of them myself).
Now that Island is permafree, I’m curious to watch the numbers there.
Smashwords (non-KDP): $231*
This is pretty consistent with the eBook market share: Amazon controls 75% of the market share, and the rest of ’em cover the other bits. Although I don’t make as much, my experience so far with KDP is that it’s not enough to convince me to pull my books.
Here’s how it breaks down:
- Apple: $95
- Barnes and Noble: $84
- Smashwords: $26
- Kobo: $10
- Scribd: $10
Yeah, I lost a lot of money this year. I also lost a lot of money in 2015. And 2014. But I have a few things going for me this year: First, the number of available products in my arsenal has gone from eight (ebook and paperbacks of DL, AL, CV, and Empath) at the beginning of this year to THIRTY. In addition to publishing all the projects above, I introduced hardcovers as an available format. I’ve branched into a new genre (romance) and age category (young adult). I completed one series (Razia) and have the final book of my second series up for preorder (Madion).
The goal for the year will be to continue to watch frivolous purchases (
coughChasmBookTrailerBoondogglecough) and keep searching for the things that work. I will continue doing events around the country, but continue to seek out events that’ll help reduce costs (local events, or events with free/discounted tables). I also am going to focus on growing my eBook sales, testing out different eBook ad services and focusing on email marketing.
I’m also tossing my hat into the audiobook ring, so that’s another fast-growing market. I might also be dipping my toe back into the trad-pubbed market with the Redemption trilogy (or maybe Brynna, depends on which one gets finished first), which may mean I only have to pay to publish Lexie next year (fingers crossed).