Publishing Virtual Danger

Well, the fundraiser for Virtual Danger is over, now, and it was a stressful yet resounding success. I mentioned it here when the fundraiser began, I think. Stressful in large part because it went right up to the last day looking like it wouldn’t even come close to the goal, even while the costs of the project continued to increase. My initial $300 goal was based on just the cost of setting up and printing Virtual Danger, but then I ordered DNGR T-Shirts for my wife and I to wear at Phoenix Comicon (and otherwise), which cost me about $60, and I ordered a bunch of DNGR business cards to hand out to people, which linked back to, which explains a bit about who/what DNGR is, links to the book, and lists & encourages derivative works (currently just the one song, but I’m hoping it’ll be more before PHXCC’13)—cards to give out myself, but also to give out to other people who bought the shirts (With an extra push the day after the fundraiser ended, based on a great/surprise Zazzle coupon code, there will soon be 6 people with DNGR T-Shirts in their wardrobes.) or otherwise might want to spread the word about DNGR.

I ran all the numbers today (okay, this is pen-and-paper rough math stuff; I won’t have all the real numbers until the end of the month) and it looks like I got $506.76 (after cc/processing fees) from 7 contributors (the 8th contribution was for a different project; don’t ask, but thanks again, if you’re reading this!) who paid for 8 copies of the eBook, 6 copies of the signed paperback, 2 DNGR T-Shirts (the other two were sold at cost, after the fundraiser, and are not included in these numbers), 1 copy of the Virtual Danger audiobook on MP3 CD, and 1 new work of art. After paying for setup of the paperback, printing 50 copies, getting the shirts made, the cards ordered, and paying to have the paperback listed in bookstore databases (i.e.: getting it on Amazon, et cetera), plus the cost of producing the MP3 CD, the (estimated) raw materials for the painting, and the cost of the ISBNs I’ve assigned to the eBook & paperback, the Virtual Danger fundraiser looks to have come out ~$37 in the black.

This is a very good thing, even if it is a little close. This means that any and all money I earn from selling the remaining 43 copies (6 for backers, 1 for Library of Congress) is (effectively) pure profit. I’ve listed the book at $12.99 for bookstores, but since the cost of this set is already paid, I’m planning on charging $10 for direct sales (same as the fundraiser; $5 for the eBook, $10 more to add the signed paperback)—for example, at PHXCC’13. Same for eBooks and audiobooks; all the revenue which makes it to me will be profit. Profit is good, but from my perspective it feels a lot better to know that even if this book completely fails to find readers, even if not a single other copy sells, it hasn’t cost me anything (financially). It isn’t a loss. I have books which are still at a lossVirtual Danger is not one of them, and this is a very, very good thing.

((As an aside, there was a small problem with one of the files I uploaded to LSI, and I had to re-submit it. Something I’ve never had to do before, they wanted me to “flatten” the image before saving to PDF. No trouble, took but a minute, yet … they may charge me an extra $40 for re-submitting the file, and then Virtual Danger is … well, a bit in the red. Like, sell one more copy and we’re back in the black, red, but red nonetheless. It is not my current expectation to be assessed this fee, but even if I am, the book is still in good shape. I’m pretty sure I can swing one copy.))

Anyway, I sent the files to Lightning Source (LSI) on Sunday as planned, it got approved even earlier than expected (today, rather than tomorrow), and my order for 50 copies went through this afternoon. Hopefully it won’t take them too long to print them. Could be anywhere from one day to one week, in my experience. Then there’s waiting a week for UPS Ground shipping. And then, the exciting moment when the book is in my hands for the first time, in print. Still a nice feeling, that. Anyway, that means they’ll be here some time between the 15th and the 21st of this month, which is cutting it a little close, since I’ll be “loading in” for PHXCC at the convention center on the 22nd, and the convention is open to the public on the 23rd. I love it when a plan comes together. I also love that I’ve got enough experience with this whole process to be able to schedule things so closely without real fear of random errors; I know how long each step takes, and I know how to do my work to get excellent and timely results.

On the “every copy sold is profit” note, if Virtual Danger does do well, it should mean I won’t have to run a fundraiser for my next book. In fact, if I hadn’t put all our money (including all the money Modern Evil Press earned from sales of Never Let the Right One Go last year) into buying and furnishing this house, I wouldn’t have had to run a fundraiser this time, either. There was plenty of profit from sales of the limited edition hardcover book to cover publishing one or two new paperbacks (or part of a computer upgrade), and if/when we can afford to pay my business back, it ought to be in the black for quite a while.

Some of that depends on how PHXCC’13 goes, of course. Pretending that they’ll keep prices the same for another year, it’ll cost me another ~$250 to have a Small Press table again, next year. If I don’t earn at least that much revenue at con, I certainly won’t consider returning, and if I just barely earn that much, I probably won’t consider returning. Half (or more) of my books aren’t at a point of “pure profit”, yet, so sales of things like, say, my poetry books, effectively count as $0 toward paying for the table. Most of my other books are priced between $8 and $15, but only represent $2-$4 profit applicable toward table fees. Selling the last 6 remaining copies of Never Let the Right One Go at full price covers most of it (and is effectively ‘pure’ profit), but the first 8+ Untrue Trilogies I sell contribute almost nothing. So there’s always math to do.

Importantly, I currently have no idea what I’m going to be doing over the next year, or whether it’ll be something that could even be sold at PHXCC’14. If I spend the next year crafting video games, or an interactive novel, or just working on my art, I might not have any new physical product to offer. If I happen to write another book or two, great, that’s easy. If I actually follow through on on the the board game ideas I’ve been rolling around, that might be very popular at Comicon (but represents a massive change in skill sets, manufacturing and distribution partners, and scale of capital outlay), and could become my best (or worst) year yet. Right now, I have no firm idea where I’ll be (creatively) a year from now, so it’s hard to say whether paying for a booth next year is a particularly good idea. Worst case would be showing up with the same exact inventory as I leave con with this year, and hoping to find enough new readers/buyers to make it worth my while, I suppose.

Coming back to the subject of Virtual Danger and profitability, I’m saying that, while it’s nice to think that 43 copies of the paperback will sell at $10 each and earn me $430 to put toward another book, the reality is that I have other overhead costs to cover. Not including Comicon, I have hundreds of dollars a year of overhead (reduced as much as possible, already) above and beyond the costs of publishing new books; web hosting, business licenses, office supplies, et cetera. Some of the $430 would have to go toward re-ordering Virtual Danger, as well, same as I just re-ordered Cheating, Death. Part of it would almost certainly go toward another Comicon table. …and this is why I need to do fundraisers. This, and the fact that my average book seems to sell fewer than a dozen copies in its first year (and fewer thereafter), so it’s more likely that Virtual Danger will earn $100 or $200 than the $430 or $1k needed to think about paying for the next book without a fundraiser.


Anyway, it’s still exciting to have a new book coming out, and doubly so to have it be coming out already profitable. Thanks to all the people who supported the project financially, and everyone else who has offered their help along the way. Most of this wouldn’t be possible without the lot of you.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

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