Author, Actor, Playwright, Excellent Parallel Parker

Rules of the Lake and Ashes to Water are now available for Kindle and Nook!

Friday, June 25, 2010

In Which I Figure Out What I've Spent So Far in Time and Money

Last week on #litchat (a Twitter group that takes place in a chatroom with other like minded lit types), the topic was on self-pubishing or “indie” publishing. (If there’s a difference between the two, I don’t know what it is. Anyway, a person in the chatroom kept asking others for specific ways to promote her book without spending money. She was sort of being ignored, so she direct-messaged me and asked me what I was doing to promote my book.

And it hit me.

Everything. I’m doing EVERYTHING. Printing, mailing, blogging, friending, tweeting, phoning, booking, linking, posting and yes, complaining. In the words of George W. Bush, “It’s haaaard.”

And I can feel burnout singing the phalanges of my ambition.

As for cost-free strategies, fuhgettaboutit. Even if you have the time to troll social media to “advance your personal mission,” promoting a book is costly, in time and money. So I decided to figure out what I’ve spent so far. This does not include the 3 years I spent writing the book, finding an agent, finding a publisher, waiting for the publisher to send the contract once found, or waiting for the book to actually hit the stands, which was just this week. All that took four years of consistent query and follow-through. It also does not include overhead (considerable), wear-and-tear on my family, or the toll on my mental health (no comment.)

Sorry, the columns didn't hold their format:

Tactic                                    Cost in Time                                    Cost in Money

Pay Agent                                 N/A                                                10% of advance
Website Construction                25 hours                                        $400
Research reviewers                  1 hr for 4 mos                                negligible
Mail ARCs                                 3.5 hours                                       $60 postage
Printing                                      3 hours                                          $120
Research Indie bkstores           3 hours                                          negligible
Address/Mail postcards             3 hours                                          $28
Call/email bkstores                    5 hours                                          $10
Buy ads on Goodreads              1 hr                                               $300
Employ socialmedia exprt         3 hrs                                              $500
Self-Promo on Social Media      3 hrs per day for 4 mos               N/A
Blogging                                       5 hrs per week for 3 mos              N/A
Meetings w/advisors                  10 hrs                                            N/A (friends)
Bk Tour travel (10 cities)             1 month                                         $2K
Bk Tour lodging                          N/A                                                N/A (friends)
Bk Tour Food                              N/A                                                $900
Bk Tour Clothes, Hair, etc          10 hrs                                             $750
Personal copies of bk                 N/A                                                $154 (so far)
Bribes, gifts, payola                    N/A                                                $100
Total                                         2046.5 hrs                                     $5,472.00

How many books will I have to sell to break even? According to my dubious calculations (my publisher offers a higher royalty than most):  420. This doesn't take agent fees into consideration, so it would be have to be more.

According to Publishers Weekly, most writers sell an average of 300 books. So why go through all this trouble to sell an extra 120 (or so) books?

I'm still working on the answer. Ego, sense of accomplishment, readership? Sure. But there has to be something else, because if there isn’t, I’m wasting my life. Not to mention my money. I think screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) hit on it in his article in the Village Voice in which he railed against an amateur screenwriter who begged him to read his screenplay, then took offense when Olson told him it was no good.  Olson defended his honesty thusly:

“You cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you're not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I've done you a favor, because now you'll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is.”

So it all comes down to this question: Am I feeling lucky?

And yeah. Yeah, I am.