Indie Publishing Cost Analysis: Conclusions

There was a time when I didn’t tell anyone I wrote.  I thought I wasn’t a ‘real writer’ because I didn’t starve for my art. Not only did I have food, I also had shelter, clothing, money for fun, and stability to give myself the mental and actual peace in which to write. My work-life-write views led me to believe that having a job made me less of a writer.

Then I lost my job.

I had a good severance and was in no real danger of starving or being homeless, at least for a few months.  During the two months between jobs I had plenty of time to write, yet penned not a word that didn’t go in my resume or cover letters.  The financial uncertainty put my creative drive into hibernation. I learned I cannot create without a daily routine and the security of steady work. A job takes time away from writing, but to not have a job takes away my ability to write!

Simply put:

Living requires money.
Writing requires living.
Writing requires money.

It turns out having a JOB did not make me less of a writer, but more of one.  I am both worker and writer, and I am not less ‘real’ in either realm because of my participation in the other.  Now I tell people I work with that I write and I tell other writers that I work.

What does this have to do with my indie publishing cost analysis?  Everything.

I get by the same way you probably do: by going back into the office day after day, week after week, and year after year.  I need money to pay for my mortgage, my car, my food, my pets, and for the materials to xeriscape the deadscape that is my front yard after this year’s drought.  A financial venture of any sort requires cost analysis and budgeting, especially on what amounts to a fixed income.

Originally, I thought I would use kickstarter to try for third party funding.  I got my beautiful sister to star in both versions of my book trailer, which was intended to be the kickstarter video hook.*  I even started writing up the information I would need to submit to see if I could get kickstarter approval.

seed money & indie pub costs

Image by Images_of_Money via Flickr

Then my husband did something amazing.  He sold some things he no longer needed and went through our overbrimming spare change bowl and rolled all of that into usable amounts, saving even the percentage that would have been shaved off by going to CoinStar. He said he was going to use the money to buy himself something.  Instead, he brought it to me and asked me to please use it to publish my book. I was touched by the purity of the giving and the honesty of his belief. My husband, best friend, and partner of thirteen years believes in me enough to be my backer, emotionally and financially. That’s a sort of security that even a steady job can’t bring; it’s better than money in the bank.

Yet, it literally is money in the bank.  It is a fact and a financial boundary.  The starting capital is the final piece of information I needed in order to apply my cost analysis and determine an initial indie publishing route. My seed money is enough to get me into the POD + eBook cost path.  I will also be able to afford some targeted online marketing, which is not included in the original cost analysis.

This concludes my indie publishing cost analysis series.  I hope that it has been informative.  If you have experiences you would like to share or other perspectives on the endeavor, I’d like to hear from you.

*Both trailers are still going to be released as part of my marketing campaign & you’ll see, she really is beautiful!

STOLEN CLIMATES will be released in Kindle and Nook format as well as be available in 6×9 paperback via a POD provider – more details soon!

 

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My Review Process

Reviewing is an honor.

Image by goXunuReviews via Flickr

Writers labor alone.  We strive to bring forth the truth of the tales that have chosen us, but no matter how close we get, we know we can do better.  How?  By seeking out literary comrades, by enlisting the aid of other laborers who will not flinch from telling us what they see.  A good review is the product of care, attention and compassion.  There is no piece of writing so bad as to have nothing praise-worthy.  There is also no piece of writing so good as to have nothing deserving of criticism.  The good reviewer will recognize both and write an honest critique that is neither sycophantic nor cruel.  It is an honor to be permitted to review a fellow writer’s work, and it is a task I take seriously.

When I review another person’s writing, I read the work three times.  The first time I just read.  The second time, I read and make notes.  The third time, I go back through the work and my notes to compose the critique.  I find that this is the minimum number of reads necessary to provide an honest, useful, and through review.

The first reading allows me to  experience the story as it is.  I apply as little judgment as I can with regards to mechanics, quality, point of view, or any of the other ten thousand things that go into a literary work.  I read the story in the spirit it was intended, allowing it to transmit its own unique truth.

In the second reading, I switch from being a reader to being something more like an editor.  I pay attention to as many of those ten thousand things as I can.  I hold a pen and put my judgments in the margins, in the space between lines, on the back of other pages.  Often, the second read is the one that takes me the longest.  If something troubles me or delights me, and I cannot pinpoint why, I re-read sections until I can draw conclusions.  It is good to be able to explain why something is wrong, especially if that ‘wrong’ is more an aesthetic or intuitive ‘wrong’ rather than a quantifiable R-O-N-G.  It is also good to be able to explain why something is working.  This may tell the author a bit about their own technique, but it serves the secondary purpose of helping me learn what does and doesn’t work.  A good review teaches the reviewer as well as the reviewed.

The third read is the capstone.  I go back through my notes and arrange them in some less spastic order. Often, many of my comments condense into a few higher level points with various supporting examples.  Now I am not not reader or editor, but reporter.  I use my computer instead of a pen.  Where care and attention predominated in reads one and two, compassion is dominant in the third reading.  I consider how I would feel reading my comments.  I recall that no matter how kindly put, no one enjoys the realization that the bit of sloppiness they thought they could get away with was noticed.  I write and I revise until I get a version of the review that I would want.  Not the all glowing, you are Goddess of Writing review.  No.  I revise until I get to the honest review that has both deserved praise and deserved criticism.  I may not always be spot-on, but I guarantee you that I have tried my best.

I am very excited to be reviewing my first collection of indie horror stories.  I linked up with the author via an online writer’s group, and he was kind enough to provide me the Kindle format of his collection. I am in my first read, and had to drag myself away from the book to write this post!  This is my first Kindle review, so I’m wondering how I’ll manage the second read.  I know I can type comments and highlights, but I think I’ll still use pen and paper and some sort of notation system to tie my comments back to the text, since there are no page numbers on a Kindle. I have no doubt I’ll be able to bridge the technology gap, though!

What about you?  How do you review?  Do you listen to music, use a special pen, or sit in a particular place?

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Where do stories come from?

GPS and high-speed computers can’t pinpoint where they originate.  Radar, sonar, Ouija board and ultrasound are all useless indicators. Yet stories come from somewhere and those of us who write feel it when a story quickens.  Heart trips over itself, breath pauses, and inspiration shatters preconceptions.  A story has arrived!

Do stories bubble up out of the shared jumble of archetypes from our cave days?  Do they come from an external Muse?  Do they leak like static from parallel universes?

I don’t know. Perhaps where a story comes from matters less than the fact that it comes at all.  Under the sheer improbability that any given story exists, the question of First Cause is almost trivial.

As a reader, a tale comes to me as an already revealed whole, but that is not the case when I write.  I hear of writers who come up with outlines, who know what a story is before the story has been written. That is not how it happens for me. I do not plan the stories I write to be as they are any more than a mother ‘plans’ her children to be as they are.  Each story is an act of nature, a noumenal birth.  Unlike mothers of flesh and blood, I am less creator than conduit; what is to be written passes through me, but is in some very basic sense not of me.

When a story chooses me, it comes from multiple avenues at once.  The universe conspires to bring me into contact with the inspirations that will prepare me for the story that is traveling from those unknowable elsewheres. When the right pair of contradictory ideas come together in one lucid moment, I become an open conduit for the expression of the story.

At that instant, I can’t see the entire plot arc or even begin to understand how to fit those contradictions together into some cohesive whole. Everything becomes a possible revelation of the story’s truth. Novels, movies, snippets of overheard conversation, dreams, music, even the moon and sun themselves can be oracles. Revelation and prophecy are anything except convenient. There’s an element of the trickster to stories. They like to play but, like any wild animal, stories can be dangerous. It is not an easy path to be a writer. I am not even certain it is a choice, or at least not the writer’s choice.

Even now, a story travels.  It will come unto us like religion, like grace, like the purest dharma.  It chooses us, and we are humbled.

 

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Indie Publishing Cost Analysis: Part II

In the first post of this series, I analyzed an indie publishing cost path that included expenditures for marketing, research, a paperback format, and  an eBook format.  Today I will look at two additional cost paths. The first will calculate the cost of publishing both physical and electronic formats, but will significantly pare down expenditures  that do not directly produce book deliverables.  The second cost path will calculate the cost to publish only in electronic formats.  All of the calculations will use the same assumptions given in Part I.

Analysis: Barebones POD + eBook

This path focuses on the book itself.  No money is spent on research materials.  The marketing expenses have been cut until they, too, are almost non-existent.

Here is the chart for all expenditures:

POD + eBook

Click for larger image.

Here are the expenditures broken down by type and shown as percentages of the total cost:

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Total Cost: $1431.18.

This is less than half of what was calculated for the ‘All In’ cost path.  The percentage of money going towards book deliverables has shot from 48% to 77% of the total cost!  For a grand and a half, the enterprising indie can bring a book to both the POD and ebook markets!

Analysis: eBook Only

If the price of entry for a barebones POD  + eBook is still too high, but the indie is determined to get their book out Now!, the next thing that can be cut is the POD.  In this cost path, I examine the cost of producing only an eBook.  All other expenses have been eliminated.

Here is the chart for all eBook only expenditures:

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And here is the chart with eBook expenses broken down by type:

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Total Cost: $1,260

The budget is cut to the bone!  This path is almost three times less expensive than the ‘all in’ path, yet the total amount saved by not offering a POD is only $200.  The percentage of money going directly towards book deliverables is 87% and indicates that financial barriers to enter the indie publishing market need not be prohibitive.

This analysis all begs the question:  What types of works sell best in which formats?  How have I used budget analysis plus market trends to help me make publishing decisions?  To find out, check back soon for the third post in this series!

 

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Why Horror?

To Americans of my generation, nothing says horror like 9-11. My generation has not survived a World War or endured the Great Depression. We were here for 9-11, though, and were shocked, frightened, angered and, yes, horrified.

Everyday we experience varying intensities of horror. There are kidnappings, rapes, evil bosses, impossible loves, untimely death, home devouring wildfires, debilitating ills of both body and mind. Each to their own, all are horrifying. Even if the vast majority of us escape the truly gristly or damaging forms of terror, we are all visited by suffering and we are all going to die. What then is the purpose of heaping more horror on this monstrous pile? Why does the horror fiction genre exist, and why is it prevalent in print, movies, and television? What is the place of horror in a horrifying world?

creepy

Horror in a Horrible World

 

One could posit that horror exists to entertain. I personally find the entire spectrum of horror from literary terror to B-movie campiness to be enjoyable. Yet I don’t think that entertainment alone is sufficient to account for the prevalence and attraction of horror. Comedy and romance entertain, and often manage to do so without anyone being eviscerated, walled-in, or chased by someone wielding an axe. If entertainment were the entire answer, there wouldn’t be any reason to go for the gross-out.

Given that horror fiction entertains by scaring readers, perhaps the purpose of the genre is to satisfy a craving for the sensation of fear. Well-executed horror brings on a breathless jumpiness via induced fright. The reader is terrified in a situation devoid of any real threat. I am not a psychologist, but it seems reasonable to hypothesize that reading horror expends some psychological energy that would otherwise be channeled into fearing reality.

Like all fiction, horror offers readers the opportunity to evaluate the fitness of choices made by characters. Should that pretty blonde run or should she hide? Should she really be doing any of this in her cheerleading outfit? Would I wear that, no, but would I hide? Would I sacrifice someone else in my party for my own survival? Would I stay behind to give the others a chance? Did you notice how quickly and how naturally the questions shifted from third to first person?

The introspective horror connoisseur gains insight into her own core values because horror fiction invites contemplation of psychologically and physically perilous scenarios. Analogies can be traced from fictional scenarios back to very real threats. Bad things can happen on an otherwise unremarkable September day; bad things can happen any time.  Horror fiction gives readers an opportunity to examine how they might react if faced with an awful reality. There is a practical value to a deep and mindful experience horror fiction.

How many of you have gotten the post-horror jitters? Or asked your husband if just for one night, you might sleep with the lights on? Or heard noises in your house that you’d never noticed, and found the rooms you know to morph into ominous territory? When well done, horror fiction is capable of making me much more aware of my surroundings, at least until the adrenaline aftereffects subside. This period of hyper-awareness allows a horror aficionado the opportunity to experience the full richness of all five senses. It demonstrates how much we miss in daily life, and how much more we can apprehend when we are attuned to our surroundings. Survival has a lot to do with awareness, and horror fiction gives a good way to practice fundamental observational skills.

The purpose of horror fiction, it seems, is at least threefold. First, it serves to depressurize the psyche by expelling fear before it can become paralyzing in real life. Second, it begs the reader to examine moral and literal actions that might be taken under duress. Third, horror fiction incites a deeper awareness of one’s surroundings. All three of these purposes lend themselves to practical application with intent to survive.  To wit, a person who has discharged emotional energy is calmer and more prepared to be rational. Rational choices are in turn generated by brains which have been given the opportunity and material to think things through. The actions that result from rational choice are greatly aided by close attention to the surroundings.  Sometimes it makes sense to hide, sometimes it makes sense to run, but in order to know which to choose, you need to know where you are and what is out there to help or harm you.

In short, we generate and consume fictional horror because we live in a world full of real horror.  We horror authors aren’t ‘adding’ to the horror, but preparing ourselves and our readers for the day we confront the darkness.  And, as far as survival toolkits go, horror fiction just happens to be the most entertaining one around!

 

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Indie Publishing Cost Analysis – Part I

The Creative Penn has a  post about the cost of indie publishing wherein she describes a sliding scale of possible expenditure by the indie author. At the low end, the enterprising and spendthrift indie can publish a book for about five bucks.  At the high end, an enterprising and astoundingly wealthy indie can spend over thirty thousand to achieve basically the same thing.  Note that I said basically, not exactly; the quality and distribution channels that come with a 30K price tag will surpass what you get for five dollars.  However, really great stories remain great, even if they’re written on free napkins with a stolen pen.  The problem there is that any work published that way is not only greatly limited in circulation, but limited in lifespan, too, because napkins have their ways of getting soggy or destroyed.  While I don’t intend to release  jewel-encrusted print editions, I want something a bit more accessible and lasting than a napkin:  I want a paperback and various electronic formats.

I’m more enterprising than I am astoundingly wealthy, so even my highest expenditures must be magnitudes lower than 30K.  But how low can I go? How low should I go?  What expenses can I cut, and still get what I want?  What is the least I can spend to get a version of my book to market?

To get a general illustration of how expenses might look, I did a quick workup of some various cost paths.  Bear in mind that these numbers are all rough estimates, and I could be missing important costs or vastly underestimating actual expenses. They are designed to give a very nonspecific picture of how much or how little I, or any any indie, could expend given the assumptions listed below.

The assumptions I made in generating my estimates are:

1.  Print cost is based on a 300 page, 6×9 POD by CreateSpace.

2.  I try to be economical where I can, especially with the print editions:

  • On cost paths where I purchase more than a couple of books, I upgrade to CreateSpace Pro to get the author copy discount; the CreateSpace Pro fee is included  where applicable.
  • On cost paths where I purchase very few books, I do not upgrade to CreateSpace Pro; the price difference for not getting the author copy discount is included in the price of the books.

3.   The cover design is a set fee of $500 for development of a single high-impact image that will look good in color, in black and white, and at thumbnail size.

4.  The editing and proofing are calculated at $30 – $35 an hour, with a cap at $600.

5.  Another aspect of being economical comes with the decision of how many ISBNs to purchase:

  • When more than one version of a book format is being published, the ISBN price is for the discounted 10 pack.
  • Otherwise, I buy only 1 ISBN.

6.  Copyright registration is a one time fee.

7.  The cost of a single barcode is included only when a physical edition of the book will be produced.

Analysis : A Realistic ‘All In’ Cost Path

The ‘all in’ path includes what I would have to pay for everything I can think of to help me market and publish my book. This is a realistic view that excludes expenses I have already decided are out of scope.  A few out of scope expenditures include web hosting, custom site design, and release of a hardback book.

I break out the expenses into four main categories: marketing, publishing, research and book deliverables.  I consider  ‘deliverables’ to include anything that directly impacts a reader’s experience of the book, such as the quality of editing or the cover design.  Marketing costs include a smartphone and associated dataplan for connectivity at all times;  a digital camera for book trailers and blog posts;  a Kindle for verifying formatting; and author copies for giveaways or promotions.  ISBN, barcode, copyright registration and the CreateSpace Pro fee are publishing costs. Research materials include books on WordPress, MovieMaker, Kindle formatting, and the indie author guide.  That leaves editing, proofing, and cover design as book deliverables .

Here is what the pie chart looks like:

Click for larger size.

This pie chart shows the percentage of money spent for each category:

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Total Cost :  $3,562.99

The total cost is well below 30K, which is a very good thing!  What interests me is the final breakdown of percentages.  The publishing costs and book deliverables account for 58 percent of the total pie, and that is for both the paperback and any e-formats.   If my budget is tighter than what it takes to go ‘all in,’ what can I cut?  What makes sense to cut?

Want to see more indie publishing cost analysis?  Then check back for the next post in this series!  I’ll go over a more barebones cost path and an e-book only cost path!

 

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Boobies! (or, How I Accepted Myself as a Horror Writer)

Sometime around the seventh grade, other girls began to get boobs.  Honest to goodness breasts that required honest to goodness support and garnered honest to goodness attention.  My genetics made me a lot of things, but being a big booby girl was never in the ribonucleic cards for me.

For years, I felt awkward and unattractive.  I was a mess of self-doubt all because I didn’t look the way I thought I should look.  It wasn’t until my late twenties that I accepted my body and I began to feel at home being myself.

How does this have anything to do with writing?  Or horror writing in particular?  Well, for me, the process of accepting my body mirrors the experience I had in accepting myself as a horror writer.

When I started writing stories, I was convinced the only works that ‘mattered’ were Literary Works. I eschewed mass-produced fiction and felt superior to people who expressed an interest in genre writing. I was a snob who read horror novels in places where no one knew me, like the airport.

When I started writing, I was full of BS!  First of all,  where was my debate, careful thought, and good definition of what it meant for something to be literary? Second, where was my self reflection, where were the questions as to how I could love horror so much when no one was looking? Third, where were my boobs?

From 2005 until 2009, I wrote short stories. When I had about 30 stories, I played with the idea of putting together a collection of shorts.  I set about reading and organizing everything I’d written. It was an Event. A Discovery. Nothing short of a Revelation. Everything I had written that really had heat could be classified as horror!

Horror!

By this time, I was less of a snob.  I felt let down by the contemporary works labeled as “Literary.” I’d grown impatient with books that tried to be so clever with their metafiction and their own cleverness that they didn’t carry a story. I was bored of being tricked, bamboozled and led.  I wanted to read books that swept me away. I wanted to be seduced, not analyzed. I wanted a good read.

I gave myself permission to explore all the sections of the bookstore. I read what I wanted, no matter who might see me. I devoured horror novels. I searched for female horror writers and discovered Elizabeth Hand and Alexandra Sokoloff, whose writings prove that horror can be well written, absorbing, even beautiful. I rediscovered Steven King and was absolutely blown away by THE SHINING, a novel that works on so many different levels it transcends any narrow categorization. I was loving my reading with a depth and fervor that I hadn’t felt since the onset of my snobbery. I was a happy reader.

And I was a very, very uncomfortable writer. I had never considered writing horror, yet horror is what I wrote. I found it difficult to accept and for a long time did not tell anyone what sort of works I produced. I even tried to write some stories that were consciously engineered to be devoid of anything supernatural, horrifying, or creepy. Those were terrible stories!  They reminded me of a bra I once bought that promised to make me look two cup sizes bigger and jiggle! All I ended up doing was looking silly and bumping into stuff because I wasn’t used to my chest protruding that far away from my body. I’m built more like Milla Jovavich than Christina Hendricks, and that’s just a simple fact of life. I write tales that have more in common with Dean Koontz than with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and that’s just a simple fact of life.

I’m flat chested and I write horror.   And I’m okay with that.  Finally!

 

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