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Five Essential Numbers For Self-Published Authors

By Jackie Elliot
Getting paid for words is Writer’s Nirvana.

Traditionally published authors often get the rough end when it comes to remuneration, so the best option to feed your writing ambitions – while being able to afford actual food – is self-publishing. But there’s a catch. Self-publishing, as the name suggests, means doing it all yourself. Passion and talent for words are not enough. Numbers matter too.

But here’s the good news for the math–allergic writer; you only need to know five of them.

# 1. The Financial Goal.

Very few writers are able to articulate a financial goal. Maybe it’s the old “art for art’s sake” mentality that gets in the way, or fear that even modest goals might be unobtainable, but whatever it is, get over it. Seriously. Figure out the number that pays all the bills for one year, plus food, plus a week or two flopping in the sun. That’s the Financial Goal.

# 2. Sales.

The average price of an ebook is around $4, and most royalties come in at 70% for self-published authors. For every sale, expect to pocket the grand total of $2.80. Now, divide your Financial Goal (from above) by $2.80 to find out how many sales are needed each year to hit that target. Are you freaked out yet?
This is the time when the faint hearted start telling themselves that the full-time gig in Accounts Payable isn’t that bad, but consider this: if you are writing full time you can write more books. And the more books you write and publish, the less intimidating this Sales figure will become.

# 3. Marketing.

“Write it and they will buy,” said nobody, ever. Except possibly John Grisham. To achieve the Sales figure, potential readers have to first know that you have written a book, and then be encouraged to buy it. There are many inexpensive ways to market your books, but you still have to pay. In theory, the more you spend the more books you will sell. The Marketing figure should be a consistent percentage of your Sales figure.

# 4. Production.

Editing, formatting, and book covers – just three expenses that self-published authors need to accept. Sure, you can do some of this yourself, but time spent editing is time not spent writing your next (money making) book. An amateur book cover can spell failure no matter how many marketing dollars you throw at it. It’s worth allocating a reasonable sum to create a professional looking product. Your Production figure will stay roughly the same for each book, but obviously the overall figure increases as you write and publish more books.

# 5. Other Expenses.

If not monitored, these often overlooked costs can add up significantly. Monthly subscriptions, website hosting costs, the internet connection, even ink for the printer – these are all expenses that will impact your Financial Goal. These Other Expenses remain roughly the same, no matter how many books you publish.

If your dream of making a living through the written word is to become a reality, pay attention and get comfortable with the numbers. They matter too.

Jackie Elliot

Jackie Elliot

Jackie Elliott is an award winning sober blogger, and the author of a sober memoir and self- help books for anyone who is contemplating quitting booze. She also runs an online recovery community.
Jackie is currently working on a new fiction thriller series, based on the West Coast of Canada, where she resides with her husband.