I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine: most of my books have not earned out. “Earning out” means the income produced by a book has exceeded its expenses. Expenses are multiple and varied, though at the highest level they comprise hiring editors and book cover designers, advertising, and promotion.
Out of those, the greatest expenditure is generally hiring a proofreader/editor and a book cover designer. It’s tough to skimp on either of those. In fact, I’d argue you’re setting yourself up for failure if you even think about compromising. Good editors and artists charge a premium, but they’re essential and worth the cost.
Then there’s advertising, which isn’t cheap, but it’s an area where I think you have a lot of control over how much you spend. I’ll admit that I’ve gotten myself into some trouble with advertising. My early forays into Goodreads ads, various “book deal” emails and Facebook ads yielded not-so-great results. Once I dumped the Goodreads ads, became much more judicious with book deal emails, and honed my Facebook ad acumen, advertising went much better for me, to the point where I was making more in sales on any given day than I was spending on ads. Happy day! The problem is that running Facebook ads is almost a full-time job unto itself, requiring constant monitoring and tweaking. That made it damn near impossible to keep up with my daily writing goals!
Promotion, which for me has involved commissioning art that I can then use in advertising, blog posts, social media, etc., is another area where money can easily be spent. The nice thing about artwork is that the cost can be spread out over all the books in the series. It has high reuse value, in other words. Again, though, spending too much in this area can be detrimental to a book earning out.
With all of this in mind, I am dedicating myself to a life of frugality as far as my writing goes. First, I’ll work from a budget for each book or series. The budget will include line items for all the things I discussed above, but once the budgeted funds are spent, they’re spent. This is especially important for advertising, which can quickly turn into a black hole. I’m not going to cut corners on producing a professional product, so that means I’ll continue to hire professional editors and book cover artists and pay the going rate for their services. That’s non-negotiable and a basic cost of doing business.
The hope is that as I write more books, my sales increase simply because I have more options available for buyers. In conjunction with the expectation for more sales, I’m also exploring other revenue options such as Ko-fi and Buy Me a Coffee. I’ll have more to share about those next time.