Let’s talk financials

Because why not? I like to think that I’m a scientist at heart, except, you know, without all that rigorous attention to detail and obsession over statistics and sample sizes. Also, this is a set up post to discuss KU and writerly plans and suggestions.

Joking aside, I do think financial transparency* is a great thing and it puts things into perspective. (all separate links to various authors talking money) Like how someone can be a famous enough YouTuber to be mobbed at the Starbucks at which they work, yet be working at said Starbucks. Or how many entertainers can have a zillion (made up number) followers and yet still be eating instant noodles.

We consistently hear about the outliers, the E.L Jameses, Amanda Hockings, J. K. Rowlings of the publishing world and we also hear of their counterparts, the starving artists who make less than $1000 a year. But what about the rest of the authorial world? The silently toiling masses who (maybe?) neither starve nor feast?

Spoiler: for now, count me amongst the ones who would be starving if we were talking writing income alone

But I figure if enough authors came out with numbers, then we would have a better idea of what’s going on. Not a clear idea, oh no, because then we get into variables like luck, time spent, words written, books published, award nominations, sheer crazy, people known, money/effort spent on promotion, hours on your knees in front of your patron deity of choice, etc.

But a better idea.

And that’s all science really is, isn’t it? More pieces to the puzzle.

So, as Jim Hines said, sample size of one and all that. Shall we?

I published Phoenix Chosen in 2014. My first deposit from Amazon was on 11/28 for 20.68. If I only count digital sales, then I made 38.06 in 2014. If I count print-on-demand as well, which I’m disinclined to do because I’m fairly certain all the POD sales were to my parents, then I made 52.82 for 2014.

Considering the initial outlay was in the thousands, count me very deeply in the hole.

Ariagne was published March 29th 2015.

As I’ve said before, it did pretty well. Much better overall in terms of paid downloads and pages read than Phoenix Chosen did. Again, I’m not sure if it was because of pricing, genre, better/more accessible writing, amount of incense burned, etc. However, that doing well didn’t spill over into PC buys that I could see.

There’s this beautiful $78 dollar deposit at the end of June, but I’m not sure what’s going on there because the release was near two months ago, etc. That was the highest single month income ever, btw.

If I only count digital income, then I made 168.99 in 2015. If I count POD as well, then the number goes up to 221.52. I’d say at least 50 to 60% of that is KU income. There were some months where it was KU only and some months where there was no income at all. Hence, btw, my putting the books back in KU. More on that later.

I didn’t keep proper notes on KU versus buys in 2015, which I will be remedying in 2016 so as to give a clearer picture of the going wide versus going KU route. Keeping in mind, of course, KU right now seems to favor longer works, assuming you keep your audience’s interest. Ariagne is estimated to be about 169 pages and Phoenix Chosen is about 350 or something  thereabouts.

If I don’t count the immense hole I dug for myself with Phoenix Chosen, then technically I’m about $20 in the black for 2015. I think I spent around $200 for formatting, the ebook cover, and website costs. I spent other money that I should probably be counting as well, like the 5 pack of covers from, but I’m not for the purposes of making myself feel good about myself. *grin*

I like the thought of being in the black. Well, insofar as the art paid for itself to be put out there. In terms of anything else? Naaaaah.

But let’s drill down further.

I adored Phoenix Chosen’s cover. I also loved the work the formatter did, especially on the print version. And let’s not forget the editing.

However, none of that came particularly cheaply.

When I hit publish in 2014, I had a day job. So it was easy to make the decision to pay for a $600 dollar cover and $835 for ebook and print formatting (most of that for print, IIRC). I also paid $250 for content editing and proofreading. Btw, I made 67.29 total for both years for the POD books, making the decision to go print somewhat fiscally irresponsible. **

It is nice to have a nice solid thing to chunk at someone when they ask “so what have you accomplished with this writing thing?”, however. Might be worth it just for ….nah. It’s not. It’s sweet and all to have a hard cover copy of your book and all, but….

I’m generously not counting all the incidentals like cost of website hosting, banner graphic art, wordpress theme to help me set up the site, etc, that I paid for that year. Yes, it’s on my list for “how much am I in the hole?” but not as salient for our purposes right now.

However, in 2015 I knew I was heading into no-income land due to health issues. And PC, much as I loved the end product, hadn’t come within the solar system of paying for itself much less earning profit.

Therefore, with Ariagne, I made very different decisions. IIRC, the cover cost me around $80, the formatting I got someone to do for $20 off Fiverr***, and I relied on non-paid editing services****.  Website hosting was about $100 or so.

Which, in passing, one has to wonder, all things considered, if I shouldn’t go back to a free site…?

So. Decisions. The nitty gritty. My pride and foibles, etc.

Anyway, that’s 2015. We’ll see how 2016 goes.




* I find it vastly amusing that in the comments there was the ubiquitous person who goes “self-publishing is the way to go! there, shall you find salvation and toilets of pure gold!” More on this later, but suffice to say, no, SP is great and all, but it is not the way to salvation or being able to shit on gold.

** Yes, yes, the clear take home message here is to either find cheaper people to outsource things to, or to do it all myself. Like I said, variables. YMMV. I happen to be a complete novice at graphic art, don’t seem to have sculptable amounts of talent, and little spoons.

*** Yes, yes, digital sweatshops, outsourcing work that drives down the price of what people in the US can get paid for, etc. I feel terrible. I do. But needs must. And speaking as someone living in a country where $20 is a hella lot of money, hey, I’d work for a fiver too.

**** The thing is, this was only really possible because Ariagne was 1. a much shorter book 2. a much less complicated book. I do not think that I can safely do this for Phoenix Awoken without either A. imposing too much on my friends, even with barter and B. having a lot things slip through the cracks that later end up making me cry. As it is, despite PC going through multiple rounds of eyes, some of whom were paid to look at it, things still slipped through. I’m convinced that a novel needs at least three professional editors at this point because brain-fatigue is a real and scary thing.


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