HOW SELF-PUBLISHING ROYALTIES WORK

One of the best benefits of self-publishing is the royalties: You’ll earn more per copy sold than you would through a publishing company. But how exactly does this work? What can you expect royalty-wise in the self-publishing world? And what about your overhead?

The truth is, it completely depends on how you want to approach this process. Do you want your book to be a hard copy, e-book or both? Do you want to order a bunch of copies up front or print a small amount of copies as you go? How much help, if any, do you want with promotion? These are just a few of the choices you’ll need to make on the front end. To help with that, here is a primer on what you can expect in terms of overhead and royalties in the self-publishing world.

THE E-BOOK ONLY OPTION

The appeal of this option is affordability. For $50 (or sometimes less if you look hard enough) you can have your book professionally converted to an e-book format, and if you are good at graphics or know someone who is, you can create your own book cover art. The point is, overhead through the e-book option is very low, especially since websites like Amazon charge nothing for you to upload your book to their website. On top of that you’ll get a relatively high percentage of royalties for each copy sold. Again using Amazon as an example, you’ll get 70 percent of the profits for each book sold.

So low overhead, high royalties. Sounds good, right? So what’s the catch? There’s no catch exactly, but there are two obstacles an e-book-only writer has to figure out.

The first is marketing. There are literally millions of e-books out there, and your book would be swallowed up by them. There’s no built-in promotion that will come through e-publishing, so it will all fall on you. Your church community or Facebook, Twitter or Instagram platform will be the only way your book will sell.

The second problem is that e-readers, while popular, are only used by a certain percentage of people. There will be a sizable amount of people who may want to read your product but who will be turned off by the e-book only option.

THE SELF-PROMOTED HARD COPY OPTION

In a lot of ways, this is much like the e-book option. You’ll need to design the artwork for your book and be able to convert the entire project to a PDF. From there, the profits are all up to you. Different printers will charge varying amounts to produce a hard copy of your book, and this will vary by how many copies you’re willing to make. The more you order the more your upfront costs go up, but your cost per copy decreases. From there you can decide how much to sell your book for to offset those costs. In this scenario, you’re getting 100 percent of the royalties but have a much higher overhead to cover.

The upside of this is you’re not limiting your audience to e-reader users only. The downside is you’re making a much higher financial commitment and all sales for your book fall completely on you.

THE SELF-PUBLISHING PACKAGE OPTION

Because self-promotion usually yields limited returns, there are several businesses out there that offer packages to help potential authors launch their project from beginning to end. In these scenarios you write the book, then professionals format, edit, design the cover art, load the book on to multiple e-book platforms and produce hard copies of the book. Usually companies will offer a range of options starting as low as $800 and in some cases going as high as $10,000. The difference in these prices usually focuses on one thing: promotion. For instance, if you look at the services Equip offers, you’ll notice the more you pay the more Equip will use their network to help get your book to a mass audience.

The upsides of this option are many: You’ll have a product that looks professional, is being promoted through avenues you could never reach on your own, and that enables you to be even more effective in your own self-promotion. Download the Free Self-Publishing Guide to learn more.

The downside is obvious: cost. This option is the most expensive upfront, and you’ll still have to pay for more hard copies of books along the way. Before going this route, you’d want to get specific numbers about how well books sell through their networks. You’ll also want to find a service that has connections to the world you’re trying to reach: a character study about the life of Joseph is geared for a different audience than a zombie mystery novel. In other words, if you want to reach Christians, find a service that has promotional connections to a Christian audience.

So in summary, you have a lot of options at your disposal, so start thinking about your desired outcome. Are you writing to your church community? Do you want a small group guide for your leaders? Are you wanting to write the next Purpose Driven Life? Or do you honestly not care how many people read it, you just want to see something you wrote in book form? There’s no wrong answer, but the question is important as you decide what self-publishing route is right for you.

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