Monday, July 10, 2017

Cost Benefit Analysis, Otherwise known as Who Are You Kidding?


- by Susan Shea

I still recall the thrill of being able to say, "Yes, my publisher has agreed to an advance..." "Oh, look, my advance check has arrived. I must hurry to the bank..."

It sounded so professional, so financially satisfying. Only later would I figure out what a fool's game this turned out to be. Now, lots of writers get really good advances. Some break even, some actually make money. But for this then newcomer, the first advance was about how much it cost me to fly to the Big Bouchercon convention, stay (shared room) in a hotel, and pay my share at exciting restaurants where I was at the same table as some of my heroes.

The costs of promoting a book, even with a major publisher, can be steep unless you have the discipline of a Roman soldier. Who doesn't think it's valuable to attend a convention where multitudes of readers will hear about your new book? If you have a small publisher with lousy bookstore distribution, you may have to consign your book, store by store. So you buy your own book at 50% off retail, consign it to a store, which takes %40 of the retail price. You think you make 10%? Back to math class. Shipping, pay that, and of course the store wants to hand you back any books that didn't sell in a few weeks.

You may hire a PR firm, hire a web builder, give away a number of books you bought from your publisher. You're building a career and none of this is foolish. But until you're getting he kinds of advances some of my more successful pals get, you're lucky if you break even.

I don't say this to discourage you, only to urge you to make a plan, decide how much you can afford to invest in your wonderful career, and then stock up on ramen noodles. Whatever you do, think had about quitting the day job, okay? (Says one who did just that.)


Paul D. Marks said...

It is sobering, isn't it, Susan? And I guess one has to be realistic. It would be nice to put an ad in the NY Times, but would probably break the bank ;-).

Unknown said...

Sad but true. Nice that you were able to quit the day job, though.

Susan C Shea said...

RM, I planned ahead, figured out how much I'd need so I wouldn't panic, then stuck to that. Had the loving encouragement of my partner, who quit his day job when he was 25 to become an artist and never looked back!