Self-publishing on a budget changes the way you create your book. It forces you to make decisions on what is an important aspect of your book to invest in and what other aspects can you go without. Your book will pay off in many ways beyond money, for example one could gain more confidence in their skills and creativity, meet new creatives, feel accomplishment and have a physical copy of their work that can be passed down in the family. These are all priceless feats, but sometimes we are put in situations where we can't look past the risk of spending money that we may not get back. In this post I discuss ideas and insights into publishing on a budget.
Your Window of Opportunity to Break Even
When you release your book, family and friends are going to be your network of support and your first customers. These early confirmed sales are a great opportunity to make back some money. One of the ways to ensure that these first sales financially benefit you, is to choose a marketplace that offers a fair amount in royalties. If you direct all your customers to Amazon or another big corporation’s selling platform, keep in mind how much of the cut they are taking.
When I first released my book Arty the Alien, I sent family and friends to my own personal shop and my Etsy. A purchase through my shop was basically a royalty haven, Etsy does take a larger chunk but not as much as Amazon and other selling platforms. I was able to break even with my early sales by strategically planning my release and choosing my selling platform wisely.
If money isn’t an issue, you may want to push people to a large selling platform to open up the door for ratings and a more favorable place in the dark pit known as the algorithm. However, if you’re like me and publishing on a budget, try to find a selling platform that gives you the most royalties. Your family and friends are guaranteed sales so make them count!
Do the Math
Calculate how much profit you are earning per sale. Make sure to work in the price of printing each book and the amount that your marketplace takes from each sale. Also account for the fee’s spent to get your book published. After you’ve figured out how much real profit you will make from each sale, figure out how many books you have to sell to break even. Uncovering the truth of your earnings will help you better direct your goals to match your financial means.
Paperback or Perfect Bound?
There are two forms of book printing, paper back and perfect bound. Perfect bound glues all the pages into the spine, paperback uses staples to attach the paper. Of course, perfect bound is prettier, but paperback is cheaper and sometimes those sacrifices make sense financially. The staple isn’t going to de-value the craft and beauty of your work. If anyone likes your work less because of a staple then they probably don’t deserve to see your work.
The more books you print, the better wholesale price you'll get. Less copies does not always mean less financial risk. This is where the math part comes in, to make back enough money to break even, you would have to sell a set amount of books. Buying a larger bulk of books at a cheaper rate may get you back to budget safety faster than printing small batches for a higher fee. This is because it would cost you less to print, therefore your profit per book is up, making it require a lesser amount of book sales to break even.
Printing on demand is also a possibility, but keep in mind the amount of royalties printing on demand platforms will take.
I believe self-publishing is a space for inclusivity, which means that anyone can publish no matter their budget or financial means. If you can’t afford to self-publish right now because you wouldn’t be able to pay your illustrator, formatter or any of the services required, take your time, be patient and don’t give up on your dream just yet. If you can afford to get the wheels turning and start bringing your manuscript to life but you really need to break even, then just know that there are ways and it is possible. This is your publishing journey, access the power of owning your process by assessing where you can make sacrifices and where you can’t, where your investment goes and what that investment means to you.