Update: Economics of Self-Publishing & A Second Printing? December 5th, 2012 —I initially posted some of this story in August and updated it in September after we launched. I’ve updated it a third time as we begin to contemplate a second printing.– I spent a good part of the summer of 2012 on Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology , a collection of over 50 essays and images edited by Richey Piiparinen and myself. We conceived of the project as pop-up civic action of sorts–a way for a community to come together and put out a book, lickety-split. For me, it was also a way to learn more about publishing, specifcally, self-publishing, from the inside out. (In The Atlantic, Alan Jacobs mentioned this as part of my status as a “DCE”–a Digital Cultural Entrepreneur”–I can’t say that without laughing myself) I have pulled together the receipts, the spreadsheet, distribution and sales numbers to share with those interested in the back-end of this project. Here’s how it rolled: Costs To Produce and Publish Book: –Domain name for website–$30 –Website help (some mishegas we needed sorted out) –$60 –LLC–we decided we should become a business to handle money. This was a pretty simple affair involving the Ohio Secretary of State–$125 –ISBN–turns out there’s this weird monopoly on ISBNs, and you have to buy them in bulk. So now we own 10 ISBNs (give a shout if you want one). $250 –Barcode–don’t forget those lines and numbers; add another $25 –Designer–ah, perhaps the best stroke of luck we had in this whole endeavor was the incredible designer we hired. You needs a good one, folks, to do this right, and a good one must know InDesign and also be really cool. I’m not telling you what we paid the designer, but if you are trying this at home, estimate $2000. –Cover designer–oh we have the most prettiest cover in the whole wide world.. Maybe you’ll get lucky like us. No real estimate for this–anwhere from your computer’s free clip art to thousands. –Printing–How many to print? This was a big decision. I wanted to print 1000 initially; Richey said 2000. The economies of scale favored 2000, as it costs far less than twice as much to print 2000 as it would have to print 1000. We thought we would either: 1.) have the proverbial garages full of unsold copies; or, if we were luckier, 2.) sell the 2000 over the course of 12 months. We decided we wanted to have the books printed off-set and found a good one. We paid the printer $4150. –Proofreading: I forgot to add this in my initial post. We had a team of volunteer proofreaders, and then we hired a friend who gave it another read for a “friends and family” discounted rate. –We’ve promised our contributors that we’ll pay it forward: if we sell over a certain amount of copies, we will give one contributor a lump sum of $5000 towards their own self-publishing venture (this, we decided, was better than giving each person $100 for their contribution). So we did not have any initial honoraria cost. –It goes without saying the co-editors did not charge or get paid. In face, we laid out: Total: We sunk about $7000 into publishing the book. ****** We pubbed on September 10. By September 24 we were in the black, having sold $7,000 worth of books (thanks to social media and contributor shout-outs, we sold most of those in pre-orders). We distribute the book variously: –We ship orders through our bigcartel website. We put them into envelopes and take them to the post office ourselves. –We drive around town and drop off orders (and re-orders) to the many local stores who we reached out to asking if they wanted to stock our book. We charge stores $12 wholesale (we retail for $20). –We also listed in Ingram, which allows us to be stocked by stores whom we are not in direct contact with and, for better or worse–be listed in Amazon and other online chains. Our ebook is a cinch to distribute! But hard to figure out. We lowered the ebook to $2.99 for a three day sale last month and sold a bundle during that period. Then we raised the price back up to $7.99. We’re still experimenting with pricing of the ebook. And we still forget, too often, to promote it. Our decision to include 12 additional essays only in the ebook was probably the right one, but I don’t think we get the word out about the “expanded” features as well as we should. Marketing We were fortunate to have many requests for readings and events. We have held a launch party, done 4 readings and been part of an art show that holds a monthly event at which we sold books. We have been covered by all the local media markets, including the NPR station and major paper in town. Although I set aside an hour or two a day to market the book, most of my efforts could be generously called “half-assed.” We had to put faith in the quality of our product. And then we relied on community word-of-mouth,and luck. We’ve had both. So How’s It Going? By 12/6 we have sold about 1500 or our 2000 copy print run. This we never expected (see “Printing” above). We now need to decide whether or not we should do a second printing, and if so, how to go about it. (Do we still want to do our own distribution? Do we want to go to POD and sacrifice the quality and look of the physical book? Should we just fade out and say–well that’s that?) We have now made a profit. Sometime soon Richey and I will take some of this profit out and pay ourselves for a soupçon of our time. But here’s the thing: moving away from the economics and into the mushy: lots of people like our book. If the summer was a crazed mania of excited putting-together; the fall has been a slow, warm, soul-enlarging process of people in the community finding us, cheering us, coming to hear us, thanking us. Word has not spread virally: it has spread by word of mouth, bookseller to customer, reader to friend. We wanted to do something for the city and at this point we can say, Hey. We did that. Oh and here are a few pics: http://pinterest.com/rustbeltchic/rust-belt-chic/ comments Emma Johnson replied on August 23rd, 2012. Thanks for the transparency – can’t wait to hear about sales. Also (perhaps more) interested in the marketing/publicity efforts and expenses. Anne Trubek replied on August 23rd, 2012. thanks, Emma. Marketing/publicity is just our time and some money bundled into what we’re paying the person who is doing our distribution. we’ve gotten a lot of both very easily as a result of folks getting behind the project. We have over 100 copies sold in pre-sales, and big events planned for right after release. I estimate we’ll sell 1/3 total at events. We’ll see Rick Hurse replied on September 5th, 2012. Nicht kompetent, nur schlechte Erfahrungen mit EK Systems GmbH, Mozartstraße 92 Klagenfurt, Anton Brescak. Michelle Rafter replied on September 25th, 2012. Congrats on hitting the black so soon! Michelle Rafter Anne Trubek replied on September 25th, 2012. thanks, Michelle! Anne Trubek replied on October 9th, 2012. I just realized I didn’t include proofreading in this breakdown. We have a flotilla of volunteer proofreaders, and we also paid for a second-round read over at “friends only” discount. Add $300 to expenses. David Ryan replied on October 10th, 2012. Congrats seeing this project through to profitability! masonxhamilton replied on October 27th, 2012. No offense, but you won’t be in the black until you include your labor costs, taxes, cost of money, some cost for your work area overhead, utilities, communications, insurance, etc., etc. I suggest you treat this enterprise like you would any other business and follow standard accounting procedures – and that way at some point you will be able to compare your book publishing venture with other ventures on an ROI basis. Right now you treating it like a typical hobbyist – only tracking selective costs. Anne Trubek replied on October 27th, 2012. Well, you’re right, in some respects, especially about taxes. But as a full-time freelancer, I can roll many of the other costs into extant ones–and let’s face it, it doesn’t cost much to run the electricity on a computer. As for my labor costs: I’ve written books via standard publishing (and articles for magazines, etc.) and received far, far, far less ROI than this one will result in. I’m well aware of the effort/reward balance when it comes to my writing and balance. So no offense taken except for the hobbyist comment. Julia Munroe Martin replied on October 29th, 2012. This is so helpful to me (as an author considering self publishing). Thank you. I always knew it would be expensive (and I was thinking primarily of editing/copy-editing I’ll need to hire out) and I was right. Thank you for providing one of the best and most concise breakdowns I’ve seen. I join the others in saying congratulations on hitting black so soon! http://www.healmyselfnow.com replied on November 28th, 2012. I’m impressed, I have to say. Really not often do I encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Your concept is excellent; the issue is something that not sufficient persons are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled throughout this in my seek for one thing regarding this. John P Kealing replied on January 11th, 2013. Haha, for a “hobbyist” you’re doing alright! And you seem to have it worked out to a point farther along the path than quite a few others I’ve been reading about around the blogs. Great work Anne. Best wishes, John. Leave a Reply Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (will not be published) (required) Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.