This blog was featured on 08/27/2018
The Money Side of Hybrid Publishing
Contributor
Written by
Helen Zuman
August 2018
Contributor
Written by
Helen Zuman
August 2018

In May 2018, I published my memoir, Mating in Captivity, with She Writes Press. If you’re an author considering a hybrid path (combined, perhaps, with crowdfunding), you may be interested in the finances of my project. I’ve chosen to go into such detail partly because I wish to be of service and partly because I wish to generate honest conversation, among authors, about money.

I started writing what would become Mating in Captivity in 2005; in the next eleven years, I spent thousands of dollars on writing workshops, manuscript critiques, a writing conference, writing residencies, notebooks, pens, membership in a writers’ space, and a year in an MFA program. But those investments are tales for other times; in this article, I will focus only on the flows of money running through the process of publication—which, for me, began in earnest in March 2017, when I launched a $16,000 all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign.

Here’s the budget I shared with potential backers:

  • She Writes Press publishing package (includes interior and cover design, distribution, proofreading, plus technical, logistical, and marketing support): $4,900
  • Copy-editing: $1,950
  • Initial print run of 1,000 trade paperbacks: $3,000
  • Delivery of books to my home: $100
  • Producing and mailing books claimed as rewards: $3,650
  • Producing and mailing Advance Reader Copies (in quest of blurbs and other promotional support): $800
  • Kickstarter fees: $1,600

Partway through the campaign, I realized I’d made a major mathematical error: It was actually going to cost me a lot less than $3,650 to produce and mail books claimed as rewards (this number had come from an earlier version of my rewards structure). In fact, it was going to cost me almost $3,000 less. This was both good news and terrible news: Provided I managed to reach my goal, I’d have a nice cushion. In the meantime, I’d have to reckon with the fact that I’d unwittingly made my goal a heck of a lot harder to reach than it had to be.

Here’s what I looked like, early one morning in the middle of my campaign, when my morale was so low that I was plotting to publish the manuscript, chapter by chapter, on my website. No, I hadn’t been stung by bees on both eyelids—I’d just cried for hours, the previous night.

Well, I did end up making my goal (in fact, I exceeded it by $124!)—thanks, in part, to some creative collaboration with my husband, who upped his already generous pledge by $1,500, with the understanding that, once I gained access to the Kickstarter funds, I would pay that amount back. (Thus, I somewhat compensated for my mathematical mistake.)

Now let’s take a look at how my Kickstarter budget stacked up against reality (actual numbers are in parentheses):

She Writes Press publishing package: $4,900 ($4,900)

  • Copy-editing: $1,950 ($1,330—this item came in under budget because my manuscript was so darn clean; the copy editor said it made her “weep with grammatical gratitude”)
  • Initial print run of 1,000 trade paperbacks: $3,000 ($2,602.67 for 1,426)
  • Delivery of books to my home: $100 ($172.38 for 300 copies, 149 of which I sent out as Kickstarter rewards)
  • Producing and mailing books claimed as rewards: $3,650 ($712.97—this number ended up including the costs of mailing homemade chocolate (but not the costs of making the chocolate, as those are hard to calculate) to a few backers who pledged at reward levels I added after the start of the campaign) ($272.67 for books, $440.30 for mailing—only the first number is relevant to someone not kickstarting)
  • Producing and mailing Advance Reader Copies (in quest of blurbs and other promotional support): $800 ($642.39)
  • Kickstarter fees: $1,600 ($1,316.61)

Total: $11,677.02

During the publication process, I encountered some additional costs I had not anticipated (because they were not clearly spelled out in the She Writes Press handbook, and because, in the case of the transport costs, I had never considered who would pay to get my books to Ingram’s warehouses from the printer):

  • Hard proof of final cover: $80
  • 300 copies to Ingram Oregon: $215
  • 975 copies to Ingram PA: $395

Total: $690

A month after my pub date, I ordered more copies to sell directly (in person and via my website):

  • 200 more copies to me from Ingram PA: $126.06

Total: $126.06

Which brings my grand total for the publication process so far to: $12,483.08

This number does not include investments in coaching and marketing, which easily devoured my cushion, and then some—and I didn’t even hire a publicist. (That, too, is a tale for other times.)

If you’re not Kickstarting (or otherwise crowdfunding) your book, then the relevant costs are as follows:

  • She Writes Press reading fee (I’d paid this long before launching the Kickstarter): $35
  • She Writes Press publishing package: $4,900
  • Copy-editing: $1,330
  • Initial print run of 1,575 paperbacks: $2,875.34
  • Delivery of 500 copies to my home, in two installments (one directly from the printer, one from Ingram PA): $298.44 100
  • Producing and mailing Advance Reader Copies: $642.39
  • Hard proof of final cover: $80
  • 300 copies to Ingram Oregon: $215
  • 975 copies to Ingram PA: $395

Total: $10,771.17

Please note that the price of a She Writes Press publishing package has risen since I signed on, to $5,900.

As you can see, hybrid publication has not been cheap. Has it been worth the money, and the bee-sting eyes? You bet! Here are a few reasons why:

  • My book is gorgeous, inside and out; its cover and interior design do ample justice to the exquisite text I worked on for twelve years.
  • My book is in at least forty-seven libraries (and counting!), in five countries—this would have been all but impossible, had I self-published.
  • The community of She Writes authors is generous, savvy, and eager to share what they’ve learned from their own publishing journeys, as well as collaborate on events and such.
  •  I’ve learned a ton about the nitty-gritty of book publishing and marketing, without being overwhelmed by cyberlogistics like preparing and uploading ebooks—that is, I’ve received lots of support, while retaining bottom-line ownership of my project and process.
  • I have the chance to make a tidy profit on books I sell directly, since I own my books outright as soon as they roll off the press.

Thanks for reading, fellowbeings. Please comment, or drop me a line (by way of the contact form on my website), if you have thoughts or questions.

Want a signed copy of Mating in Captivity? Go here.

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