Independent publishing is not easy. It can be rewarding, but it’s also frustrating, tiring, lonely (when you’re working by yourself), and stressful. I’m thankful for the women I know who run publishing companies and have been able to help me as I build Fiction & Feeling. One of the things that I’m really glad some small independent publishers do, is post their earnings and be very transparent about their successes and failures. That transparency has been such a valuable resource to me, so here’s my contribution to that pool of knowledge.
2018 was a great year for Fiction & Feeling. We did our first Kickstarter campaign and raised 150% over our goal. We published our second book full of amazingly talented writers (a book entirely created without men, from the contributors to the editors to the designers ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). That book, Becoming Dangerous, was bought by a US publisher which will give it worldwide distribution in 2019. We also did a six-month email subscription newsletter, called The Pussy Parlour, where 18 writers wrote about whatever they wanted and it’s some of my favourite writing we’ve published as it was so fresh and unexpected. Random feels good after being so focused on themes for anthologies! I spoke at the Publishing vs. The World conference put on by the Society of Young Publishers Scotland in March about crowdfunding publishing projects and I really enjoyed that (plus Nicola Sturgeon was there so that was a highlight!).
Despite all these nice things that happened, it wasn’t all cheery and happy. Doing a massive Kickstarter by myself was hard and I had a big learning curve. Hope Nicholson, owner of Bedside Press, helped me out a lot as I tried to figure out how to organise and run a successful Kickstarter campaign. The campaign itself was great! It was getting the book made that was the hard part. However, my backers were absolute saints and were so patient as I dealt with over 60% of my books being damaged in transit and having to reprint them. I also messed up on shipping estimates big time and had to eat a lot of that cost. But some backers kicked in a little extra when they didn’t need to and I’m so grateful. Seriously, the people who supported Becoming Dangerous were all so kind and supportive. I didn’t get a single angry email or comment and I’m just…I appreciate it so much. And I’ve now learned that shipping is just hella expensive, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t.
In terms of earnings, I sold £5,630.85 worth of books from the Fiction & Feeling shop online. That’s not that much, but it is up 718% from 2017, so woo!
I made £275 in retailer sales. I am very bad at approaching book shops and asking them to stock my books. That is something I really need to improve on. I just find it absolutely terrifying. I have bad enough social anxiety as it is, asking someone to take a chance on this book you’ve made just seems next level. (Dear reader, you can help me in this by approaching your local bookseller and asking for my books! :D)
I sold 68 Kindle versions of books through Amazon which made me $436.61, with 80% of that coming from Amazon.com US sales.
And I also made £39,380 through the Becoming Dangerous Kickstarter. That seems like a lot. But I ended up spending £46,961.61 on that project. I didn’t collect enough money from backers for shipping. I had to print some of the books twice. And making the hardcover edition was very very expensive. It looks gorgeous, but it cost A LOT. I really believe in paying contributors what’s they’re worth so paying the artists for the hardcover took a big bite out of the budget (uh, there was no budget for this book, it was a bad move. But it’s so pretty! Please buy it!)
I have paid out £11,400 in author payments and £624.24 in royalties.
I think I’m operating in the red? Let me add this all up: expenses of £58,985.85, earnings of £45,721.85. Ah, yep. Well, that is unfortunate. (SPLIT is still available to purchase and you can pre-order the US version of Becoming Dangerous now, ha!)
Knowing now that I made -£13,264 last year, does it change how I feel about the successes of 2018? Yes. Yes, it does. I must be doing something wrong. I’ve felt pretty stuck with my publishing career lately, and this kind of highlights that fact. I really need distribution so my books can continue to make money, but I’ve tried several times with several distributors and have been turned down. There must be something else I’m doing wrong. Hm. By the way, I’m able to run this far into debt because my partner, Jamie McKelvie, is a very successful comic book artist and very kindly formed a business with me so I could publish the books I always wanted to publish.
Anyway, 2018 was a failure! But I felt good about the projects I put out there and the way I made them happen. I’m happy about the people I’ve gotten to work with and the values I’ve been able to uphold while I do my work.
I hope this has helped any burgeoning independent publishers out there realise what NOT to do! :D