I run a blog, I edit, I make my own promo posters, I do 95% of my own advertising, I read and review for a magazine, I make my own trailers and handle about 10 social media sites all by myself.
I don’t get paid for any of that.
The only payment I get for reviewing is when an author is kind enough to supply the book, which I know comes out of their profits. (Just as it comes out of mine to provide free books for review or to my readers)
The only money I make on my writing is about 0.003 pence/cents a page on KU and less than 20 pence a sale outside of it. You don’t get a monthly wage, a yearly salary or anything close to regular payments. If April is a good month, maybe – *maybe* – I’ll get about £200 for a yearly quarter of sales. MAYBE. But the next pay day, in July, could be awful or awesome. October and January might be even worse. And forget it, if there’s anything political going on.
I don’t work. It’s not that I don’t want to, I can’t. So imagine trying to get a book budget when in an entire year I might make about £400. Half of that goes on buying my own paperbacks so that I have a copy of my own. The other half? Well, that usually goes quickly. Especially since I had to buy a new laptop recently and emergencies pop up all the time.
Forget buying a half dozen Amazon gift cards to give away. I can’t afford that. The only other money coming into my pocket is from disability benefits and that goes to paying the bills and buying food. So, bye bye gift cards, no way can I order paperbacks and sell them to my readers, even at a profit, because the postage overseas, alone, would cripple me. There’s no chance of buying FB adverts, but even they’re not worth it anymore. And so long to book blogs, because they won’t take you nowadays without a giveaway attached, even if all you’re asking for is a review (which is already putting you out of pocket, by supplying the book)
Now, imagine if I had to calculate how much money has not been put into my pocket from giving away books. Going into my e-mail, I’m going to assign each gifted book the average price of £2.99. Now, this year that only totals 20, but it was almost double last year. So, for this year, with 20 books, that’s a cost of nearly £60. That’s if the person would have bought the book instead. If it was for pages read, then it would be a whole lot more, since two of those books were close to 300 pages. Yet, out of that £60, I would get maybe £20 and probably not even that much from the pages read. So imagine just how much money an author loses out on by supplying free books alone, then imagine all the other hoops we have to jump through to get noticed in a world with an over-saturation of e-books.
To get a review for a book, you either have to encounter a reader who is willing to leave a review (which is uncommon enough nowadays without being in the MM genre, which some people don’t want to advertise that they read.) Then you have to top that number up by giving away copies in FB groups, GR groups, Twitter, your website, blog etc. Say you give away 100 books for free on the promise of a review, maybe 30 people will actually follow through. There’s a group on FB that is all about reviewing and if you don’t comply you don’t get another book. I’m sorry to say that I’ve had about two dozen people promise to review and then never do it. Then you have people who read the book but don’t like it and refuse to post a review, just because it’s less than 3 stars. Please, don’t be that person. Bad reviews sell books just as much as good reviews. Unless you’re trashing the author, which is never okay, then your review can’t be anything that will stop the book from selling.
Now, consider that places like BookBub and e-mail blast newsletters, even Amazon themselves, won’t advertise a book without 50 reviews. Imagine the effort and cost that goes into getting those 50 reviews, when the avenues above failed to get even 30.
Now think about book blogs. Nowadays, you can’t get a book review without adding a giveaway – which adds more cost – and even then, you might never hear back from them, because book blogs nowadays don’t even let you know that they don’t have any intention of reviewing or posting for you. Unless you buy a paid tour. Now, that’s a different story – and yet more cost.
So, take my own life for example. If I made £100 every quarter for a year, I’d end up with £400 at the end of the year, for the next year. Here’s the break down of what it would cost to effectively advertise myself from scratch:
£100 -> bracelets. (This is an actual cost that I paid to have bracelets with my author website and name on them, which I can’t afford to send, because of postage)
£40 -> postage for FOUR package to international countries outside of the UK.
£100 -> bookmarks
£50 -> business cards
£50 -> postcards
£100 -> 1 year’s worth of printer ink
£50 -> 1 year’s worth of printer paper
£100 -> FB adverts
£200 -> various swag (necklaces, bookmarks, keyrings, badges, earrings, pens)
£80 -> Photoshop
£400 -> ordering approx 12 paperbacks and paying postage to send them
£20 a month / £240 a year -> premium website
That’s only the tip of the iceberg. What I can think of, off the top of my head. Which ends up with a cost of about £1,500 a year. That’s without adding on any extraneous advertising. Now, if you’re lucky and very popular, you have to fork out this cost almost every year, to replenish your supplies of swag/business cards/bracelets etc. This doesn’t include the cost of buying book blog tour, extra giveaways for blog posts or reviews, or the constant stream of money spent on e-mail blasts. Adding on those extras, an author could spend about £5-10k a year, easily. And that’s at the small end of the spectrum.
Me? I couldn’t even order the paperbacks off this list, for a year. Not when I need to focus on so much more. I also need to keep extra cash back – usually about £40 – for when I’m asked to review a book in a series, in case I want/need to buy the rest of the books or the previous books. Sure, this is my own choice but I see reviewing as a business. One that I voluntarily took part in, because I love to read and I love to supply the reviews that I know authors desperately need. However, it’s a one-sided business. I don’t ask every author I’ve ever reviewed to read my work and leave a review. That’s unprofessional and I’m probably not their cup of tea. I read outside of my own genre, but write specifically in the MM romance genre, so I know that’s not practical.
But, it’s the bare faced truth of life as an author. We spend 95% of our lives writing for other people, giving the gift of literature and swag, without ever being able to expect anything in return. Because these are the facts:
A reader who loves one of your books might hate the rest.
Someone you gifted a book to might love it, but it doesn’t mean they’ll go out and buy more.
You can build a £50-£100 box of goodies for a massive giveaway, but never hear from the winner again.
You can have 50 clicks on your link, but never one purchase.
Someone might PM you to rave about how much they loved your book, but they will never review in pubic.
A good review doesn’t equal more sales.
A bad review doesn’t equal less sales.
A book blog may never reply to you, even after 2 years (true story) no matter whether you offer to do a giveaway or not.
Unless you have a big budget, you’re unlikely to get recognised in your genre.
You have to hold on tight, show appreciation to and constantly keep in touch with the few people who are fans of all your work. Even if it’s only two people, you need to appreciate and reward them for their loyalty.
Because the publishing world has grown so much in the last 5-10 years, the world is over-saturated with e-book from both self published and Indie authors. The Big 5 publishers will always dominate, they will always have a budget three times the size of yours, but persistence and maintaining a presence is key. Even if you only have two loyal readers, those two readers should mean the world to you. Because out of all those books the world has to offer, they READ yours. They love YOURS. And that is something that no money can buy.