Thursday, November 08, 2012

Profit and Loss...

I got entangled in a discussion on Dear Author regarding the impact of the .99 cent book on the industry. A lot of back and forth and pro’s and con’s. But what really blew me away was a comment by Courtney Milan. For those who aren’t familiar with her – she’s an amazing historical romance author who decided to self-publish her work.

In my opinion Ms. Milan is an example of how to self-publish the right way. She’s not just throwing content out there – she’s actually “publishing” her work. She uses a content editor and a copyeditor. She’s a very savvy marketer. In every sense she is a “publisher.” Her products are very polished.

To this end she actually indicated in her comment that prior to deciding to take on a project – she does a profit and loss analysis.

These are common in publishing where an editor will work up a projected sales model to determine if it’s worth the publishing company’s money to buy the book. But Ms. Milan does this before she makes the determination to write the book.

Now as someone who has written a number of off-the-beaten-track-of-publishing books I was fascinated by this. Had I been more practical, stayed more within the mainstream I might have had more success. Even today the book that’s being shopped is just a little… different. So we’ll see what happens.

But to me it always came down to the idea. Once the idea hit I had to write that book. It’s the book I want to write and I don’t care that it’s different I’m doing it anyway. Stubborn? Or stupid?

So I asked Ms. Milan the question – if you determine the book might result in a loss does that mean you just don’t write it? The idea was unthinkable to me.

Ms. Milan answered my question… as did some other authors who also responded… Of course that’s what it means. But then she further explained that when considering “profit” it’s not always just about the money.

Wow did a light bulb go on when I read that! I’m struggling right now with the “business” of writing. And thinking about profits or lack there of as it relates to labor. Normally when I think about profit I’m thinking about money. I mean who doesn’t. But in this business I have to realize there are other benefits beyond money. That maybe it’s okay to write a book I know I’m not going to make much money on – just to get some other benefit that may impact my career long term. Like a good review from a notable blogger or a nomination. (See Molly - I was listening to you!)

At least that’s what I need to tell myself when that royalty statement comes in the mail and there is no check associated with it.


Anonymous said...

Stephanie, this is such a great topic. We could spend a weekend over drinks talking about this, and should. Wow! a profit and loss statement is so organized and business like and nothing I'd ever thought of applying to writing a book.

Very interesting. Thanks.

Eileen said...

I so feel your pain, Steph. I have to say, though, for the past few months I've let my day job take over my life and haven't been writing. The longer I spend not writing, the darker my mood has become. I think satisfying the need we have as storytellers to write is one of those intangible profits that has to be considered.

Molly O'Keefe said...

wow! I'm so so so intrigued and at the same time...have no clue how to do that. Is it just a question of is the book marketable? Too much of a risk? Because I really have no sense of that - at all. Risk seems good to me. Perhaps I'm just not thinking of all of this in the right context...

really interesting.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I bet everything would factor.

Knowing absolutely what your prior sales were, you could factor in stories that sold better than others, were reviewed better, where cover art might have made a difference... etc.

Keep in mind she's also setting her own price points. So maybe she determines that doing X amount of work for .99 cents - will result in say... $100 net profit - which would be a loss in terms of money.

But then decide the number of potential new readers it brings in and extrapolate that over sales for the next book it will end up making a profit.

She didn't go into specifics - but now more than ever author's have access to data. I bet we could do something similar. The issue with working with traditional publishers is there is a lot you don't have control of.

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