Return On Investment: deal with it bitches!

One of the more brutal ways reality dickslaps your fantasies in the face is calculating Return on Investment. It’s the triumph of hard math over starry-eyed aspirations. But self-published writers need to face the reality of the situation just like every other business.

Yeah yeah, you’re not in it for the *money*, you’re a *purist*, you’re an *author*. You write because the inner passion feeds your fingers words that the world must see. It’s your calling. No one should trouble you with paltry mundanity like making money off your work. In fact making money is just selling out your *vision*. And you are no sell-out.

That’s awesome. What you’ve just described is a hobbyist. Someone standing on a mountain of privilege who doesn’t need to make money. They can – somehow – get by on someone else’s dime while they pen the Next Great Novel. Or maybe you just like writing. Have no interest in publishing. Dandy. You’re like a child knocking balls around on the pool table by yourself while real pool players wait for you to get the fuck out of the way. Fuck off, kid, and take your story about how you’re an ‘author’ with you. It sounds great at a party, I’m sure.

Are the children gone? Great. Now let the adults talk.

If you’re trying to make a living at writing, or at least a decent income, you care about ROI. Why? Because you have a finite amount of time you can devote to new work and you want to concentrate your efforts on what sells.

Note, this is an article for people like me – self-published writers, trying to make a buck online by writing erotica. It’s a fickle market. And if you target your efforts into, say, alpha alien anal shifter stories you want to know it’s worth it instead of putting all your efforts in gay cowboy cuckold stories. You write what sells.

There are lots of ways to look at this. Units sold vs sales generated. Total income. Trending work that is just starting to catch on vs established work that has an audience. But ROI tells you a story about all that with a single figure.

Simply put, ROI is how long it takes to pay for the cost of making the story.

If you’re an e-pubber like me here’s a quick and dirty example of how I do it.

  1. Actual Costs

How much actual money did you spend to produce the story? Typically this is professional services like proofing, editing and cover art.

  1. Cost in Time

I like to call this the imaginary cost. Basically how long did it take me to write the story and how much imaginary money would I have made if I spent that time working at a real job that paid me?

You can track how much time each story takes if you’re using word because it counts the hours the document has been open. It’s not perfect but it should give you a good idea. I figure it takes me about a work week – 40 hours – all-in to write and edit a story. If you’re way faster than that, congratulations; what’s it like to be so fucking perfect?

At $10 an hour that’s $400 in lost time. At $25 that’s $1000 in imaginary cost.

You may be saying, ‘that’s stupid. I’m not actually losing money if I spend a few hours on weekends and evenings to work on my writing’. Yeah, genius, I get it. We’re determining a theoretic value to fill in the blank of our calculation.

If you want the classic lesson in the imaginary value of creative property did you ever hear the story about the artist who was audited by the IRS? The artist sold 10 paintings that year for an average of $1000 each. When the auditor got to his studio he counted all the unsold completed paintings, valued each of them at $1000 and declared the artist had $100,000 of collateral and owed taxes on it all.

It’s ludicrous because selling one painting is no guarantee you sell the rest. Or, put another way, one story you spend a week on may make $10 a month and another may make $500. This is the point I’m trying to get across – evaluate the real profit.

Back to our calculations.

 

  1. Follow the Money

Once you have the theoretical cost to produce a story you need to track how much money it makes. Amazon does this for you if you e-pub but you’ll probably want to track it in excel by yourself.

 

  1. Do the Math

Start by dividing the total sales by the total months it was on sale and you have the average monthly income.

Now all you need to do is divide:

cost to make the story

___________________         = number of months to make a profit

average monthly income

 

  1. Be Ruthless in Your Conclusions

Is that number less than 12? Awesome! Your story has paid for itself in under a year. Less than 24? Not bad. Less than 36? Still acceptable, if you’re in it for the long haul.

Is it over 36? You might want to evaluate the effort you’re putting into that kind of story because it’s now over three years before you see a return in your initial investment.

But let’s say the number is way higher.  Say… over 120. Or – fuck me – over 1200. That’s a certifiable disaster. Ten years to see a profit? Kill that title. Don’t even bother with that genre. Over 100 years to return a profit? Maybe kill it with fire.

Or give up being a writer. Become an ‘author’, it seems like a fun hobby.

 

Love,

CC

 

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