It's tax season. Yesterday, I compared my earnings from 2014 and 2015 on a book-by-book level, discussing the changes in income and situation.
Today, I'm going to show 2015 on a more complete level, discussing monetary expenditures versus earnings.
Here is a top-level glance at my expenditures and earnings by month.
There are a few things you have probably noticed about this chart. First, there are months I didn't spend anything. Why? Editorial, Cover Art, and often Advertising are done in advance. Sometimes, I plan one to two months in advance. For some covert art, I plan a year in advance. So, that skews things. Here's the deal: I pay for things as I have the money to pay for them–or I'm gambling and anticipating earnings. Take October for example.
In October, I spent a great deal of money on Cover Art. I also spent a great deal on advertising for November and December. Money spent in December was used for earnings in January 2016 and so on. So, this isn't actually a good indication of how money flows. That said, I spent less in 2015 than I earned, and that is the foundation for a successful business. (Profit does matter.)
What this does show is that spending money on advertising makes a big difference. The months I had the extra money to spend on advertising, I made substantially more money in the following months. Not every promotion worked, and there were definitely promotions I lost money on, but… I gained more than I lost, which is my end-game goal as a general rule.
January, October, November, and December saw a lot of general investments in cover art and editorial, which skews the numbers. Nov-Jan of each year tends to have higher sales, so I try to invest in my writing when I expect money to come in to cover the bills.
Later in the 2015, editorial work wasn't being compensated through monetary investments, which has really, really helped my bottom line. Yay for bartering and/or other methods of payment!
Here is the list of expenditures by type:
2016 will see a large spike in cover art costs, very little in editorial costs, substantial amounts in advertising, and very little in office supplies. That said, this is a pretty good indication of how I spend my money. In 2016, I want to spend more on advertising if I can afford it to help boost my general visibility.
I also use a lot of free tools to help promote my books, which helps substantially.
Advertising is the primary driver of my sales. While I'd like to say I have a huge street team of first-day buyers, I don't. I rely on using free promotions to gain exposure and reviews, which in turn help convince other readers to give my books a try.
I also use book blog tours to help gain a name and exposure. I have a preference for tours that review books as a part of the tour.
In 2016,one of my goals is to explore free options I can do for advertising in addition to the things I already do. No lies, advertising is tough as hell for me, but I keep stabbing at it in hopes of succeeding somewhere.
My main strategy is persistence. I figure if I don't give up, something good will happen eventually… right?
Cover Art is expensive, but worth it. My cover art costs have gone up substantially, but I'm coping with it. Because I buy things as I have the money to do so, I have a lot of cover art for unreleased titles. That means when the books are ready, I don't have to worry if my royalties were high enough to handle the costs.
It doesn't pay off in the short term, but it does pay off in the long term. Don't spend money you don't have is a pretty good rule for business… and unfortunately, when you're an author, it often doesn't work out that way until you have at least three to five books out… and even then, if you aren't aggressive about your advertising, if you don't hit in a semi-popular genre, you might not have the income.
Publishing is a pretty difficult career option. In some ways, I do not feel successful at all. Every time I look at my finances, I worry–and with good reason.
There are no guarantees. So, I try to stack the deck in my favor and hope it works out in the long term.