The Well-fed Indie


Posted On Jul 30 2014 by
Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and dizrythmia. Thanks!

It seems Wednesdays are my days to talk publishing, specifically indie publishing (yes, I use “indy,” but so far no editors have called).

First of all, check out this post in Writer Unboxed. It expresses exactly how I feel. Basically, I want to work with traditional publishers and do some indy publishing. Publishing indy allows me to write the things that “have no market.” That means that I’ll only sell a couple thousand copies. Okay. I’m good with that, but a publisher would never break even with sales like that. More on numbers in a minute.

What the traditional publishers need to do is develop a business plan that would allow their midlist authors to earn more, thus allowing them to write full time, thus making them better writers. We call that there a “win-win.”

At the end of that Writer Unboxed post you’ll find suggestions for the publishing industry (and many of them do read that very popular blog). I suggested that publishers return the electronic rights back to the author one year after launch, or six months after the hard copy goes out of print. Those electronic sales after the first year mean little to the publisher, but will add substantially to the bottom line of the savvy author.

Now, onto numbers. Dean Wesley Smith spoke to this yesterday in his Chapter 5 installment of Think Like a Publisher.

Grab your calculator. It’s the thing that has all number buttons and no letters. Yeah, that thing. Scrape off the dust and join me.

1. How much money do you want to make per year? Be honest and remember taxes. Me? I can support my wife’s quilting habit with $100,000 per year, assuming she only buys the discounted fabric. Enter your number in your calculator. No, there’s no spell check.

2. Now, how much will you sell your books for? The average e-book price is $2.99 to $3.99. Let’s go low. After Amazon’s commission, you get about $2.15 per book.

3. Divide the number in step one by the number in step two. I get 46,511. That’s how many books you need to sell per year. Wow! That’s a lot of books. It would be, if you expected it your first year or with just one book.

4. So, let’s decide how many books we can write per year. I’m fairly confident I can write six, especially if I write a series and don’t have to re-create characters all the time. But I’ll say four. If you’re a mother of six, you’d better go with two. So, 46,511 books divided by 4 equals 11,628. You’d have to sell 11,628 of each book to make your hundred grand. Still too hard? Okay, we’ll pretend this may not happen in the first year.

5. Put down the calculator for a minute. I know, it’s kind of fun once you discover it, but you’ll get to use it again. A lot.

  • In 2015, you’ll write 4 books and attract 1,000 readers. A publisher won’t touch this. So that’s 4,000 books times $2.15 per book, and you get $8,600. Yay! That buys you lunch for a year.
  • In 2016, you’ve added another 1,000 readers and write another 4 books. And those 1,000 new readers want to go back and get your “old” books, which a publisher wouldn’t even advertise anymore. So that’s 1,000×4 plus 2,000×4 equals 12,000 books sold. Dude. That’s a 300% increase and you still only have 2,000 hardcore RonFans. You just grossed $25,800. You’re off the dollar menu!
  • In 2017, you’ve added another 1,000 readers, bless their nerdy hearts, and written another 4 books. You know the drill. They’ll want those 8 books they missed from ’15 and ’16. So that’s 1,000×12 plus 2,000×4 equals 20,000 books. Give yourself a high-five. You’ve grossed $43,000. Order lunch in.
  • In 2018, you’ve added another 1,000 readers and another 4 books. Okay, this is getting hard, but stick with me, I got an A in differential equations. That gives us 1,000×16 plus 3,000×4 equals 28,000 books. You grossed $60,200. Send your husband to pick up lunch and grab a bottle of wine.
  • In 2019, another 1000 readers and another 4 books. 1,000×20 plus 4,000×4. That’s $68,800.

That’s after five years, my wonder-writers. And with only 5,000 fans. A big publisher wouldn’t consider 5,000 fans worth their editing time. And they shouldn’t. It costs a lot of clams to print books. But for you, with no overhead (except for the wine), they’re gold.

Yes, I know I said I wanted $100,000. But I also plan on writing six books per year. Or it may take me longer to reach my goal. In the meantime, all that extra cash is paying off the house and other debt so I can slip into full-time writing without fear (PLEASE pay off your debts first).

So go ahead. Pick your numbers: How much can you live on? How many books can you write per year? What’s your selling point? These are all averages, of course, but should prove to you that this is possible.

By the way, here’s why you’ll have 5,000 rabid fans. Because you’re not hindered by gatekeepers who want to sell huge numbers, you can write to your niche. Wanna write about Amish Zombie Cowboys? Or how about Apocalyptic Romance? Hmm…maybe even kids who find out they’re Fallen Angels…oh, wait, that one’s taken. Pick your niche. I guarantee you that there are 5,000 people out there dying for your brand of weirdness.

So run the numbers. Tell me what you came up with. I’d love to hear from you!

And be sure to sign up for the newsletter so you can get each episode of #AngelWarz free. Once Gina and I bundle them at the end of the year, they ain’t free no more.

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Last Updated on: July 29th, 2014 at 1:56 pm, by Ron


Written by Ron

Just about everything I believe has been shaped by the written word. But books don't force a belief; they stir the imagination so that you, the reader, eventually draw your own conclusions. We grow richer in spirit when we read, deeper in our understanding of the universe and our role in it. That's why I read. That's why I write. To offer you a bit of myself. Come along on my journey, won't you? There's plenty of room.