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Self-Publishing: How I Finance My Publication Expenses (and Then Some) Up Front

by Marcia Yudkin

Self-publishing used to be expensive and risky. To get the cost per copy to a viable level, one had to order thousands of copies of books at a time. All too many authors would then end up with boxes and boxes of books in their garage that they'd been unable to sell, making for a discouraging situation and a financial loss.

With today's print-on-demand technology, the equation of expenses and rewards of self-publishing has dramatically shifted, making it possible for more authors to publish their own works and turn a profit. However, for a paperback book project, the expenses have not fallen to zero. Here is how I have several times collected enough money in advance to pay for all of my self-publishing costs.

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My expenses for self-publishing consist mainly of design fees, the cost of ISBN numbers and the fee for uploading a new book to Lightning Source, which is the print-on-demand company I use. Your publication expenses might include fees for an editor and/or proofreader as well.

To cover my publication expenses, I create an appealing pre-publication offer and circulate it to my lists. People who have been following me for years are often enthusiastic about the opportunity to pay in advance for an autographed copy of the upcoming book plus a little bonus, all of which I promise to ship around a certain date about a month in the future. My bonus has been inclusion of the audiobook files for the same book, either on CD or MP3 as the customer prefers. Your bonus might be a free PDF manual, a poster or some other goodie that is related to the book.

There is no need to discount your book for such fans. People who don't care about the autographing and just-after-publication shipping will wait for your book to show up discounted at the online bookstores.

I create the pre-publication offer using my regular shopping cart and host it on my own web site. Alternatively, you can use crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo to collect pre-publication orders. These sites charge you a small fee that gets deducted from your order total.

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With my most recent pre-publication offer, I had carefully calculated the timing of collecting money from my fans, submitting files to the publisher, checking a proof copy of the new book and then waiting for books to be shipped from the printer. However, the big batch of books I received after approving the proof copy of my new book turned out to have a printing flaw. It took an extra week to receive perfect books I could send out to those who had pre-ordered.

Because these were customers who knew me, no one complained after I informed them of the shipping delay. Instead, I received back numerous emails about how excited they were about expecting to read the new book whenever it was ready.

Each time I used this strategy, the income from pre-orders more than covered what I owed my designer, what I had paid for ISBN numbers and what I owed the printing company for their per-title charges and my first big batch of books. This meant that nearly everything earned afterwards would be pure profit.

Follow this blueprint, and you too can enjoy financially carefree self-publishing.

Copyright 2012 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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