It’s time for me to slick back the hair, pop on a pair of red braces, ease into a pinstripe suit and start talking some numbers at you, Rookie.
Yup, Lucian Gecko is here to examine two of the saltier aspects of self-publishing: getting your work known and earning royalties. If I can get through the remainder of this without thumbing my braces, Bobby Ball style, then I’ll be doing well.
In this post I’ll briefly discuss promotion. The numbers discussed here will then inform the next post on the gory topic of pricing up the book.
The methods authors use to get their work noticed are expanding at roughly the same rate as the internet itself. That’s pretty quick, then. I mean, for example, you could hit a number of forums and mention your work in passing; you could set up a Twitter account and dive headlong into Follow Friday; you could hit Facebook and like, comment and friend virtually everything in existence; you could plant some writing on Wattpad or a few freebies on Smashwords and build a following that way. Aaaaand so on.
This may have worked a year or two ago but try those methods now and you will likely find yourself accruing an alarming number of negative reviews from people pissed off at the number of would-be authors spamming countless forums with their armies of sock puppets. Indulge in Follow Friday and you will probably gather lots of Twitter followers who are just as keen to promote their books as you are yours. Put something on Smashwords and it will quickly disappear from the homepage, often swept away in a sweaty river of erotica before it has a chance to appear on most users’ radars.
While self-publishing and the internet have undoubtedly widened the road to readers, it is clear that we have reached saturation point. Look at the popular book reviewing blogs, especially those espousing indie books, and you will regularly see they are closed to submissions. As a result it is increasingly difficult to make your voice heard above the noise.
So I’m going to try something you don’t see many indies doing, or at least not yet anyway. I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and advertise. Yeah, I know, crazy, right?
This is an approach that requires a number of things: a book with a killer hook; a series of eye-catching adverts; confidence in one’s work; a massive pair of nuts… oh, and an advertising budget.
Luckily I have most of these, and I’ll be delighted to demonstrate such over the coming posts. Ahem.
In a previous post I mentioned that it costs over £20,000 to put a full-page advert in The Sunday Times book supplement, which has a circulation of around 895,000 readers. Obviously I won’t be doing that – I mean a self-published horror novel occupying a full page of The Sunday Times, can you imagine it? – but it does introduce an important measure I’ve been using to judge the value of advertising.
Let’s say I earn £1 for each copy of Title Withheld purchased. In order to make back the money spent on advertising in The Sunday Times I would need to achieve one sale for every 44 readers. (Let’s skirt the fact that selling 20,000 copies would put me in the bestseller chart most weeks!)
This would be tricky in a national newspaper because, if we’re brutally honest, horror fiction has been somewhat out of favour since the early 1990’s. Sure you still have big hitters in the horror field but it’s like Bill Hicks’ Iraqi Army joke – once you get past King and Koontz there’s a biiiiiig drop-off. No, rather than hitting a national newspaper we need to focus on publications more sympathetic to our cause.
To this end I began to compose a list of potential magazines that would be a good host for a horror novel advert. I chose a handful of publications both here in the UK and in the US, then tried to gather some information on circulation figures and advertising rates. If you want to try something similar search for the name of your favourite magazine and the term “rate card”.
So here was how my list shaped up at the beginning. For the sake of consistency I have assumed a full-page advert in each publication. Grandiose, I know, but I refer you to the size of my nuts. At the end of each I’ve given a sale ratio to break even, assuming a royalty of £1 per copy.
Fortean Times (UK) – Jan 2011 circulation 17,024 – £1,900 – 1:8 (1 sale in 8)
Bizarre (UK) – Oct 2012 circulation approx 48,000 – £2,650 – 1:18
Viz (UK) – Feb 2011 circulation 64,233 – £3,685 – 1:17
Rue Morgue (CA) – circulation approx 60,000 – CA$2800 + 13% tax (£2025) – 1:29
Asimov’s (US) – Jan 2012 circulation 22,593 – $1,000 (£625) – 1:36
Analog (US) – Jan 2011 circulation 26,493 – $1,000 (£625) – 1:42
Even with this little list you can see how the cost of advertising jumps considerably from publication to publication. (I should point out all the UK titles are from the same publisher.)
I thought I’d dig a little deeper and sent off a few queries to both Cemetery Dance, the measure by which all horror fiction magazines are judged, and a relatively new magazine on the UK newsstands called Scream. Both responded in double-quick time and were more than happy for me to divulge numbers. Wanna see?
Cemetery Dance (US) – circulation 10,000+ – $400 (£250) – 1:40+
Scream (UK) – circulation approx 23,000 – £300 – 1:76
Pretty impressive, huh? And it gets better. Cemetery Dance offers 50% discounts for small presses and individual authors (making that 1 sale in 40+ become 1 sale in 80+), and Scream offers discounts if you book far enough in advance. As you can see it needn’t cost the earth to advertise your stories to a sympathetic audience.
On top of these I have also reserved a 1/2 page slot in the World Fantasy Convention 2013 Souvenir Book. Not only will my book be on the radar of all the attendees (readers, authors, publishers and agents alike) but it will be part of a collectors item for years to come. The cost of this slot? £85. Deal, I say.
So there’s a little eye-opener for you. I hope it’s been of interest. In the next post I’ll tot up the outlay and discuss the tricky subject of pricing. Do join me.