Expenses–and books don’t sell themselves

I came across this post in my Twitter feed.  TL;DR: an author lamenting how much it costs to produce a book, and how little she has sold.

The expenses side in her post looks fine. I tend to budget about A$1500 per book for editing, cover design and formatting. I have a line editor/proofreader who also formats my books. I use a variety of cover artists, and this is where the main variation in expense comes from. I’ve also recently started working with a paid content/developmental editor.

A$1500 per book serves me fine. This, of course, is a one-off cost and the more books you sell, the more you get out in profit. It is also where cover price affects your bottom line. At $2.99 per copy, I need to sell 750 copies to cover my costs. At $3.99, I need to sell less than 500. Everything else is gravy.

But the trick is: how do you sell 500 books? It is in this part of the equation that you can make a huge difference. To me, it sounds like the author of that blog post has not done an awful lot of effective promotion.

Promotion is not yelling at your social media friends. It’s not bookstore visits, blog tours or signings. It’s not even incessantly buying ads. There are only a couple of sites that are effective anyway.

Promotion is:

  • A good self-hosted website that you use as platform for:
  • Your mailing list signup form
  • Listing all your books and places where people can buy them
  • Write an engaging series of a couple of books
  • Make the first one free, and link to your mailing list signup in the front and back of the book
  • Now advertise the hell out of your free book.

A good dose of patience is also required. And writing a couple of books per year.


  1. Thanks for reading, most of my post anyway.

    I feel like I do most of the things you have in your list of things to do. However, I am waiting until I have four books out in the series until I make the first free. I feel like this will give readers more to buy once they like the first one. I do not promote as much as I should, but I do blog posts and things when I can. I do not have a budget for marketing and I know this has cost me sales, but for now that is what is feasible.

    The great thing about indie publishing is this is all my choice. Your mileage may vary.

    I wrote the post to start a discussion about the reality of costs projections for new authors starting out. I have found that my experience has been similar to others their first year and that is a good thing to know. Thanks for participating. Happy writing.

    • I liked that the cost projection on your post is realistic. I’ve seen some really weird estimates float around that are completely out there.
      Good also to see your books on other platforms. First free in series works especially well on Apple and Google Play.
      If you have three books in a series, you’re in a good position to give away the first one free to mailing list subscribers, but I didn’t see anywhere for people to sign up. Maybe you have a separate author site where they can do that?

  2. I do have a mailing list, on the sidebar of my blog, on my contact page, and on my Facebook page. I checked the links and found something had happened. Everything is working now. though, Thanks for the good advice. I am definitely going to offer the first in the series free soon.

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