Jasmine Angell's Blog

Imagination is freedom…on writing, self-publishing and all things fantasy

Lessons in Self-Publishing – The Money Side of Things

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This post is dedicated to my experience with the “money side of things” in regards to self-publishing.  I hope to answer any questions you may have about why my paperback Luminous is being sold for different prices depending on which website you buy it from.  I will be the first to admit that accounting and money matters are not my forte and I was a quite a bit shocked when my coordinator at Lulu emailed me the manufacturing cost for producing one of my paperbacks.  Most paperbacks are sold for $8.99 or at the most $14.99 but my manufacturing cost was even higher than that.  The main reason for the high cost is because my paperback is 6” x 9” and 534 pages which is twice as big as the average paperback.  No wonder publishing company editors whittle novels down, it just costs way too much to print large manuscripts!  Another reason for the high cost is that unlike mass market paperbacks that stock the shelves of bookstores across the country, self-published books aren’t mass produced by the thousands and so there is no mass printing discount.

But that’s just the manufacturing cost.   After I learned what it cost to produce the book, I was given the formula used to calculate the actual retail price and I was in for a real heart attack!  Typically, retailers like Amazon and Lulu multiply the manufacturing or wholesale cost of the book by two to cover their overhead costs such as paying their printers and making certain they collect a profit.  Well no one in their right mind was going to buy a paperback that cost more than a hardcover which typically runs between $18.00- $25.00.

It gets even worse.  At this point, I hadn’t even factored in my royalty.  If I wanted to make any sort of profit off the sale of the paperback, I’d have to raise the price even more.  Granted, as a writer, I’m not in this business to make money, that’s not why I’m doing this, there are much easier ways to make money than venture into self-publishing which takes an incredible amount of time and we’ve all heard the saying, “Time is money.”  But I’d invested my own money into getting the paperback ready for publishing and to learn that I was not in a position to make much of a royalty was devastating to say the least.  I decided that above all else, I had to make the paperback as affordable as possible so that I could get it into the hands of readers in order to grow my fan base.  Publishing is nothing without the fans.

With this in mind, I was able to work with my coordinator at Lulu and get the retail price down to $24.36 by waiving my royalty from Amazon all together.  This was the lowest they could possibly go on the retail price and still offer the paperback as a viable product that a retailer like Amazon could sell and still make a profit.  Retailers are in it to make money, bottom line.  Distributors will not sell a product that they can’t make a standard profit off of because they have their own overhead to pay in order to stay in business.  If the book is purchased through Lulu’s website, I will make a small royalty, it’s worked into their equations since I’ve published my book through them but I’m realistic.  I know that only a small percentage of books, if any, will be bought through Lulu.  The majority of buyers will look to Amazon since it’s the most popular online source for books.

In my opinion, the price is still way too high at $24.36 but the only way I could get the price lowered was if I started cutting chapters out of my book and we were way past that point.  I also wasn’t prepared to just walk away from Lulu when I learned how the pricing worked.  I had already spent 12 weeks working with their production departments, sending them cover image files, reading through galley and cover proofs, sending edits, etc.  It wasn’t until I was fully invested, after the process was complete and we were ready to send the book to be officially published that I was informed of the pricing.  I thoroughly enjoyed working with Lulu throughout the entire process and my coordinators kept me informed every step of the way.  It was a great first experience with self-publishing, up until the pricing shock.  But that’s life, you live and you learn.

On my website at http://www.jasmineangell.com, I’m selling the paperback for $15.99 plus shipping.  When I started this self-publishing adventure, I hadn’t planned on selling my books on my website or packaging and shipping them myself but alas, if that’s what it takes to get my book into the hands of readers at a reasonable price, I will gladly do it.  Unlike online distributors such as Amazon and Lulu, I have little overhead and when I buy my paperback in bulk, I get a slight discount which means I’m able to sell it for much, much less than other retailers.  Again, I’m not in this to get rich, far from it.  Every penny I make from any sales goes right back into the Psyne series so that I can get the sequel into paperback format, promote my series, etc.

Lessons learned:  In the future, I strive to publish a paperback that is half the size of Luminous which will cost less to manufacture and consequently, will be more affordable in the competitive marketplace.  There are many self-publishing companies out there with seemingly affordable packages for writers that want the global distribution services to get their books noticed.  Unfortunately, sometimes the author doesn’t see much of any royalty from the sales of their book.  From my research, the self-publishing companies that do support higher royalties for authors offer packages that are just plain too expensive.  So it’s a double-edged sword depending on what services you are looking for.  I realize that all authors self-publishing today have had different experiences, this is mine.  I hope my experience sheds light on this process for writers looking to self-publish for the first time.  No matter what, keep dreaming, keep persevering and above all, keep writing!  Never give up!

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Author: Jasmine Angell

I'm an Arizona native living in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm the author of the YA fantasy novels, The Psyne Series, and on a daily basis I juggle the creative life with a happily energetic family life. I love reading, dancing, snowboarding, and planning Victorian tea parties. I'm obsessed with all things Steampunk and I'm certifiably horse crazy.

6 thoughts on “Lessons in Self-Publishing – The Money Side of Things

  1. Jasmine,

    I use Createspace to publish my paperbacks. We have a book that is 534 pages and our author priced it at $18.99, but it could easily be priced at $12.99 and still make a profit even with expanded distribution… a very small profit per book, but it could be done. Have you tried Createspace? I can’t remember the main reason I chose to go with them over Lightning Source, Lulu and several others that I looked at before getting started, but I am pretty sure POD price point was a major factor. Feel free to e-mail me if you want to talk about this further 😉

  2. I’m still working on my first novel, but I plan to self publish when I’m done. Thanks for the fantastic information!!

    • E.L., glad I could shed some light on this crazy self-publishing business. There’s a lot of info out there and when I was researching, my head felt like it was spinning out of control. So much to consider! But it’s do-able. And it gets easier once you’re on the publishing side. Nothing is a substitute for actual experience! Happy writing!

  3. Very interesting post. My boyfriend and I have actually had discussions on the length of my book. He thinks it’s too short and that a requirement (for him) of buying a paperback book does come down to thickness. But yeah, his experience is with mass paperbacks and I never thought about the cost for non mass produced books. Thanks for the information and giving me something new to think about. This whole self-publishing thing has such a steep learning curve, I’ll take all the information I can get. 🙂

    • Don’t worry, everything in life comes with its own set of pros and cons and self-publishing is no different, ha, ha. The best thing you can do is dive into the self-publishing machine after you’ve researched it to death. Then you’ll know that you’re making informed decisions that are right for you. As far as length of books are concerned, every reader is different. Some are put off by a large novel and would prefer something that requires a smaller commitment of their time while others eat it up. You can’t please everybody! Ultimately, it’s up to you because you’re the best judge of what your story needs or doesn’t need. Happy writing!

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