Money Flop #2: I Spent $2650 On A Failed Book Career

money mistakes

After spending valuable time, money, and resources, my book sold 7 copies in 4 years…

I’m a film aficionado, and enjoy ready wild literature.  I spent 4 years in college studying English, reading awesome books, and engaged in fulfilling creative writing classes.  It had always been my dream to write a book.  So in 2012, I finally self-published my debut novel, Awful, Ohio.  It was mentally and creatively rewarding and challenging, and I loved ever content copulation that stimulated my thoughts.  But I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t hope to produce some profit.  But after writing, editing, and publishing my novel, I discovered I wasn’t very good at marketing, and have only secured 7 sales since its inception.  So here are the gory details on how my book career was a flop.

The Loss: $2,650 – Between self-publishing costs, book orders, and advertising, I helped over $2600 vanish from my savings.

The Hard Lesson: Have a definitive game plan.  Am I writing this for kicks, or for money?  Writing a book had always been a goal, but if I really wanted to make sales, I should have put in the additional effort to hire editors and marketers.

The Story:

I’ve pretty much stated the story: I self-published a book, which ended up costing me $2650.  But I don’t regret writing the book.  I loved writing it, and currently have a 2nd novel started.  But the lesson that should be learned from this experience is that I wasn’t sure what direction to go with the publication.  Firstly, it’s a nice trophy piece.  Writing a book is something I’ve always wanted to do.  And not just any book.  I’ve always wanted to write a wacky, literary fictional book.  So I conspired a wacky plot line, with wacky characters, that culminates into a wacky, unexpecting grand finale.  And If you’re curious for some details, here’s a promotional video I made:

And I loved writing it.  It was the ultimate exercise of creativity and imagination.  Sammy Ammo, Troy Slushy, and Theodore Sphincter are just a few of the characters I created, that all criss-crossed into unforeseen events, and chance encounters.  But writing it wasn’t easy.  It took a lot of time and attention.  Which didn’t sit well with my wife (who still complains about all the neglect – sorry dear).  And not only did it take up time and attention, it required financial resources to self-publish.

The Cost To Self-Publish Was $820

I self-published through Createspace.  It was a relatively easy experience.  They gave you some options, and ultimately, I selected their options to design my book cover, and format the gizzards of the book.  And this is where I should have stopped.  I had my book, I had my characters and wacky plot, I was all set.  I could have ordered a few copies, and sent them to family and friends, and my overall project cost could have been well below $1000.   But I got seduced by grandiose ideas of becoming the modern day fictional laureate, and gaining world-wode literary recognition, and fat paychecks for my renowned work.  So I pushed my project further, which ultimately because a half-assed business venture.  Because that’s what I was turning it into; a business.  And I, the author, was the product.  And I knew none of this at the time.

The Cost For 120 Promotional Copies and Advertising Was $1830

And this how much more I spent to push my project into a business.  And this amount, $1830, was drastically insufficient to fulfill my business goals.  And here’s why:

Firstly, I was cocky and arrogant.  Because I went to college for English, I felt it was unnecessary to hire an editor or a proofreader to review my work.    So what I ended up doing was submitting a poorly edited final draft to the publisher.  Which is the last thing you want if you’re trying to push your book to a global level.  Because now, when you read my book with a careful eye, you can spot several errors and misspellings.  And not only is it plagued with errors, it’s fill with so much fluff and jargon that it’s really difficult to read sometimes.  And at the time, I was too arrogant to see this, thinking that I was a gladiator of the quill, and I could slay any error, or compose any metaphor without consequence!

In reality, I should have hired a good editor.  Which would have cost about $4000 – $5000.

As far as advertising, I consulted a few self-published authors advice.  And what they all told me was that taking out ads was a waste of money.  And of course, I didn’t believe them.  I submitted some ads to a few publications and popular book websites, with nothing in return.  I submitted a few ads to be featured in some book store emails, and I received nothing as well.  None of my big advertising expenses worked.  So I tried a few other methods:

  • I set up a water stand at the end of a popular 5K.  I covered with Awful, Ohio paraphernalia.  And at the end of the race, everyone drank the water, but no one bought a book.

money flops

  • I drove to book stores in Philadelphia, to try and sell them some copies.  I left the book store owners with some business cards and a copy of the book.  But that generated zero leads and zero sales.
  • And I even rented out a room in an art house during a First Friday event in Lancaster, PA.  Which drummed up some audience members when I read some passages, but ultimately, nothing sold.  Here’s a pic of the First Friday:

Needless to say, my marketing efforts never panned out.  I reached out to plenty of book bloggers for book reviews.  But only about 3 or 4 of them agreed to reviews.  It’s just too difficult to convince someone to commit hours and hours to your book, especially when they’ve never heard of you.

So overall, although I thoroughly enjoyed writing my debut novel, and exhausting the creative efforts required to conjure up the plots and characters, I still massively miscalculated my overall intentions.  When starting the creative process, I knew I just wanted to keep it as a personal goal to write a trophy-piece novel.  But at the culmination, I was seduced by visions of literary fame, and thought I could ease onto the red carpet scene with this great American classic.  Which I was clearly misguided.  But don’t be discouraged.  Buy my book!