“We Just Kept On Writing.”

I agree with this part of this particular article:

I went to a panel on How to Write a Bestseller at the RWA conference and asked the two speakers what was the number one contributor to their making the jump from midlist to bestseller, and they both looked very uncomfortable and said, “We just kept on writing.” They couldn’t point to a single marketing-related action. They sure as hell didn’t say, “We sent a lot of auto-DMs on Twitter with our book links in them.”

Of course, the article ends with an appeal by the author to buy her book. There must be a lesson in that.

Profit and Loss

My new short story collection, LIES I HAVE TOLD, is already our most profitable book at Scary Hippopotamus Books. It has sold three copies and earned a dollar. I did not spend any money on editors (didn’t really need to). I did all the proofreading and did my own cover design and smacked it into shape for your Kindle. I haven’t spent any money on publicity or promotions, and probably won’t. Of course, all of this took a great deal of my time, but it has not taken a great deal of money, because my time isn’t worth all that much.

But that got me thinking: just how profitable has all of this been, really? Here’s the breakdown per book.


Year Category Cost
2012 Developmental Editing $1075
2012 Proofreading $562.50
2012 Calligraphy for Book Dedication $25
2013 Cover Design $186.30
2013 Formatting for e-book and print book $164.38
2013 Print copies for promotion $179.18
2013 Online promotions $537.47
2013 BookRooster $73.00
2013 Bookmarks $26.28
2013 Postage (for print promotions) $87.95
2013 Formatting for EPUB $21.69
2014 Print copies for promotion $119.11
2014 Goodreads ad $120
2014 Website design $328.77
2014 BookBub $220
2014 BookGorilla $100
 2015 RomanceReads $85
ALL TOTAL $3,911.63

Just a few notes here. This doesn’t include some start-up costs for Scary Hippopotamus Books (logo design and ISBN numbers). It also doesn’t include the writers’ conference I went to in 2012 to pitch the book. And, yes, a lot of these choices were ill-advised–I am sort of embarrassed that I spent money on BookRooster, and I wouldn’t pay to have any future books formatted.


Year Amount
2012 -0-
2013 $1348.61
2014 $807.94
2015 $16.82
TOTAL $2173.37


And, yet, it gets worse. Oh, does it get worse.

Costs for WREATHED

Year Category Cost
2014 Developmental Editing $1320
2014 Proofreading $325
2014 Consulting $100
2014 NetGalley $399
2014 Cover Design $1000
2014 Print Copies for Promotions $165.60
2014 NetGalley Advertising $250
2014 Advertising $53
2015 Advertising $78
ALL TOTAL $3,691

So that’s not too terrible, was it? I didn’t spend money anywhere near as stupidly as I did before, unless you count NetGalley, which did get me some reviews, but a LOT fewer than I thought I would get–certainly not a good deal if you count dollar-per-review. “Live and learn,” as my father says, “die and forget it all.”

Revenues for WREATHED

Year Amount
2014 $55.28
2015 $37.59
TOTAL $92.87

And yet–and yet–that is not our LEAST profitable book. DESIGN FOR HAPPINESS cost almost $450 for the cover art, and I’ve made $3.50 off selling ten copies. (It was never designed to be profitable, and I like the cover art a great deal, but I shouldn’t have spent the money on it.)

I look at the sales figures for WREATHED and I want to throw up. I know, intellectually, why it is not doing so well–it is kind of an odd duck in a romance market where readers aren’t necessarily looking for odd ducks. I know a lot of it has to do with the whole indie-publishing model going into decline, which has nothing specifically to do with me. And I know that I’m only one BookBub promotion away from some real sales. It’s just that, now, it’s very painful to me that I’m not doing better. I want to do better. I know it’s early days yet, and there is a lot of hard work ahead of me–I haven’t done everything I could have been doing to promote the book these last few months. But, honestly, I thought I’d be making a profit by now, and I’m not, and it doesn’t feel good.