I want to add a quick disclaimer that this might be one of the last posts I write for this blog. It boils down to the struggle I’ve been having writing posts for the past six months. I start a post, draw a blank, trash it, try to think of another way to say it, wait for inspiration to strike, and try again. I think this might be a sign for me to move on. Stephannie Beman (the other administrator of this blog) and I are currently discussing the possibility of handing over the blog to the other two contributors of this blog. I’ll let you know more when we know where we’re going.
For today, though, I wanted to post on a topic that I’ve been seeing a lot on other blogs and in forums. Basically, the sales that authors were once making seem to be falling. I’m not going to discuss why sales are falling. I want to discuss a strategy to place yourself in the best financial place you can be.
1. Get out of debt.
Yeah, I know. Basic stuff. But sales are so volatile that you can’t depend on a certain income on a monthly basis. My sales are erratic. Huge ups and downs. You need to be able to cover your living expenses when you’re at your lowest point or have a spouse who makes the living in the family or have a job outside the home. Relying on your sales to always go up is a bad idea.
2. Never pay for something you can’t afford.
Avoid vanity presses at all costs. I can’t stress that one enough. They price books so high, it’s nearly impossible to make anything. And they make money from their authors, not from selling books. That, in itself, is a red flag.
If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. But don’t publish the book until it’s ready. Better to hold off and pay for the stuff you need to get your book together and polished up. Don’t rush into publishing just to get the book out there. So be patient (and yes, I know patience is hard).
3. Learn how to do your own covers and formatting.
Yes, this takes time and commitment, but it’s worth it. The more things you can do yourself, the less you’ll have to spend…unless you trade services. For example, if someone makes your cover and you edit for them, then that’s a good trade. The idea is that you do this without paying anything. Just be aware that if you need a modification to your cover or interior file of your book, you’re in a better position if you can do it yourself than if you have to ask someone to modify it for you.
4. Get creative on working with someone to edit and proofread your book.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to find an editing service to edit your book. There are English students in colleges, other authors, readers with background in editing, critique groups, and other people who are skilled in editing. Once again, think trade here. Offer something they need in return for the edit and/or proofread.
5. Then take the time to go over your book yourself.
As good as it is to have someone else look over your book, you need to do the final read through. I like to do the first round of edits myself while reading the book on my laptop. I used to do the first read through with a paperback copy (via CreateSpace) then on the Kindle (by downloading it on there through Calibre). Now I use the laptop to go through it once. Then I send it out to a couple of people. After they are done, I fix the story based on what they said. Then I use my text to speech feature on my Kindle to listen to the book. I go through it slowly, a little at a time so my mind won’t wander. I don’t think this should be rushed. I like to pace myself at two chapters a day, but your mileage will vary depending on the length of your book and chapters.
6. Upload the book yourself to the places you want your book sold at.
Don’t pay someone else to do this. This part of the process is easy enough where you shouldn’t even have to trade services for it. If you need another author to walk you through the process, fine. Then do that. But do it yourself.
7. Don’t pay for advertising unless you can afford it.
Ads aren’t worth buying if you need to buy food instead. While I’ve heard of some ads going well, most of them don’t bring enough benefit to make paying for them worth it. I’d err on the side of doing whatever I can for free. Food, lodging, clothes, utilities come first. If you are strapped for a promotional tool, I’d suggest making a book free and hoping enough people will like it to buy your other books. (And yes, I mean permanently put it at free.) There’s no better way of promoting your stories than to let someone read a complete sample of your work.
8. Don’t rely on one place to make your sales.
Where most of your books are sold might vary. They might not. But every little bit counts. They say not to invest your money in one place but to diversify, and the same is true for books. I’ve had months were I sold best at Amazon. Then I’ve had months where I sold best at B&N. Smashwords and its channels make up a nice percentage of total sales, too. Just like sales go up and down, they can go up and down in different places.
9. Write more books.
Some books will sell and some won’t. Some will sell right away and others take longer to gain momentum. There’s no rhyme or reason to this. That’s why having more out there helps. Just as you don’t want to rely on one place for all your income, you don’t want to rely one book to make all your income.
10. Set aside money for taxes.
Estimate higher than you believe you’ll have to pay. I was told by my tax representative that I only had to worry about a certain tax bracket when I filed my taxes last year. Well, this year came and my tax bracket changed, and with that change came a huge bill I have to pay the government before April 15. If you don’t set aside money for such an event, you’re going to have to find a way to scramble fast to come up with the amount you have to pay. (In my case, our truck is going. Thank God that truck is paid for.) Tax representatives can give you wrong information that you end up paying for later, so err on the side of caution and pretend you’ll owe a heck of a lot more than you were told you were.
11. In addition to saving aside money for taxes, have a huge emergency fund.
I recommend six months of living expenses, especially when you’re an author and looking at an income that is like a wild roller coaster. When things fluctuate, it helps to have that emergency fund to buffer you. At any time, you might have the safety net pulled out from under you. Your spouse might lose their job. Medical expenses might pop up. Having too much money in the emergency fund is way better than not having enough.
12. Plan on the event that you will have to get another job.
This is for those writers who are making a living at writing. While it’s great to make money doing what you love, this might not last. I realize there is no secure job out there, so this is a good rule of thumb for anyone. If you end up having to get another job, I think the transition will be easier if you mentally prepare for the possibility. You need to be flexible and willing to adapt to whatever changes happen.
If you have a nice emergency fund and no debt, you’ll be in a much better position, which is why I recommend getting out of debt and building up that emergency fund as fast as possible. I still have a mortgage to pay off. I’d recommend getting a small emergency fund to start, paying off the credit card bills, car loans, and other debt first. Also, put aside that tax money in an account that is for nothing but paying taxes. Then build up the emergency fund to six months of expenses. Then I’d focus on paying off the mortgage. I’d like to say I have all these steps taken care of, but I don’t. This post is primarily directed at me.
You can’t control book sales. But you can control what you do with the money you get and place yourself in the best financial position possible.