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E6: Writing a Book - The Learning Curve (26-30)

It's not for the money...

· writing a book

While I knew this before I started to a certain extent, you don't write a book to make a bunch of money on a book. But, there are plenty of rewards...

Learnings 26-30

26) Five times you’ll burst into tears:

  1. When you hit “send” on your first-draft manuscript to your publisher / editor. I was shaking.
  2. When the publisher sends you cover design options - you see what your book may actually look like - and you see your name on the cover. See below.
  3. When you first see the book formatted to look like an actual book (PDF...but stylized)
  4. When the box shows up on your doorstep and you crack it open / when you touch the book for the first time
  5. When someone you don’t know tells you out of the blue that your book is awesome

27) I couldn’t have done this myself:

Writing the book is just a percentage of the overall effort. Once the book is done, you need an editor. I could probably find one, but that would be like finding a dentist. How would I know who’s good? I’d have to go through a process - asking for referrals, interviewing them, getting proposals, negotiating, etc. Then there’s cover design, you’ll need to have the books printed, distributed on web book stores and physical bookstores, there’s warehousing, shipping to events, international strategies, etc., etc., etc. Yes, I could have done that myself. But, it’s more likely I would have (a) screwed something up royally through the process, (b) not sold anywhere near as many books, and (c) had a final product I’m nowhere near as proud of.

For fun, here are the three primary cover designs we were focused on. The one on the left, and obviously the one in the middle (the final product) were proposed with acetate, transparent covers. I loved that concept, even though it was hard to imagine what it would look like. The only traditional cover design was the one on the right...the hidden-ball-trick, but with all three glasses clear.

28) There are very little margins in book sales: 

Amazon gives you $10/book. They set the price they want to charge based on their own algorithms (we'll discuss this more at lessons learned #35), and send you $10. If they charge $16.49 (like they do right now), they keep $6.49.

With your $10, keep in mind that you had to pay to print the book, you give a % to your publisher, and you get the rest, which leaves you with a couple of bucks per book. If the average book (there is some data that suggests this is the average) sells 600-700 copies, multiply that by $3, and you’re at a whopping $2,100. Oh, and don’t forget you probably have the printed books warehoused somewhere - if that’s not your garage, you’re paying for that, too.

If they’re managing bulk orders for you, you’re paying for the shipping and handling. Bulk orders provide much higher margins, because you sell those direct, and don't have to pay a retailer. And, my publisher doesn't take a cut of the bulk, either, so encouraging bulk book sales when you speak is a good idea.

29) You will not see a dollar from your book’s sales (if you use a publisher at least) for 9-months+: 

My book came out on November 13th, 2018. As of this writing (August of 2019), the first royalty check has yet to arrive. I was told by my publisher that it is always over six months, but there’s a process around how books get distributed. If a store has five books on display, there’s no way for the publisher to know right away whether those have been sold. At some point, the retailer may send the unsold books back, which has to be netted out in your royalties. So, publishers wait at least six months before sending any dollars to you.

30) While the margins may be higher, there’s especially no money in audiobook sales (at least for me):

So far, my audiobook sales have been 2 ½% of my overall sales. While everyone talks about how the physical book is dying, my experience has been the opposite. Maybe that’s because I have a book that looks amazing - and part of the allure is the transparent cover, but the audiobook ROI has been non existent. Studio time for recording the audiobook is expensive. My audiobook will very much be a loss, but as we'll discuss later on (lessons in the 40's), I'm still glad I did it.

Has this been helpful so far? We're not even halfway through. #31 is a doozy, by the way. We'll talk about book sales next - so called "best sellers", promotion, publicists and pricing. Ready? (Lessons 31-35)

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