How Much Money I Made Self-Publishing in 2011

January 10, 2012 by in category Archives with 4 and 0
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Happy Monday! As part of the changes this year at Routines for Writers, I am now starting the week there with news and information about my self-publishing journey. Since it’s tax time and time to finish planning out the new year, I thought I’d compile my revenue and expenses and share them with both my friends there, and here as well. 

In the following list, I did not include any revenue or expenses for 2011 that were not directly related to self-publishing. All the things I bought or paid for that I would have spent money on anyway – books, DVDs, conferences/speaking events, online classes, web site, software, etc. – are in addition to these numbers. 
EXPENSES
In April I started thinking I would probably self-publish if I didn’t hear good news about my genre at the Romance Writers of America national conference, so I started buying books and ebooks on how to publish ebooks. (That still sounds funny to me!) I spent $12.74 on five ebooks between April and August. I self-published Little Miss Lovesick [link] in September. Then I spent $67.59 on three books and three ebooks between September and December. I also bought a copy of my book for $0.99 at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble so I could double-check the formatting.
My husband is a former graphic designer so I paid $9.99 for the photo we used to create the cover, and my husband gained a lot of points to leverage against chores in the future. 🙂  I spent $15 on an online class where I learned how to format my book for Kindle, then I did all the formatting myself. 
I decided that I wanted to own my ISBNs, and I wanted enough of them to continue publishing years into the future with consecutive numbers assigned to my “publishing company.” So I paid $575 for 100 ISBN numbers. I also paid $57 to file a DBA (Doing Business As) form with the State of California to use Daydreamer Entertainment as my company name. (It’s not a corporation or an LLC, it’s just permission to use a name that is not my own.) 
PUBLISHING THE BOOK
I uploaded the book to Amazon on September 17. But I was pretty sure I had a formatting problem, so I asked all of my friends not to buy a copy until I fixed it on September 22. I decided I wanted to price books the way I like to buy DVDs at Best Buy and Target: on sale when they first come out, and then full price after that with occasional sales. So I set the price at $0.99 for 30 days…which really means 5-6 weeks by the time you wait for your changes to take effect across all venues.
The book went up on Barnes & Noble on September 22 and Smashwords on September 21. If you aren’t familiar with Smashwords, they distribute my book to the iTunes store, Kobo, Diesel and more. There are a couple other venues I want to use, but with the move and the holidays, I haven’t been able to complete the work yet.
SALES AND REVENUE
I think the minimum that you have to earn before getting paid (on all three sites – Amazon, B&N and Smashwords) is $10. You can download a spreadsheet showing your sales and revenue from Amazon and B&N, which I have done every month. I’m not sure about Smashwords; I have a spreadsheet with all of my sales across all their distribution channels, but I’m still reading it over and figuring it out. It looks like their spreadsheet is only available by quarter, but it includes what countries you’ve sold to. Cool.
For September through December, 2011, I’ve earned $5.39 on 17 sales from B&N, and $8.11 on 8 sales from Smashwords (for sales to Smashwords and Apple customers only, so far). Again, I won’t get paid by either of them until they owe me at least $10. As seems to be so often the case, the biggest sales are from Amazon. I’ll break it down by month.
September – $13.65 in earnings on 39 sales, paid on November 29th; $0.26 on 1 sale in the Amazon UK store, unpaid until I reach $10.
October – $12.15 on 33 sales, paid on December 23rd; no non-U.S. sales.
November – $22.05 on 9 sales, not yet paid; no non-U.S. sales. (The price from the end of October on is $3.99.)
December – Reports are generated on the 15th of the month (next week), but it looks like Dec numbers are approximately $9.65 on 4 sales. That means I won’t get a check in February. 
THE BOTTOM LINE
My total earnings for 2011 is $71.26 on 111 sales. (Of course, that’s not what I’ll report to the IRS. That number would be $25.80, the amount I actually got paid in 2011.) Total expenses for 2011 per the above is $739.30. (That is the number I’ll report to the IRS, in addition to other expenses, because I really did spend it in 2011.) That gives me a net loss of $668.04 for the year. (Again, not the number that will appear on my tax form because I had other writing-related income from teaching online classes. I just want you to understand the difference between the numbers as I’ll be presenting them to you throughout the year, and the way you report a cash-basis business.)
You can look at these results from a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty perspective. People who have been doing this longer than me seem to agree that it takes about a year for you to really see progress, and it’s quicker if you have multiple books out. I’ve heard that nonfiction sells better than fiction; I’ll let you know if that’s true for me when I put out my nonfiction ebooks. In the “corporate” small business world, common wisdom is that it can take up to five years to start seeing profits and have a business that supports you financially. I expect I’ll be closer to the one-year than the five-year mark, but only time will tell.
On days when I feel despondent about the numbers, my awesome husband reminds me that a few months ago I’d sold zero books and earned zero money from my fiction. This, from a self-proclaimed pessimist, so you can see why it cheers me up so much.
Today’s a new day, it’s a new week, a new year, and I’m feeling optimistic. I have a lot to do and some days I don’t know how I can possibly do it all. But every journey is one foot in front of the other, one mile after another, so I have to focus on what to do NOW and what to do NEXT and leave the rest of it on my To Do List.
Again, ask any questions you want and I’ll try to answer. And if you’re interested in planning out your 2012 writing year with me, sign up for my online class. We start next Monday. 
Until next time, Happy Writing!  🙂


Kitty Bucholtz decided to combine her undergraduate degree in business, her years of experience in accounting and finance, and her graduate degree in creative writing to become a writer-turned-independent-publisher. Her first novel, Little Miss Lovesick, was released in September 2011 as an ebook and will be available soon in print format. Kitty has also written magazine articles, devotionals, and worked as a magazine editor. She is the co-founder of Routines for Writers where she blogs every Monday. Her next novel, Love at the Fluff N Fold, will be released in Spring 2012.
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A Slice of Orange started in 2004 as a group of authors from Orange County, California. We have expanded to include authors from around the globe–from the UK, all across the US to New Zealand. Our authors include the multi-published and writers at the beginning of their publishing career. In addition to authors, we feature blog posts from editors, PR professionals, and cover designers. The bright segments of the writing and reading community that make up one perfect entity—A Slice of Orange.

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    A Slice of Orange started in 2004 as a group of authors from Orange County, California. We have expanded to include authors from around the globe–from the UK, all across the US to New Zealand. Our authors include the multi-published and writers at the beginning of their publishing career. In addition to authors, we feature blog posts from editors, PR professionals, and cover designers. The bright segments of the writing and reading community that make up one perfect entity—A Slice of Orange.
  • Anonymous says:

    Shauna, no, I didn't spend any money on marketing yet. All word of mouth, blogging (and not too many guest blogs), and social media. It really wasn't much at all due to not being sure what I should do at first and then having to make an international move.

    Louisa, I agree! I'm hoping for a strong 2012 for all of us! Glad you found this informative.

    Kathy, I'm glad you're seeing more sales with multiple books. That's what I'm working on now, getting them done, edited, and published. Whew! What a lot of work to do it all yourself! LOL! Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your numbers. I am noticing an increase with having multiple books up – looking forward to getting the next 2 books up there. But I appreciated your husband's comment – mine has told me something similar. We can fret about our numbers and wonder if it's worth it so it's nice to hear that perspective. Oprah said if you feel called to write, you write, whether you have 15 readers of 5 billion.

  • Anonymous says:

    Kitty,

    Publishing certainly can be a slow road. Let's hope for a strong showing in 2012! Informative column.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your numbers, Kitty.

    You didn't mention any money spent on marketing. Did you rely totally on word of mouth to sell your book?

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