I’ve come to the conclusion that unless you are as talented (and fortunate) as J.K. Rowling, your best bet at making money from writing is probably not through books. You are probably better off cranking out feature stories. I know there are people out there who can prove me wrong. But for the vast majority, I think this may be true.
I’m going to share my numbers with you.
During the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Workshop I took in the spring and summer, we had an assignment to calculate our break-even point. How many books did we need to sell to start making money? At the time, I estimated my expenses and royalties and calculated that I would need to sell 211 print books, if everyone bought them from Createspace where I have a higher royalty, or 355 if everyone bought them from Amazon.com.
Yesterday I reworked the numbers, taking into consideration the actual costs.
Expenses for print book
|Upfront: editing,Createspace Pro, Proof copies and shipping||$350||$405|
|(50)Promo copies (includes shipping)||177||180|
|Business set up||$312||$337|
My upfront expenses were higher than I anticipated because I need more proof copies, and I got a delivery license so that I could hand sell books if I wanted to. The promotional materials number is still only an estimate. These numbers do not include the purchase of 10 ISBNs ($250 but will be good for five books.)
Roughly speaking I will have to earn $1222 in royalties before I make dollar one.
After much deliberation and consultation, I decided to price Dancing in Heaven print version at $9.99. The ebook will be $2.99. The book royalties depend upon the distribution channel.
|Book Royalties by distribution option||Estimate||Actual|
If I sold only print books, and I assume that I will make an average of $2.00 per book, I need to sell 611 books to break even. Selling ebooks will help. I think I should make about $2.00 on each one.
I have read that a very large percentage of people (like 99%) never sell more than 100 books. So the odds are not in my favor.
But then, for me, the money never mattered. I wasn’t doing this project for the money. I wanted to tell my sister Annie’s story, and self-publishing has enabled me to do that.
I suggested at the beginning of this post that if you want to make money, you should consider writing feature stories for magazines, print and online.
I’ve only had two feature stories published. In total I made about $1000. Each story took one or two weeks to write. Let’s say I can manage to crank out and sell one major feature story a month for $500. I would make $12,000 in the two years it took me to write, edit, and publish Dancing in Heaven. I will have to sell over 6000 books to get that same return for my time.
Write books if you want. Write books if you must. But don’t quit your day job.
I have also decided that if I do manage to break even, I will donate half of the additional royalties to Hospice of Dayton. I’ll be sure to let you know if that happens.
Do you make money on your writing?