Some Costs of Short Fiction
In the old days, meaning ten years ago, we counted the price of selling short fiction in the cost of envelopes and postage. Not a small cost, actually. And printer ink and paper.
Now submissions are electronic with no costs other than the ability to deal with rejection and the wait for an editor to read your work. Actually, in this new world, the wait is the worst part since things are done so quickly these days.
So what are the indie publishing costs of what I described yesterday in trying to make a living with your short fiction?
Most of the costs of your office are what are called “set costs.” Those are costs that you experience regularly, such as a percentage of your mortgage payment for your writing office, a percentage of your power bill, your internet cost, your web site costs, and so on.
You also have some office expenses, such as when you buy a new computer or printer or paper or ink or a new desk or office chair. Those are expenses.
So set costs and expenses. How much are they? That will vary from person to person, situation to situation. But if you are going to be making a living with your short fiction, you need to treat everything like a business.
And early on, if you are smart and good with costs and expenses, you should never have to pay taxes on your writing money. In the business online workshop, Kris and I talk about when to change business structure and such to not pay so much in taxes.
This was the area I got three questions about today. And this area I can add in some pretty clear costs here.
Copyediting costs: These will vary, but for a short story of about 5,000 words you should be able to get a good copyedit on your manuscript for about $100.00.
Art Costs: At most of the online art sites, you should be able to buy a license to some cover art for anywhere from $15.00 to $30.00. If you are putting more than one piece of art on a cover, this total will go up.
Adobe Creative Suite: You will need this for InDesign and Photoshop at least. Worth the $50 per month, so turn it into a set cost for your office.
ISBN: You do not need an ISBN for your short stories in electronic, but you would want one on the paper version. For a short story, buy the $10.00 ISBN from CreateSpace so you can put your own publisher name on it.
So moving the set cost of Adobe Creative Suite back to office costs, then per story you will be spending about $125 to $150 to get your story into print. The big part of that is the copyediting.
But one thing to remember. These costs are one-time costs. Your story can earn for years and years and years. Key to remember.
And I am not counting your time to write the story or to produce the story. Normally I would, but wanted to keep this simple this time.
Also, when you put the story into the collection, it does not have to be copyedited again. So for collections, your cost would only be from $25 to $40 per collection. As per last night’s discussion, you will make about $4.00 per sale of a collection, so you have your entire production costs back in ten sales.
Another Way of Thinking About Costs
Take your total costs for producing a short story. Include a percentage of your office costs. Say you have about $300 in office set costs per month and you do 15 short stories in a month, you have per story a cost of about $20 set costs, plus the $150 for the production costs, giving you an investment in a story of $170.
Yes, I did say investment. You have created an income property.
So don’t think about how soon you can get the production costs back. Instead think of the $170 as if you put it into a long-term investment account.
So those of you who have 401K and savings and other investments, you know a 10% annual return on your money is pretty darned good.
So what do you need to get the $170 investment earning 10% annually?
$17.00 in income per year from the story. Or about 9 sales of the story in an entire year (at $2.00 per sale) will get you above a 10% return on the investment.
9 sales. In a year. From all the different places to sell.
Yeah, I know, applying real business and investment thinking to publishing hurts sometimes.
Hoped that answered some of the production cost questions. I think of the costs as production costs right up to the point when the story is done and the cover and such is done. Then, I switch my thinking to investment. I have invested the money I spent to produce that story in my future.
Many of you with day jobs do this with your retirement accounts. Why not think of your writing in the same fashion? Takes a ton of pressure off the sales.
And puts low sales of a story a month into real perspective.
A Side Story
Last year I had a nonfiction book earn me a 2,700% annual return on my investment. Blog posts turned into a book and the book was in a successful bundle as well as having good sales through all the sites.
Now I expect that same book to still have a fantastic rate of annual return on investment this year. Maybe over 100%. And who knows, it might maintain that kind of massive return on original investment for years.
Investors in stock or bonds would kill for those rates of return.
We create property, folks. I like to think of each story as a house in a subdivision that I lease out. That nonfiction book was an expensive piece of property I bought real cheap. (grin)