Self-Publishing Update: How Long Until I’m Back in the Black?

Sales/Expenses Since May 29

Books sold: 31 ebooks, 40 paperbacks

Money earned: $291.60

Money spent: $678.85


Books sold: 481 ebooks, 226 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $2,186.55

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $10,512.51

Right now I’m $1,416.96 in the red, which represents roughly 500 book sales. Considering that Biographies Vol. 1 sold more than 500 copies in its first year, I could very easily assume that Biographies Vol. 2 will hit the 500 mark — which, when combined with any additional Biographies Vol. 1 sales, would clear out that debt and help me break even by, say, May 2019.

I don’t anticipate any other major expenses for either Vol. 1 or Vol. 2, now that the mini-tour is done. Any additional readings or classes will either be local or combined with other travel (e.g. visiting my nephew and doing a reading in Washington, DC). I’m not submitting Vol. 2 to any awards, since it doesn’t really stand on its own the way Vol. 1 does. All I have left, in terms of costs, are the upcoming promotions on BargainBooksy, Fussy Librarian, etc. — and those are, like, $25 each.

So here we are. I need to earn back the costs of this recent tour, and then anything after that will be pure profit. (I could get to the “profit” stage a little faster by separating out the “reading” and “teaching” costs — I counted all of my non-vacation travel expenses as Biographies expenses, but my hotel and food expenses on the day I taught at Hugo House might belong in a different category. That’s worth considering, actually, and maybe I should redo my math.)

I don’t know if you read Longreads, but last week they published my essay “How the Publishing Industry Changed, Between My First and Second Novels.” I absolutely recommend reading it, because it’s got all of the analysis of these blog posts plus extra research and more polished writing. Here’s an excerpt:

Even if Facebook weren’t force-choking our posts (and we don’t exactly have proof that it is, aside from all of the evidence), we’d still have to deal with the ways in which social media both amplifies and dilutes any message we try to share. Everyone is asking you to read their thing, whether it’s a Twitter thread or a debut novel. Nobody has time to read everything, and the novel is longer and costs money (or a trip to the library).

“Social media and the internet have been instrumental in destroying the economics of writing,” Bradley Babendir told LitHub. He’s specifically referring to book criticism, which used to be a valued, paying gig but is now dominated by crowdsourced reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Book critics still get work the same way that authors still get sales, but … no, I think that comparison stands.

I’ll leave you with that, so you can go read the whole thing. More news when I have news to share! ❤

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash.

Seattle, Portland, Juneau — I’ll be reading and/or teaching in your cities soon!

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

We are just over a week out from PUBLICATION DAY for The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2, and in addition to putting the finishing touches on the paperback (which looks beautiful, by the way) I’ve also finally put all the pieces together for the 10-day, three-city book tour I’m doing in June.

Here are the stops:

  • Tuesday, June 5: Teaching “The Finances of Self-Publishing” at Seattle’s Hugo House. 6-9 p.m. Sign up here.
  • Wednesday, June 6: Reading and signing at Seattle’s Phinney Books. 7-8 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Friday, June 8: Reading and signing at Portland’s Another Read Through. 7-8 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Sunday, June 10: Reading and signing at Juneau’s Rainy Retreat Books, with music from Marian Call and Laura Zahasky! 5-6 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Monday, June 11: Teaching “Getting Started as a Freelancer” at Juneau’s 49 Writers. 6:30-9 p.m. Sign up here.

I’d love to see you at any/all of these events, though I wouldn’t recommend all of them because that’d probably cost you around $2,000! (Yes, I’m still tracking all of my earnings/expenses on my blog.)

If you’re in the Iowa area, I’ll be leading a discussion of The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 at Next Page Books in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May 15. Discussion starts at 7, and I’ve heard there will be wine. I’m also planning some more local (to me) readings and classes for this summer, and the next time I’m on the East Coast I’ll see if I can set up an event or two.

Also, The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 was selected as an IndieReader Best Reviewed Book of April, and Kirkus selected The Biographies of Ordinary People as one of the 35 indie reviews to be featured in its May 15th issue!

I am so excited to get to share Volume 2 with you, and to see some of y’all on tour, VERY VERY SOON. ❤

Photo credit: James Wang, CC BY 2.0.

Self-Publishing Update: Well, I’ve Finally Spent More Than I’ve Earned

Sales/Expenses Since April 22

Books sold: 5 ebooks (Amazon), 10 paperbacks

Money earned: $213.60

Money spent: $1,978.42


Books sold: 382 ebooks, 157 paperbacks

Volume 2 pre-orders: 35

Money earned (book sales): $1,619.28

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $9,540.32

We’re now at the point where I’ve spent more money on The Biographies of Ordinary People than I’ve earned from it — which should mean that it’s time to stop spending, but it takes a little bit of money to get a book published (I still need to order two cases of books from IngramSpark, for example, to give to bookstores that sell via consignment), plus the expenses of going on tour.

It should also be pretty obvious that the Patreon money was the big reason why I turned any profit on Volume 1; if I hadn’t had the support of a group of readers, I’d be way way way way into the red by now.

I do anticipate earning money on both Volume 2 book sales and the courses I’m teaching while I’m on book tour, but I don’t anticipate earning more than it’ll cost to go on the 10-day tour — and yes, I could have chopped those 10 days down to 7 if I’d been more willing to trust that all the planes would get me to all the places on time, but flying out of Cedar Rapids often means delays, and flying in and out of Juneau can mean additional delays, so I built in a few buffer days.

On the plus side, those buffer days will enable me to keep up my full-time freelance workload while traveling, so I won’t lose any money that way. Plus, the whole thing will be a tax deduction — and, more importantly, it’ll be an opportunity to meet readers, teach students, see friends, and build connections with bookstores and writing centers.

So where will I be, on this ten-day tour?

  • Tuesday, June 5: Teaching “The Finances of Self-Publishing” at Seattle’s Hugo House. 6-9 p.m. Sign up here.
  • Wednesday, June 6: Reading and signing at Seattle’s Phinney Books. 7-8 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Friday, June 8: Reading and signing at Portland’s Another Read Through. 7-8 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Sunday, June 10: Reading and signing at Juneau’s Rainy Retreat Books, with music from Marian Call and Laura Zahasky! 5-6 p.m. Facebook it here.
  • Monday, June 11: Teaching “Getting Started as a Freelancer” at Juneau’s 49 Writers. 6:30-9 p.m. Sign up here.

There’ll be a few more local events to announce this summer, starting with the Next Page Books book club in Cedar Rapids! If you’re available on Tuesday, May 15 at 7 p.m., we’ll be discussing The Biographies of Ordinary People, Volume 1.

Am I planning any readings on the East Coast? Well… the next time I’m on that side of the country, I’ll definitely look for an interested bookstore! But I’m not currently planning a multi-day tour. (See “gotta make sure I don’t go too far into the red,” above.)

I also wanted to share a couple of recent accolades:

  • The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 was an IndieReader Best Reviewed Book of April!
  • Kirkus selected The Biographies of Ordinary People as one of the 35 indie reviews to be featured in its May 15th issue!

Plus, I got to hold, review, and sign off on the print proof, which means you will be able to start ordering paperback copies soon. ❤

Photo credit: Abby Lanes, CC BY 2.0.

This Week in Self-Publishing: En Route to Missoula

Patreon revenue: $6,909

Book revenue: $888.20

Book sales: 193 ebooks, 133 paperbacks

Book expenses: $4,143.32

Money spent this week: $0.00 (Did I include the cost of flights/hotels to Missoula back when I bought them? I can’t remember. I should do a more thorough tally at some point, because I know I didn’t count the cost of the Bolt Bus to Portland last week. I think I forget that travel also counts as book expenses.)

I’m writing this from a tiny plane en route to Missoula, where I’ll be doing a reading tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Fact & Fiction bookstore with author Kayla Cagan and musicians Marian Call and Seth Boyer.

The plane is so old that I can’t imagine how old it actually must be; the seats are comfortable and wide and there is enough legroom for two of me if we sat in front of each other.

There’s also… I mean, I’m not sure this plane has wings? It must have wings. But I can’t see them — only these propeller tube things attached to the plane by metal bars, the kind of apparatus that I can only imagine coming apart.

But it hasn’t come apart yet, because this plane has flown for so long that it feels like being in the past. I have to keep reminding myself that this is, in fact, right now.

I sold nine books at my reading at Another Read Through last Friday, and I don’t know yet exactly how much I’ve earned from those sales, but the check should be arriving soon.

I’ve also been getting more Amazon reviews, all of which remind me that this book is doing exactly what I hoped it would do. Here’s one excerpt:

Being the oldest in the family and an ardent reader I related to Meredith in the beginning. I saw myself in Natalie when she got her first glasses. I understood Rosemary (the mother) even as I was bonding with her children. Jack the father reminded me of my father.

Nicole Dieker writes in a style that makes you feel you are a fly on the wall. I found myself reading “just one more chapter” until I reached the end. I am happy that it was not really “the end” and look forward to her next book.

(If you liked that review and you haven’t yet bought The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1: 1989–2000here’s the link.)

Also, to the person who included in their review that they were glad this was a trilogy, um… it’s a duology. For now. I’m pretty sure forever. Since Volume 2 ends in 2016, I’d have to wait another 15 years before I could write another book about these characters.

I am in the process of creating a new website, in which I’ll be able to showcase my freelance writing work, my novel, and my teaching. It’ll serve as an online portfolio as well as a place for me to put these blog posts (sorry Medium, we had a good run) and any other bloggy-type stuff I want to share.

I know it’s ridiculous to think of writing even more blog posts in addition to my daily work at The Billfold and my monthly work at Lifehacker, The Write Life, The Verbs, and (And revising and prepping Volume 2 for publication.)

But… like, I wrote this post for The Billfold about wanting to detach a little from social media. I used the phrase “I could be one of those people who makes the successful transition from social media renter to website homeownership,” which is… apt. I want a home base that I can call my own, where I can showcase my work and share my thoughts.

I’m also going to apply for three more awards when I get back: the IPPYs and the Ben Franklin awards, which I’ve mentioned before, along with the Washington State Book Awards, which I just learned about and which are apparently free to enter as long as I mail six copies of my book to the Seattle Public Library? I can do that.

And, of course, do another BargainBooksy promo and start applying at the other promo sites, now that I have more Amazon reviews. (Thank you.)

So that’s where I am this week. Literally in the air, as I try to put a bunch of things together and get whatever this becomes started. ❤

This Week in Self-Publishing: I Got My First Royalty Payments

Patreon revenue: $6,909

Book revenue: $858.05

Book sales: 184 ebooks, 122 paperbacks

Book expenses: $4,143.32

Money spent this week: $0.00

This week, I received my first royalty payments: $283.86 from Pronoun and $29.37 from IngramSpark. (The Pronoun money represents ebooks sold through May 31, and the IngramSpark money represents paperbacks sold through April 30.)

The Biographies of Ordinary People also got its fifth Amazon review, which means I’m now eligible to submit Biographies to a few more promotion sites—which, in turn, should get me some more sales and reviews, which will open up more promotion sites, and so on.

But… I’m not going to do the promotions right away.

First, I’m going to get on a bus to go to Portland and do my reading at Another Read Through. (7 p.m. tonight! Hope to see you there!)

Then, I’ll fly to Missoula and read at Fact & Fiction along with author Kayla Cagan and musicians Marian Call and Seth Boyer. (Friday August 11, 5:30 p.m., and I hope to see you there too!)

Then I need to submit my book to the IPPY and the IBPA awards before the early-bird deadlines run out.

Then I need to re-do my website and prioritize my TinyLetter.

Once all of that is done, I’ll be ready to go for the bigger promotion sites. After all, the goal isn’t just to sell books. It’s to get mailing list subscribers, blog readers, etc. etc. etc. and I want everything I’m presenting to them to look… like something they want.

And something I want, because—like I wrote last week—I want a professional website that highlights both my freelance and my fiction work. I also want to share more through blog posts and TinyLetters and less through Twitter and Tumblr. (Though I’ll still crosspost my TinyLetter to social media. You gotta do that.)

That’s all for now because I gotta GET ON A BUS, y’all. ❤