This bit will be hard to hear, but, regardless of my sarcasm and cynicism, I say it with good intentions: Don’t factor family and friends into your sales projections, because you will ultimately be disappointed.
There are two main reasons I say this. One is business related, and the other is personal, but both are equally significant. I’ve decided to separate them into two separate posts. I’ll begin with the business reason, which is the far less messy option of the two, but will require a firm grasp of a highly narrowed in mathematical equation. You see, according to Statista.com, the average American family size is 2.53. I don’t know if that includes parents, so for our sake, we’ll say that’s an average of 2.53 children per family (I have 5!) just to make our publishing success chances look sunnier.
Now, here comes the complex equation I devised all on my own… Let’s multiply that 2.53 by another 2.53 for the pretend brothers and sisters you have, then multiple that answer by yet another 2.53 for the family that they now have since they’re adults with families of their own, then divide—
You know what, never mind. I don’t like math.
Let’s just assume you have 100 family members who love you enough to buy a book. Grrreat. We have a starting place. On top of that 100, you have two-thousand friends, which in this day and age equates to wishy-washy social media followers and people you haven’t talked to for fifteen years… But, hey, let’s go ahead and bet our income and house on it that they’ll be supportive.
Anyway, back to point. That’s 2,100 people who (absolute best-case scenario) are “guaranteed” to buy your book. Now, let’s say you profit $1 for each ebook and $5 for each printed book sold. Again, I’m rounding for simplicity, but once you see my point, you’ll understand it doesn’t matter. Why? Because I’m waaay over projecting on the number of friends and family who will show support.
Ok, fast-forward to your book release. Yay! All 2,100 loyal family and friends rushed out and bought your ebook (…They won’t.). Wow, you just made $2,100! What now? Hopefully you’ve worked out post-release marketing and have a funnel in place, even a new book in the works. Otherwise, you’re going to be out of money soon and eating a lot of Spam and Ramon noodles.
This time, let’s say all 2,100 people buy your printed book, the one with the $5 profit. Fast-forward again to the book release and the (ridiculously unlikely) purchases of all your friends and family. Quintuple wow! You just made five times as much money and instead have $10,500 in the bank. But, uh-oh. If you break the number down, it won’t even be minimum wage, which quintuple sucks because the average price of living in the US is a lot higher than what you just made.
So, this time around, let’s just intensify the effect of our rose-colored glasses and go ahead and assume our amazing family and friends buy both the print AND the digital version. That’s $12,600 in profit…
Which, still wouldn’t be enough to live off of.
You might be thinking, Man, Curry, you’re really laying on the doom and gloom. To that, I say, “Just wait until we get to the personal reason!”
Maybe you release more than one book. Maybe you release four. One per quarter. Each book makes $12,600, and you’re left with a whopping $50,400 at the end of the year. I’ll admit, that sounds like enough to scrounge by on while you continue growing your author business. Only, is it really? Don’t forget you have to pay taxes on those profits yourself now, plus your own various insurances which are no longer being automatically deducted by your employer. There’s also editing, cover design, and other book related expenses. Oh, and the money doesn’t come in one lump sum either. It trickles in as people find the time between Netflix shows to make their purchases. What, did you think because they’re your “friends and family” that they’d prioritize this amazing thing you’re so proud about?
My point is, making a living publishing books is harder than it seems, even IF all our family and friends show some support. I have to sell, on average, forty books a day (at $5 profit) to squeak by. That’s $200 a day, $1400 a week, and $5,600 a month, assuming it’s a four-week month. I don’t know about you, but to me, 40 books a day seems doable. Heck, if my online business is slow, I’ll just make it up by pedaling my books out of the trunk of my Jeep!
But, wait… I didn’t factor in off days. Am I even going to give myself off days? Sure, it’d be nice, but I have a business to run. If I take a day off, then I lose $200 in sales… Decisions, decisions.
On top of that, I have to subtract the pre-mentioned insurance and taxes, and also manufacturing, marketing and advertising costs, which in my experience is sizable. Suddenly, a big chunk of my income just vamooshed. Yeah, sure, those advertising and marketing costs SHOULD help bolster future sales, but I think I’ve made my point.
Not a pretty picture, right? This is why most authors offer (like I do) other writing-related services. Coaching sessions, educational courses, editing services, other non-book merchandise such as branded t-shirts, mugs, bookmarks etc. It truly is a hustle.
With that said, if you still want to do it, and by “do it”, I mean publish for children, then DO IT. Just have a plan in place on how you’ll overcome the obstacles. Oh, and pllllleaase, don’t rely on the purchases of family and friends.