I think that what has to be the worst aspect of being an independent author is the financial cost associated with it. From paying for an editor, cover artists, publishing, marketing, ARC readers, convention fees, and more, the costs add up quickly. A self-published author with usually spend more than they make in book sales. It’s not an easy proposition for many of us.
Additionally, there is the many other expenses from travel, cost of equipment and software, subscriptions, and more. It can become quite staggering. I think that in the past 12 years, I spent around $15,000 and, four books later, made less than $1,000. I can honestly say that some of these expenses are my fault, mistakes made early by a novice author. I went with “vanity” publishing that cost more than I needed to spend and, in return, got less than expected results. There are so many options for an author to publish with minimal cost. You can publish on numerous publishing websites for FREE, with templates for interiors and covers, with varied success. if you want to up your game, you are going to need to pay for some things to make your book better.
Same goes for marketing. When I started using social media, I got hammered with paid book reviews, social media companies, and other “phishing” expeditions. I learned a lot from those experiences. Even big companies can spam you too. In 2014, I decided to participate in a “Pitchfest” to learn about and then attempt to pitch my novel to movie/television people. I spent about $4K on travel and hotel (it was in NYC) and the event itself. It was an interesting experience but, in the end, nothing came out of it. Not blaming the organizers, I guess I didn’t sell it well enough, but it was still an expense that fell flat.
This seems to be a recurring theme amongst self-published authors. I talked to a few recently at the Fredericksburg Independent Book Festival. One author was focused on just his books, working with a broken canopy and no real promotional materials. And here I was, with a brand new canopy I just bought and a couple hundred dollars worth of bookmarks, stickers and posters. It was my first festival and I went overboard. Now, in the end, I sold more books at this one event than I ever did before. It was the first positive book signing/event I participated in my 12 years of doing this. I would normally sell from 1-5 books, but this was extraordinary.
After my success at that event, I bought an additional placard with a tripod to give a big “spotlight” on my books. Add to that, the additional copies of my books I bought to add to my inventory. Yes, the money I made went right back into my next event. That seems to be the infinite cycle for self-published, independent authors. As much as it can be a financial pain in the wallet, the old adage “you have to spend money to make money” comes into mind. No, I don’t mean going deep, deep into debt, but there is a cost associated with everything you need as an up and coming author.
Granted, I’m not doing this to me a multi-millionaire . . . No really, I’m not. I love telling stories, I love writing stories, so sharing them is the most logical thing to do. Would I like to do this as a full-time job and spend my days writing instead of working from my office, absolutely. Who wouldn’t? For now, this is what works for me. I know that going to events like comic-cons, book festivals, and craft fairs will help build up my readers.
You have to be prepared for the cost if you have the desire to take a stab as an author, but time and money are not on your side. It is the desire to fight through for the chance, just a chance, at being a successful author.
NOTE TO READERS: Do I consider book sales = money = success? No . . . To me, book sales = people who’ve read my books. That makes me feel good as an author. The money helps me write more books, that’s all!
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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy/steampunk novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers.
Get ready for the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates, coming soon from Revolutionary Press; and The River of Souls novella, coming soon from Curious Corvid Publishing. The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series and The Last Magus: Dragonfire and Steel are future installments of my current fantasy book series, coming soon.
3 thoughts on “The cost of being an independent author adds up”
Hi Mark, I’ve read some of your posts, and a common theme (an important one I might add) in the ones I’ve read, is the cost verses profits from self publishing. I have just recently self published a book and I’m discovering everything you say is true. It can be expensive and exhausting! I have to say that for me, the budget is very low. But, as with any creative form of expression, the primary reason for doing it, is because you want to do it. The reward for me was the completion of the novel and having others read and enjoy the book – even if it is just a few people. All the best.
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I agree 100%, the cost outweighs the thrill of someone reading your book and telling you how much they enjoyed it. I’m just trying to give my own personal experiences with the cost of being a self-published author. If one person reading my post takes a second look before signing with a vanity publisher or clicking that “click bait” for reviews and followers, then it was worth sharing my story.
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Your post is definitely helpful and an eye-opener for anyone looking at self publishing. Thank-you.
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