Self-Publishing Profits

I can't possibly tell you how much money you will make. But I can help you figure out how much it costs to self-publish and then look at what it will take to break even. Here is a summary of your expenses:


Web Site and design ??? - depends on how much you do yourself
Cover design $250
Editors $2,000+++ - again it depends on how much help you need
Printing Costs $5,000+ Fees 55% of cover price
Distributor Fees 30% of Net


Using the example from earlier where you have a book that retails for $50, remember that you get $25 for each book sold. The distributor takes 30% so you end up getting $17.50 per copy. If you remember from before, it costs you at least $5,000 to get the book printed. So you will have to sell 300 books to break even. But don't forget that you probably hired an editor and cover designer and maybe even a web designer to promote the book. This all costs money and the number of books that it takes to break even increases. After you pay off your huge credit card debt, all the money goes in your pocket as profit.


Getting your first check takes a while. If you are selling through Amazon, it takes them about a month to get you set up in their computer system and post your book as being in stock. At the end of each month Amazon sends you a report telling you how much money you made. It then takes another 30+ days for them to send you a check. If you are able to get a distributor like IPG to sell your books, getting the first check takes about five months. The first month is spent sending them the books and waiting for them to ship the books out to warehouses around the country. Once the books are listed as being in stock, the distributor waits four months before sending you a check. This gives them the opportunity to see how many books get returned to their warehouse and they subtract this from how many books were sold. They figure that four months is enough time to account for returns that will offset recent sales.


One thing to note is that if a bookstore does decide to carry your book, then these sales are accounted for immediately. But many books sit on the bookshelves for six months before the bookstores decide to return them to the distributor. This means that you think you made a lot of money and you got a fat check from the distributor, but within the year a lot of those books will get returned and negate current sales. For example, I just found out that the Borders chain and Chapters chain (in Canada) has started displaying my books in some of their stores. This is bad news. Consider the Chapters chain. I doubt if I will sell any of those books b/c the value of the US dollar has plumetted. The Canadian price on the book is 40% higher than the US price and now that the Canadian Loonie is so strong it is cheaper for Canadians to buy from an American site like than it is to buy from their local bookstore (they save more than 50% after the Amazon discounts). I wouldn't be surprised if almost every book that gets put in a Chapters bookstore gets returned in the next six months to a year and I will have to give that money back. At first its exciting to see these big numbers on your monthly sales report. But then you realize that no one actually bought the book yet and they could all be returned one day. What a bummer.

The bookstore scam

Oh yeah - here's something I learned about how bookstores work. You have to pay them to sell your book! Yes, they charge you to carry your book. Every few months that have these "promotions" where you can have your book listed in a catalog that they review for purchasing. If you want to be listed in the catalog then you have to pay from $1,000 to $3,000. They say that this lets them know that you want to "establish a strong relationship" with them. What a scam! I had no idea that all these books in the bookstore were paid to be there. Another scam is that they will do a new book promotion where they will put your book on a special table where it will get people's attention. Again, this costs thousands. When I saw those book tables in the aisles I always thought that bookstores did that on their own just to sell more books. I didn't realize that the publishers are paying big bucks to get their books put there. To me this sounds very similar to Payola in the music industry (paying radio stations to play your songs). Although Payola is illegal in the music industry, it is the norm in the publishing industry. Needless to say, I don't make enough money from my books to even consider this extra expense. If you want to buy my books you have to ask for them at the front desk and they will order them from the local warehouse. I can't afford to pay each bookstore thousands of dollars just to put my book on the shelf.



That's it! Now quit daydreaming of being famous

and get back to writing your book ;-)

All in all, self-publishing has been pretty good to me so far. Even though I hate writing books (I'm much happier sitting in front of a computer writing tons of code for hours at a time), I like knowing that people are out there buying my book every month and I get to make a few bucks off of it. And it's great getting emails from people telling me how much my book helped them with their project. If you want to be a writer, the key is first creating a website and getting people to go to it. As your website builds activity you can be working on the book and showing sections of it on the site to keep people coming back.


The worst part is actually writing the book. A lot of people think that you have to be really smart to write a book. I disagree. You just have to have a high tolerance for pain. Take your friends and family out to a really nice dinner before you get started. That way they will at least have a good memory of you because you are about to disappear for the next six months. Somebody once told me that you don't always have to be smart to get a Ph.D. You just have to spend a lot of time at school. Writing a book is like writing a dissertation that you hope other people will actually read. :-) It's a long, hard road to go down. But if you can pull that part off, then its all down hill from there and you'll be so glad you did it. It's really something to look at a book and see your name on the cover. :-)


If you found this site helpful and it motivates you to self-publish rather than sign with a publisher then please link to these pages.
Good luck!