11 December 2011 by Published in: Uncategorized 3 comments

I’ve written a fair amount about the importance of maintaining artistic integrity when writing – of writing for the joy of it, and striving to better yourself each time you sit down to do so.

Now, I’d like to discuss the unromantic side of writing, namely the business of self-publishing. That business has little to do with writing. It’s a quality-control and product engineering exercise, followed by a marketing campaign. I’d advise anyone considering wading into the treacherous waters of self-publishing to take off their artist hat and don their business chapeau. At the point you are CEO of Self-Pub, Inc. you aren’t a writer. You’re a business person. And the labor of love you’ve slaved over for months or years is a product – your product, which you’ll be trying to entice jaded, skeptical readers to buy.

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BIG NEWS: Absolutely must read book review by bestselling author Steven Konkoly for King of Swords.

BIG NEWS: Sneak Preview excerpt of the King of Swords prequel, Night of the Assassin, can be seen here.

NEW NEW INTERVIEW: With A Book A Day, on An Angel With Fur and my process.

NEW INTERVIEW: Brand new guest blog/interview with Sibel Hoge.

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As product managers, you’ll need to deal with two items before you move on to marketing – a topic I’ll cover in a separate blog. The first is quality control, and the second is packaging.

In the book business, editing is your quality control. Book cover design is packaging.

First thing you need to do is create a budget for both. What’s reasonable for your start-up? If you are thinking, “Nothing,” that’s about what you’re likely to sell of the product. Contrary to the aspirations of millions of like-minded authors, delivering a shoddily crafted product in an ill-conceived or amateurish wrapper isn’t going to be on the list of most readers’ “turn ons.” So you need to plan to invest in your start-up’s packaging and QC. If you don’t, you can expect your readers to return the favor – you weren’t willing to take the steps to create a professional presentation, so they’ll be unlikely to devote their time to purchasing your undifferentiated scribblings.

What I’d advise is that you do this like you would any other business. Set aside a budget for editing and book design, and then calculate how many books it will take at whatever your price point is to break even. Anything over that number is your profit, assuming you’ve invested nothing in marketing.

In other industries, how long does it typically take to break even? In the restaurant business, minimum expectation is to lose money for a year. Minimum. In other businesses, it can go to two years. Or more. So what’s your expectation for profitability for Self-Publish, Inc.? If you’re thinking profitability within a few months without any investment in quality control or packaging, you’re delusional. If six months to a year with a coherent marketing plan and reasonable investment in QC and packaging, maybe you’re on the right track.

When looking at editing, there are two types. Both are indispensable. There’s general editing, and line-by-line copy editing. I pay for both. The skill set of the copy editor is completely different than my general editor. I wouldn’t expect my copy editor to suggest alternative words or sentence structure or question whether paragraphs or even whole chapters need revision or deletion, any more than I would expect my general editor to catch every comma, apostrophe or semi-colon. It’s different work. So plan on an investment in both. I’ve read several books I’ve liked a lot, which had been “edited,” but which contained page after page of missing words, ill-advised lack of proper punctuation, awkward structure, etc. These are books that are 90% there, but lack the 10% they require to be professional quality. You don’t want to be in that camp. If anyone wants the contact info for my team, e-mail me via the Contacts button and I’ll be happy to make an introduction.

Likewise, you need a compelling, evocative and professionally-created cover. It’s the first impression anyone has of your work. Make it a winner. It needs to tell a story, or set a mood, and ideally convey the essentials of the genre and story. I list below my next two releases – Night of the Assassin, the prequel to King of Swords, which are both assassination thrillers, and The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, which is a serial trilogy involving a U.S. conspiracy going back to the 1970s, when clandestine groups within the government decided to get into the murder-for-hire and drug-running business. The covers need to tell readers what they should expect, and be legible as thumbnails. I think these do the job. And you don’t need to spend a fortune. These were created for under $175 apiece. If you’d like my artist’s contact info, likewise e-mail me.

So the take-away here is plan on investing in QC and packaging, or your books will languish and be dismissed as inferior, unworthy of consideration. It’s a competitive world out there, and if you aren’t making the investment to do it right, your competitor is, and you’ll be roadkill. That simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Join Russell Blake and 8 of his author friends at WoMen’s Literary Cafe’s Mystery Book Launch, December 13-15. Ten authors will discount their ebooks to just 99 cents. Buy 3 get 1 FREE!”

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Comments

  1. Mon 12th Dec 2011 at 1:13 am

    I pay myself $8,000 per book ($100/hr), then I budget $1,000 of publishing costs per book.

    So, to cover the one-book $9,000, I need to sell 3000 eBooks at $4.99 (assuming 70% royalty.) Should take about two years, max.

    After that? Profit until I die.

    …which would be an excellent bumper sticker.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Wed 14th Dec 2011 at 6:18 am

      Those don’t seem like unreasonable expectations, depending upon book length and types of editing. I wish you much success with it.

      Reply
  2. Wed 14th Dec 2011 at 8:20 pm

    Since I’m not a full time writer, I don’t consider my time writing as compensated time. I do all of this in between a whole lot of other confusion. I figure editing and cover costs into my initial cost basis, and keep loose track of marketing expenses (review copies, website, proof copies-since I offer a hard copy). I haven’t spent more than $50 on advertising. I think the cover and editing are your entry ticket to a fairly level playing field among other self-published authors. Wrangling reviews out of people is the next step to awakening reader interest. Great post, Russell.

    Reply

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