Turning a profit

I have waited quite a few moons to be able to make this post– but this month has finally done it.

Threats of Sky and Sea is finally earning a profit!

(All you need for my emotions here are 0:20-026)

Wait, what do you mean it’s earning a profit? You’ve sold books before now, right?

Yes, thankfully I have! But between cover design, formatting, editing, and publicity, I tossed a good chunk of change into making Threats of Sky and Sea a success… roughly $2,000 worth.

Though I released in May, it’s only now that I’m starting to actually profit, meaning I’ve earned back the money that I’ve invested. I expected that, and knew I was in this for the long haul, but man, it feels good to be officially earning from my writing.

I’ve always found posts from fellow self-publishers regarding their sales and budgeting hugely helpful, so I figured I’d share some things.

Let’s talk sales. How do you do on different platforms?

Kobo– 1 sale since release.

Smashwords– 11 total sales since release. (1 directly from Smashwords, 7 on iBooks, 1 on Oyster, 2 on Scribd)


Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 7.15.29 PM

Print (Createspace)- 79 copies since release

Kindle– 905 copies since release

As you can see, Kindle is far and away my best seller, with print copies (via Createspace) a distant, trailing second. Even on Nook, my second best e-book performer, you can see the drastic difference in the numbers, particularly how sales trickle off two months after release. In the future I may employ a sales strategy where I release across all platforms and after a decent amount of time, enroll exclusively in Kindle Select for the increased benefits.


The physical product:
Full jacket cover design: $450
Editing: $455
Formatting: $150
Product total: $1,055

*This reflects the marketing that I paid for. There was plenty of free promo that I did as well.
Netgalley: $80
Lexile score: $30
Blog tour (20 stops): $150
Giveaways (includes shipping, giveaway items, and shipping supplies): $391
Swag: $115
Facebook promotion: $60
Sale ads: $35
Professional author photograph: $75
Marketing total: $936

Grand total: $1,991

Whoa, that’s… quite a chunk of change. Did you really need all of that?

No. I don’t think so.

But as far as the physical product itself goes, I feel good about what I spent and what I got in return. My cover designer, copy editor, and formatter all did a brilliant job and were worth every cent.

Likewise, on the marketing side, Giselle at Xpresso Book Tours put together a great tour for me. And I saw a really great amount of reviews from putting Threats of Sky and Sea on Netgalley through the Patchwork Press co-op. The sale ads were good for exposure and for the sale and I didn’t have a professional headshot, so that that was a one-time (or, at least, several books’ worth) charge.

What do you think you’ll do differently for future books?

Order wayyyyy less swag— and do fewer physical giveaways. The shipping charges and purchase costs were more than I think I needed to spend and I still have magnets, postcards, and buttons festooning my room months after publication. They were things I wanted because I see so many traditional publishers with them, but monetarily they didn’t make a lot of sense for me. Unless I participate in a conference or a signing in the future, I think I can order one kind of swag and cut the amount down drastically.

I also won’t be paying for my next YA book to get a Lexile score. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, as I understand it, a Lexile score is a number that is assigned to a book based on its vocabulary, sentence structure, and themes. Many schools participate in the Lexile program and students are asked to read books that fit within certain criteria and have a certain Lexile score. I saw what I think was a sliiiiight uptick in my paperback copies due to Lexile, but only slight. Lexile relies on ISBNs to link the copies– and only my Smashwords editions and print copies have ISBNs.

I mentioned how great my blog tour was, and I stand by that, BUT I think that next time I’ll do a tour with fewer stops and therefore less cost. Someday I may even coordinate my tours myself, but I definitely, definitely won’t be doing any more paid Facebook promotion. The ‘likes’ I got there aren’t ones that have engaged any further.

Looking way, way off into the future, especially as I plan to broaden my horizons with audience and genre, I’d like to learn to do my own covers and formatting– but right now I don’t have the skills, so I’m much happier paying someone else for their beautiful work. Also, I didn’t have the patience to upload directly onto iBooks, but I’ll definitely skip the Smashwords distribution step  for iBooks in the future to improve my royalty rate from iBooks slightly.

There’s no one way to self-publish– and I’m excited to try different methods myself in the future, but that’s a pretty good summary of the numbers and what I’ve learned so far! If you’re a self-publisher, what strategies do you use that have worked differently for you? And if you have any questions about the process, I am more than happy to try to answer!

10 thoughts on “Turning a profit

  1. Eeeeep. Congrats, Jennifer! I’m so glad you were able to finally make this post that all your hard work and hard earned money put into TOSAS is paying off (as it should be!!). Thanks for sharing and bring on ROSAS 😀

  2. I was on that tour and loved your book! We do tours too and it’s always interesting to see differences and the reach those tours have. I don’t know if I would have gotten to read your book without the tour, so not only will I be getting the next book (can’t wait!!!), but your book was also promoted to my followers. Anyway, it’s fun to see the breakdown. Congrats!!!

  3. I read this on Kboards and its a great post. Super helpful. I had never heard of Patchwork Press and their access to Netgalley, so that alone was a good find. Congratulations and thanks.

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