I've gotten this question a few times in the last few weeks: "How many copies do you need to sell before you break even?"
I really don't know how to answer that.
When do I go back to spending money to start counting a debit for Impossibly Funky? Do I only include book expenses or should I count the zine, too? If I just count the book I'm looking at things like:
- Legitimate studio-approved publicity materials
- Ads in magazines
- Postcards + Postcard Mailing
- Mailing books
- Hotels for book tour
- Gas for book tour
- Review copies
- Books for sale
I'm not complaining. It can be the way of the world with smaller publishers. We're moving towards more of a print on demand (POD) structure where there isn't a huge print run of books at the initial outset. That still happens for real authors, yes, but for me it's one book at a time at a cost of about $13.00 US. If you're not good at math that's more than half of the cover price ($24.95). When stores buy my books or pay me on consignment for anything less than 52%, I lose money. (A 60/40 split in my favor is a rarity).
When I sell books away from stores I charge $20 which means that my profit is $7 per book. I'm not going to get rich from that.
Yes, I did get a nice outlay of cash from friends, family, and fans via my IndieGoGo project over the summer. That was just about $5,000. Just about every drop of that got sucked up via the postcard printing and via magazine ads. That doesn't begin to touch the scores of books I sent out for review. Thus, if I'm breaking balls about sending review copies out and not actually getting reviewed, you may know why. Each non-reviewing magazine, newspaper, blog, podcast, etc. costs me $16 (book + shipping). And that's also why I'm not so hot on sending out freebies.
I never answered the question, nor do I really want to know. But I hope I made it clear that the math is fuzzy at best (and devastating at worst).