When I first realized I wanted to be an author, I found that I was easily overwhelmed by the extreme learning curve I had before me. And it wasn’t just stuff you had to learn, but also execute every day after that. To keep from getting ulcers (jury is still out on that) I told myself that if I could just learn one new thing a day, I would be okay and I wouldn’t get so stressed out that I wanted to quit.
Well, that kind of worked. Ha! But I thought I would share some of the things I learned along the way on this blog.
Sh!t I Learned Today: Mistakes of a New Author (Part 1) – Financial Mistakes
Do this. Do that. Make sure your doing this every day. But not too much! And, for the love of all things holy, DON’T DO THAT!
As new authors, we hear all this crap every day. And if we’re not hearing it then we’re reading it. Everyone has an opinion about how new writers should start their publishing careers.
This is NOT one of those posts. In part one of this blog post, I want to just outline some of the mistakes I made early on and explain why they were mistakes. Then in Part 2, I will explain, in my opinion, what new writers should do differently. Since these two posts are about costs and expenses, I don’t want to come off as saying DO THIS, DO THAT. This is just my own experience, and how I wish I had done things different. In Part 2, I am just talking about costs that I think are reasonable and what I would spend. It’s also the method I use now to an extent. No matter how you create and publish your book, there is going to be a cost of some sort so be prepared to pay. Before even thinking about publishing your book, make sure your finances are in order so you can budget how much you’re willing to spend on certain elements of your publishing process. Thankfully, there are companies like SMB CEO which can help you get your finances in order before making any big decisions so that you can make the most of your money, rather than wasting it as I did.
But everyone is different. No path is the same.
That being said, Part 1 is about the mistakes I made as a new writer (and still make. YAY!). I tried to think about the missteps I regret the most over the past few months I’ve started publishing. And I wanted to share them with y’all in the hopes that someone can avoid the things I did.
Maybe I will make this a series, because I wanted to start with the FINANCIAL MISTAKES I made, because I think they are the biggest ones.
The #1 One Biggest Mistake I Made was being a STUPID IDIOT WITH MY MONEY.
There I said it. I kind of feel better actually.
Let’s start from the beginning.
In December, I quit my full-time job because I was about to publish my first book. For me, this actually wasn’t a mistake. My husband and I are in a unique position where I was able to do this. We live pretty simply and without a lot of debt. My mindset is that you only live once, and you should give your dreams the best damn shot you can. Now, I’m not saying to succeed as a writer you have to quit your job, because, um, I’m not that successful. And I’m sure as hell not one of those writers who says you have to fully commit to make it. That’s stupid. People have obligations and responsibilities that require them to be superheroes and work all day and write all night. I seriously applaud you, because you’re awesome for doing that.
I said all that to say this: When I quit my job, I told my husband that I was considering my credit card (which at the time was fully paid off) as a “business loan.” It made sense to me in that we wouldn’t have to go out and actually acquire a real loan.
So I set off into the publishing world with a finished book and a shiny credit card. I’d read David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital. I’d devoured other writer’s “how to” blogs. I knew I needed a very well edited book and a blazing cover of glory. I needed professional formatting and a deep understanding of the monkeys that live inside the Amazon machine.
So my first stop: Editing.
This is actually probably an entirely separate post. I could get into some editing stories. I tend to dive headfirst into things, so I’ve gotten myself into some interesting situations.
But, like I said, another post, another time.
So my mistake here was that I didn’t have a true understanding of the market standard for editing costs. Um, I still might not, but I definitely didn’t then. I jumped onto the band wagon of the first editor who would take me. And here is where it’s get tricky: I couldn’t separate the emotion from the business. I really liked this editor. She understood me and my writing. I liked her as a person just as much as an editor. And she really helped me make my book AMAZING. Let me reemphasize that point: She is a GOOD editor.
But too good.
I paid OUT THE ASS for an editor that was beyond the level I was currently at. I sunk A LOT (let me repeat: A LOT) of money into editing my first book. Money that I will NEVER make back, but at that time, I justified it. I thought I needed this level of editing.
And here’s the moral of the story: First time writers do NOT need this level of editing. You won’t make the money back, which means it’s a bad BUSINESS decision.
I don’t know if this editor took advantage of me. Probably. But I still will always appreciate the way she helped me through the first book. She made me a better writer, so maybe that’s invaluable?
Anyways, I went on to make the same mistake with my second book. Too much editing costs. Costs that I would never recover. Only then did I come to realize this:
You have to scale your costs to the projected profits you expect.
I was an economics major, but this was a really hard lesson to learn. To me, I thought if I invested enough money, magically my book would do well. This kind of goes along with another Sh!t I Learned Today post about being wise with your money. See the trend here?
So I’ve made a few pretty bad decisions with money on my first book. Here they are:
1. Over spent with editing costs
I pretty much explained this earlier, because this was the number one biggest expense I had. I spent THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS editing my first and second book. It’s money I’ll never see again. Would I sacrifice a lesser quality book for that money back? Yes. Because I believe in my story. And I think people are better than getting hung up on a few typos. I mean, some of the best selling books out there have flaws. I would have preferred to save the money and deal with some assholes getting hung up over a typo.
2. Didn’t shop around for costs of covers, and spent too much again
When I started, I had no clue the price of covers. I sunk a lot of money into mine, but I have original covers from a very talented artist. I love my covers. But do I wish I had that money back? Yes. Because I should have shopped around and understood the real cost of covers. Maybe then I could have negotiated price. Be informed.
3. Spent WAY TOO much on professionally designed swag
I have a design background, and I’m semi-proficient with Photoshop. For me (and everyone is different), I knew I could design my own swag, but I felt pressured to have amazing stuff. But the stuff wasn’t even that amazing. I could have done it. So now I do. Never pay for something you could do yourself.
4. Spent WAT TOO much on a blog tour that was mediocre at best
I’ll repeat. Never pay for something you could do yourself. Blog tours and blitzes are case and point. Or is it ‘case in point’? I have no clue. Anyways, I had a big blog tour from a professional company. My stops were with big blogs. But those blogs were so big and so busy that they really couldn’t give any personal attention to an author, even in the form of a typed out tweet or Facebook post about the book. It was all those standard automated posts that is basically an alert that a new blog post is up. Nothing against that. I realize everyone is busy. But it wasn’t for me, because that’s not what I paid a ton of money for. Some blogs didn’t even post and gave no reason why not.
5. Over bought swag (t-shirts, book plates, bookmarks, etc)
Don’t by book plates, people. No one cares about book plates unless you’re a big time author with a nice, fancy hardcover book. They are old school, traditional publishing things. And you won’t need them. They are also expensive. And you have to order a THOUSAND at a time. Just stick to printing a hardcover book and save yourself the hassle.
T-shirts are too expensive too. Fans love them, and they are great for authors who have the money to invest in cool swag, but for writers just starting off, they are an unnecessary expense. I wasted way too much money on them.
6. GAVE AWAY TOO MUCH RUBBISH!!!!
This one is tricky. And I want to take a moment to explain. Before I had even published, I was giving away $5 gift cards left and right. To me, I thought I was getting people to like my Facebook page and building interest in my book. And I was. I had a lot of interest in my first book. People were excited about it, and I believe that helped to have a good release, which I did. BUT all those gift cards (and then when my book released, ebooks) added up. LIKE REALLY ADDED UP. I had, once again, spent way too much money on something that didn’t really equal the payouts.
So giving away stuff is good, especially to reward your fans. But I’m talking about before I even had a book released.
I’m sure I could list many more things I over spent on, but that would become a little too embarrassing. When everyone was said and done, I’d spent THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS just on publishing one book. That is crazy for an author just starting out. This is a career for me; I’m a small business owner. My books are my products. It was insane to drop this kind of cash on just one book.
I burned through that credit card, and now I’m in a position where I’m struggling to even release one book because I can’t afford the costs. I completely screwed myself because I thought I needed all these things to have a successful book. That’s not the case at all. You don’t.
You can’t buy true fans and a good following. That takes time, time and good books. So save your money. Cut costs where you can. Set that money aside to publish the next book. This is your business at the end of the day. It’s your livelihood. Without any ongoing income or money at hand, you won’t be successful and you could also face some unwanted money troubles along the way. Hire someone to manage the bookkeeping if you have to. Someone like Dave Burton, (see here for more information) can help people who have small businesses with their finances, so that they don’t run into these types of difficulties. An extra pair of eyes could be just what you need to make sure that nothing like this happens again. Don’t be like me and run through all the cash you have, leaving you with nothing left for the next books.
In Part Two, which I will post tomorrow, I will talk about the mistakes I listed above and how I could have saved money there. This is all going to be my opinion, and the prices I list will be what I WISH I would have spent. So stay tuned, and I hope this will help someone.
10 thoughts on “Sh!t I Learned Today: Mistakes of a New Author (Part 1) – Financial Mistakes”
Yeah, sounds like you got burned by that editor. My books tend to be fairly short (between 30-40k words) so the most I ever spent on editing was about $230, and she came highly recommended by a friend of mine who uses her services, and this friend has earned a place on one of Amazon’s best-selling lists. Definitely ask for references in the future.
My big financial mistake as an author was falling for a vanity publisher…spent about half of what you did just for printing!
Thanks for the comment, Beth! Yeah, I got burned. It’s just a tough thing to admit! haha. I’m much smarter about editors now. And thank you for sharing! Mistakes make for lots of cringing and embarrassment in the future, but they are great learning tools. I’m a better business woman because of mine now. I say “better” very loosely! haha.
Did you do a business plan or budget before you started? It sounds like you were surprised with your total price tag for producing your book. I agree whole heartedly that everyone needs to be edited. It is hard to determine what level/type and costs that should run for a new author. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about new writers and editors. Thank you for sharing about your experiences. New folks especially need to hear about the realities. Felita Daniels from http://www.LilacReviews.com
Thanks for you comment, Felita! I actually did do a business plan. Although, I didn’t make a budget for the first book. By the second one, I had. I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the price tag. I knew what I was spending, but I was in panic mode because my previous editor had quit on me, saying that my book wasn’t good enough yet. So when I went to my second editor, I was desperate. So I would say the desperation justified the expense at the time. Of course, when I got out of that fog, I realized what I had done! haha. I tried to view it as a business, but at the first hiccup, I panicked. Rookie mistake. haha
Meg — I have been working to find Beta Readers who will read and tell me my mistakes without my having to pay them! If all you need or want is line-edits, this is a cost-effective (aka free) way to do it. I think we all pay too much up front, looking for the ‘magic’ that will get us over the top.
Live and learn — like we have a choice.
Exactly! Money feels like it should be the secret ingredient to a successful launch, but it’s really almost worthless in the overall equation. Good beta readers are hard to find. Luckily, I have a few really good fans/friends who help me out. Thankfully they don’t charge me yet! Haha At this point, I trust myself to do a solid developmental edit. I can sort of copy edit myself, but I always pay for a proof reader. Luckily that editor will do a little copy editing for me as she proofs, which is really nice. Good luck!!!!
Great blog! I was actually about to make some of the mistakes that you just talked about. Glad I read it first. Quick question, are your books only ebooks or are they in print as well? If they are in print, did you go through a traditional publisher or self publish?
That’s great, Glenn! I’m glad I could help. Good question. My books are available in print, and I did self-publish. I use CreateSpace to publish my print books. It’s an Amazon company that prints books on demand as they are ordered. They have a great platform to work with!
I saw that Calvin Koepke did your site, but when I clicked his name, it said page couldn’t be found. Do you have his info so that I could get ahold of him? Thanks
Hey Glenn! I used a free WordPress theme to do my site, so I did everything myself. I’m assuming Calvin Koepke is the creator of the theme? But if you use WordPress, these themes are super easy to to manipulate and customize. It just takes a little exploring/ trial and error!
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