My forays into self-publishing began in the Spring of 2008. I created a Word document and stuck scans of my acrostic pages into it, and then inserted some conversational text that transcribed and annotated the illustrations/poems. That little chapbook was called The Tutti-Frutti Bird of Benign Insanity. I think I sold about 7 copies.
In 2010 I gathered the portraits I had done of outstanding local poets and put them into a chapbook which I called LIVES of the Eminent Poets of Greater Phoenix, AZ, Vol I. I did a print run of 50 copies, and some time later I was the MC of a special event celebrating my new publication, and many of the poets in my book came and performed. My objective was to showcase them because I felt they were underappreciated, and I think I fulfilled my intention.
My next intention was to produce a Volume II, and I thought a year would be plenty of time to do a second volume’s worth of more poets. I wanted to publish Vol. II on August 30, 2011, the anniversary of Vol. I. Alas, 2011 was a disastrously disruptive year, including the finalization of my divorce on December 19. I was knocked off my routine and my trajectory. I continued to do poet portraits but I didn’t organize them.
Doesn’t matter. I’m back on track again, with some help from my friends Susan Vespoli and Russ Kazmierczak. Susan helped me get Vol. II out of Limboland, and Russ at my request wrote an Introduction second to none. Russ also gave me a variable-length stapler that took my bindery efforts from the Stone Age to Cool Jazz.
Today I decided to run ten copies of Vol II and keep track of my printer’s ink levels to see how long I’d be likely to go before I needed another $120 cartridges pack for my new printer. Here are the levels before and after the 10-copy print run.
Looks like I’ll be running low on Magenta about 40 copies from now. Black and Cyan got hit, too, but Yellow wasn’t much affected. Intuition/guesswork tells me that printer ink is costing me about a dollar a copy.
I’m asking $9 US for an unsigned copy, $10 for a signed copy, with free shipping/handling anywhere in the US. (I’ll send a copy internationally on request, but I will have to change extra for shipping/handling in that case.) My mailing envelopes cost about $8.75 for a 12-pack–figure 80 cents per. Postage right now is $1.56. The light card stock I use for the cover is about $25 per ream, or a nickel per Vol II copy. The copy paper cost is about 6 cents per Vol. II copy. And it was almost exactly one hour from when I started printing to when I tucked the collated, folded, and stapled tenth copy into its mailing envelope. So we have $1.00 plus $0.80 plus $1.56 plus $0.11 cents for a total of $3.47 materials cost, yielding a gross profit of $5.53 for unsigned, or $6.53 for signed.
In a perfect world, then, my hour’s work would return to me somewhere between 55 and 65 US dollars.
Ah, but it is not a perfect world. I haven’t addressed a single envelope, nor signed a single copy, nor taken them to a mailbox. And what about tax? Tax in Arizona is pretty near 10 percent, so if this enterprise goes beyond about $400 gross sales, more or less (informal opinion from a CPA friend of mine who will go unnamed), there goes a dollar a copy. And if sales go into the ozone, which, based on experience, has about the same chance as a snowball in Hell, why then I’d need to set up a sole proprietorship or an LLC. A good problem to have, to be sure, but, Friends, you know something? I’m not in it to get rich. The IMMENSE, HUGE value I get from doing stuff like this is in the thrill of Creation and the ambrosia of Approbation. I have already gotten 90% of that sort of Profit and I am content. 🙂