Self-Publishing Math

Take out your pencils

1.  Diane wrote a book. She sent out x queries to agents and received x rejections.

X is:

a.  =  to x

b.  <  than x

c.  >  than x

2.  Diane responded to the realization she may never use letters b or c to solve problem 1. by:

a.  Sending out 100 more queries

b.  Setting fire to her laptop and forbidding all who knew of her novel’s existence from ever speaking of it again

c.  Rejecting traditional publishing and accepting self-publishing as the one true path

Equations solved, I researched author responsibilities beyond the whole writing a book part of the experience of publishing. The “self” in “self-publishing” may be a synonym for DIY, but even authors in traditional publishing relationships bear a great deal of responsibility for marketing their books. That means self-publishing “Ellen the Harpist” won’t expand my to-do list far beyond what I would have embraced had I landed a great book deal, right?

I celebrated my discovery by subtracting two hands (belonging to agent and editor) from the cookie jar of profit my novel would generate. Mmm, cookies!

You can use your calculators

Wise voices (Jane Friedman is one good source) from the world of self-publishing told me how to spend my money as I move my novel from my computer into the hands and reading devices of my potential readers. My bank account told me to add up those expenses before making any commitments.

3.  Book Publishing Expense Form:

  1. Editing _________
  2. E-book/paperback cover design _________
  3. Domain name/website hosting _________
  4. Chicken wire to make my fence dog-proof (Sorry – that’s not a book-related expense. I needed to write it down somewhere before I forget to buy it) _________
  5. Business/promo cards _________
  6. Ads _________
  7. Copyright $35
  8. ISBN numbers single: $125; ten-pack: $295
  9. Head shot _________
  10. Haircut after I realized I’m overdue for one by looking at the last set of head shots _________
  11. Another head shot _________
  12. More ads _________
  13. Social media FREE!!!
  14. Print edition of book _________
  15. Add lines 1 through 14 _________
  16. Subtract line 4 _________
  17. Amount of advance = $0
  18. Subtract line 16 from line 17 $Egads!
Self-publishing should really be called self-financed publishing. Click To Tweet

4.  If I sell the book for x and Amazon pays me y, how many copies do I need to sell before I recoup my expenses? ______

5.  Should I start saving up for my second novel? _________

a.  If yes, multiply answer from question 4. by 2 _________

6.  Answer to question 5a. + 1 copy _________

Ta Da — profit!

Pencils down

Ignoring the reality of actual sales numbers (here’s one depressing set of statistics) faced by first-time authors, I started dreaming bigger. And the internet gave me figures on which to build a dream.

One third of the top 100 Kindle books in 2015 were self-published The New York Times

A book needs to sell 500-1000 copies in just a few days to make top 100 on Amazon Book Promotion Hub

Increase that to a rate of at least 300 copies per day to hit Amazon’s top five Publishers Weekly

Sell at least 1285 copies per day for a week across all channels to make it onto the New York Times bestseller list Book Promotion Hub

7.  How many self-published books released between 2011 and 2015 sold more than one million copies?

a.  40

b.  50 (as in shades of luck)

c.  400

d.  5000

(The correct answer is a.  40) The New York Times

How to sell 1,000,000 copies? Write a great book. Have a great marketing plan. And get lucky. Click To Tweet

8.  Which is larger: the number of hours I’ll spend writing my next novel today or the number of hours I’ll spend updating my book’s social media accounts?


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