Pitch Imperfect


This past weekend, you watched a movie that presented a fresh take on the story of  beautiful people besieged by evil. You have a friend you know will enjoy the movie, even though he isn’t typically a horror fan. When you meet for your weekly Monday martinis, you try to describe the  movie to him. You flounder. You sound increasingly uncertain of yourself as you explain the movie’s  premise of Nazi zombies attacking a group of camping med students. You wish your glass wasn’t empty so you would have an excuse to stop talking. Your conclusion is a mumbled, “It’s much better than I make it sound!”

Magnify the feeling you got reading that scenario by a factor of ten and you’ve just experienced what it feels like to bungle your book pitch.

Light Painting #10: Violin

Image by whertha via Flickr

As an indie writer, I stopped thinking about my book pitch when I stopped thinking about writing agent query letters. For some reason, I conflated the idea of representation with the idea that I will need to represent my book. Just because I do not need to officially Pitch My Book, I still need to entice potential readers.

I’m uncomfortable talking about my writing. Sure, I can talk for hours about the craft or about my creative process. Yet, ask me to discuss the content of my work and I clam up. It’s frustrating to know every detail of a story, but to be unable to verbalize it in a way that doesn’t sound confused, stock, or lame. I get panicky, thinking that I better hurry up and say something (anything!) because I’m the author. Not being able to respond adequately makes me flustered. It makes me feel like a fake. Worst of all, it makes my story sound uninteresting. It’s bad alchemy that turns a good story into an embarrassment.

This past weekend, prior to actually watching that movie about Nazi zombies,* I had an hair appointment at my usual salon. My regular stylist is out on maternity leave and my appointment was handled by someone new to the salon and to me. She moved to Austin two months ago to pursue her musical career. She told me that not only is hair more interesting in Austin than it is in Dallas, but also that her neighbors are part of a mariachi band, and she is often awakened by them practicing out on the patio. I told her about the bagpipe player in my neighborhood that practices every Sunday afternoon and we both agreed that her mariachi band trumped my bagpipe player. Then there was a lull before she said, “What do you do?”  I said I’m a software developer, which is how I pay my bills, but I knew that was a cheat.  After all, she had shared both her vocation (stylist) and her avocation (singer).  That’s when I told her that I write.

“Really? That’s neat! What do you write?”


“Have you published anything?”

“I’m in the process of getting my first novel ready.”

“A novel! “


“What’s it about?”

After a pause, I started to tell her. I’m not going to repeat what I said because I would like you to want to read my novel. It is far better than I made it sound.

Publishing is new to me. I’m wearing my novice boots and beginner’s hat. I’m finding sharp edges, hidden passages, and sidewalks that end nowhere even Google Earth can see. I am making mistakes. More importantly, I’m working on my pitch!

*The movie is DEAD SNOW.


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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

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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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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:

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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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