As you know if you’re a regular reader of this blog or a follower of my work, I’ve been tweaking my operating procedures over the last few years so that new titles (generally) are profitable before ever going to print. Whether this is through fundraising campaigns (Kickstarter, et cetera), through pre-sales, through sale of the cover art, or when those fail through digital-only release pending sufficient interest to fund a paper release, the idea is that rather than investing several hundred dollars to put a new title in print and maybe never earning it back, to invest money the title has already earned. (Or, in some cases, money other titles have earned above and beyond their own costs.) Most of the titles I’ve released since the end of 2009 have either broken even and begun earning a profit already (several before even being published!), or are very close.
Unfortunately, most of my titles published prior to Cheating, Death have not been as lucky. I’d been operating on that old, trusted idea that one must invest money to make money, and that with perseverance I could profit in the long run. Sadly, the more I try to apply old, trusted ideas (or really anything resembling “mainstream wisdom” or following “the rules”), the more I prove that they don’t work for me. Anyway, I keep track of the discrete per-title expenses and revenue for every title I work on, and for seven titles and the Untrue Tales Series, I’m still “in the red”. The money I’ve spent specifically on publishing them has not yet been earned back, let alone have they earned enough revenue to begin to cover overhead. (Or to fund the publication of future titles.)
Untrue Tales is a sort of special case. It comprises six different novels, written over a period of almost seven years and released as at least eight different paperback books, each with their own costs, not to mention the eBook and audiobook versions. Book One, Book Two, and Book Three were released as individual paperbacks, there was a combined edition containing Book One and Book Two, then one with Book One, Book Two, and Book Three, there was a super-cheap saddle-stitched galley/magazine-style version of Book One, and then last year the re-release of The First Untrue Trilogy along with the first print release of The Second Untrue Trilogy. Individual eBooks used to be available for Books 1-5, individual audiobooks are still available for all six books, and the current eBook editions include the two trilogies and (on kindle only) book one. Added up individually, Book One, Book Two, Book Three, and Book Five have earned more money (since I started doing this full-time in 2008; I could not find earlier records when I started seriously building my spreadsheets) than I’ve spent on them, Books Four and Six are very slightly in the red, and because of the cost of the re-release (just over half-paid-for, so far), neither trilogy is technically profitable. But: If I add together all the expenses across all versions and editions of all the books and releases of the series, the whole series is only about $208 in the red right now.
The other books are more (generally) straight-forward.
So here’s the goal/challenge I’m going to try to tackle for 2013: I want to get the eight titles I currently have in the red at least to break-even.
I’ve set up a page over at modernevil.com to track the challenge’s progress. Right now, having not sold any books so far this year, it’s all zeroes on the earnings lines. Some titles will be easier to reach break-even than others (Dragons’ Truth, for example, is only $9 from being “profitable”, while my poetry books have effectively never earned any money and have a long way to go), so I hope to see some early successes and some dragging-on. I’ll try to keep the page updated as frequently as is possible; I get trustable updates from eBook resellers about once a month, from Podiobooks.com at irregular intervals (though donations there to my titles are even more irregular), and if/when I make direct sales I can update it immediately.
To a certain extent, this is practice for the new periodical anthology I’m trying to put together, where I’ll need to publicly track the total-earnings-over-time because author payouts will be tied directly to reaching earnings milestones. Theoretically I’ll have to put together a similar page which tracks the earnings and goals across multiple periodical releases; I’ll probably put together something more graphical for that. Something reminiscent of Kickstarter and stretch goals and all that. In fact I might update the page I just linked to, if I think of a better/more-graphical way to do it. As it is now, it’s a pretty dense page.
The other side of this is that I’ll actually have to put some effort into marketing, into making people aware of these books and that I’m trying to reach these (relatively reasonable) sales goals for this year. I’ll probably try to make it coincide with another marketing idea I’d had, which is that I have enough different titles available now that I could focus on one specific title per week and not repeat myself for at least six months – or give each title a couple of weeks and have things to say all year. I don’t want to do the terrible sort of promotion where it’s just a title and a link and “buy my stuff!!!”, but instead to talk about each story/novel/project in a way that’s more meaningful. Write blog posts about what I was thinking of when I wrote it, what went into it, and perhaps go ahead and give away all the cool little things I put into my books (that no one ever seems to notice – or at least they aren’t telling me (or mentioning it in reviews) if they do), explain the connections, explain the relationships and imagery and themes… Though with the 2013 Break-even Challenge, I may want to start with these 8-ish things, and then repeat some of them later in the year if they aren’t reaching their goals… I’ll have to see how it goes. I’m not sure I’ll actually be able to maintain a single, focused promotional/marketing push for an entire year, but making it closer to something I don’t mind doing (writing, and writing about my writing) should help.
Oh, and to wrap up about the 2013 Break-even Challenge: If you want to help, the easiest way would be to order the paperbacks directly from me, and signed is better. You can buy copies for your friends and families as gifts, too; shipping costs are more reasonable if your order more than one thing. (And if you’re in the Phoenix area, I can hand-deliver your purchases!) If you want to pay more than the asking price for anything (if, say, you want to buy signed copies of Both Untrue Trilogies, but you want to pay the same $25/title I put on all my other works, giving me $150 for the two books) don’t hesitate to email me directly and we can work something out. Or if you want to commission a new piece of art (or buy a piece of my existing art) and have the money go toward one of these books, I can do that, too. Or if you already have the book in your preferred format, all your friends already have it, and you just want to donate some money to show how much you loved it, we can work something out for that, too – let me know. With a little luck and a little perseverance, I’m confident we can get these titles into the black before the end of 2013.
…maybe not the poetry…