Mr Poll plays the numbers game – Part Two: Pricing

The names Bonio… James Bonio.

In the previous post I discussed promotion in its various forms, before plumping for the time-honoured method of print advertising.

I fear I may also have traumatised a good many of you with the sight of Bond in a pair of red braces and little else. Sorry about that. By way of apology, how about this picture of Bond crossed with an Afghan hound?

Yes, that’s much better.

So, as promised, in this post I’ll give you a rundown of the outlay I have made, or plan to make, in getting Title Withheld out there in the big bad world. I’ll also discuss the thoughts behind pricing for both the eBook and the print editions.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter straight away, shall we? Here is a list of the costs I’m looking at:

– a 1/4 page teaser advert in Scream magazine #19 = £100
– a full page advert in Scream magazine #20 = £300
– a 1/2 page teaser advert in Cemetery Dance magazine #71 = £90 approx
– a full page advert in Cemetery Dance magazine #72 = £125 approx
– a 1/2 page advert in WFC 2013’s Souvenir Book = £85
– a full line-edit of 100,000 words = £500

That’s £1,200 in total, which, I have to admit, is a lot of money however you cut it. That said, you don’t have to go as mad as I have in order to get your book on the radar. A single, well-placed and eye-catching ad for your killer novel could be just as effective. You may find the sales you achieve from that one advert could fund another, and another, and so on.

And while £500 for a full line-edit may seem steep, remember that wielding the red pen will be none other than UK genre fiction super-agent John Jarrold. Having a well-respected professional help improve something I have written will be, for me, an invaluable experience. If my second draft survives the process with no fatal wounds then I’ll be so happy you’d struggle getting me down from the ceiling.

Okay, so there’s an honest appraisal of the direct costs for Title Withheld. Now for the really grisly bit: asking for someone’s hard-earned cash to read the book.

Again, let’s cut to the chase. For the eBook edition I’m hoping to stick on a price tag of $2.99 (£1.99), and for the print edition I’ll ask for $13.99 (£9.50).

$2.99 is the minimum price I can charge on Amazon and still qualify for a 70% royalty rate. Taking a historical average exchange rate of £1 = $1.60, along with my current circumstances, a $2.99 price tag would earn me around 78.5p per copy.

I will make the book available via CreateSpace, Amazon’s print-on-demand service. The print copy of the book will span approximately 320 pages of a standard US paperback (5.5″ x 8.5″). In order to earn royalties across all of CreateSpace’s distribution channels I would need to charge around $13.99 per copy. This would earn me around £1.35 for each copy purchased through Amazon.com, and around 33p per copy through CreateSpace’s expanded distribution channels.

(To play with CreateSpace’s royalty calculator click here and then the Royalties tab.)

It’s a shame I can’t bring the print copy price down much lower because, while $13.99 pitches the book fairly compared to the average US paperback, here in the UK £9.50 is somewhat above the average RRP of a similarly sized novel (£7.99), and no doubt there will be postage to pay on top of that.

So why am I going to the trouble of providing a print copy of Title Withheld? Well, it mostly comes down to the first post in this short series: promotion. You see, in order to have a book considered for review in assorted print magazines it is not uncommon for them to require a bound copy. I’ll also need promotional copies for giveaways on Goodreads and for the freebie tables at conventions. If I’m going to the trouble of creating a proper print version then I may as well make it available for purchase.

(There may also be a spot of Narcissism involved too.) 😉

Given the above outlay and projected royalties (jabs calculator) I would need to attract 1,529 individual purchases of the eBook to break even.

Okay, I’ll say this now: 1,529 purchases is a lot! Do I feel it is possible? Yes, but then breaking even isn’t the reason why I’m doing this. Seriously, if a single stranger buys my book and really digs the story then I’ll be chuffed to bits because, in keeping with the spirit of my very first blog posting, that one purchase becomes the start of something.

But while I’m getting my excuses in early, let’s not write off my chances. After all, I’ll be advertising the book to 35,000+ horror fans here in the UK and in the US. My previous posts on removing US Withholding Tax from royalties continue to attract hits from all around the world, all of whom get to see my teaser banner above.

I also have a small but growing number of blog and Twitter followers. Let me say a huge thank you to you all. It’s the likes and kind comments I receive that keep me believing. Your readership is truly a pleasant surprise because I haven’t said much about the book at all.

Not yet anyway.

That all changes from the next post, where I’ll at least tell you what the thing is called. You didn’t think I’d really call my book Title Withheld did you?

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you again in my next post.

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Mr Poll plays the numbers game – Part One: Promotion

Not Bobby Ball, yesterday

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.

Laters, ‘taters.