I get asked this question a LOT and I don't really like to speak about it too much because every author's journey is different. That being said, I do believe that opening up about how much I personally spent when publishing Cloaked Shadows would be beneficial to other writers out there, especially because there are a few mistakes that I made and I'd like to prevent you from making the same. Let's get into it!
Let me start at the beginning...
I published my debut YA Fantasy novel, Cloaked Shadows, in February 2021 and I'll be the first to say that there was a LOT I didn't know about or didn't do that I should have done. And that's okay. Mistakes happen to anyone, and it's important to not beat yourself up about them. However, in this article, I'm going to be really honest with you about my writing journey.
Looking back at my Instagram stories, I first started writing my novel on July 25th 2020. Now, before I write any more, I want you to know that, at this point, I was rather depressed and had just been made redundant so I had so many hours a day to write my novel. I remember waking up and writing at around 10/11am in the morning and then finishing at 10pm at night, so naturally, I was able to finish my novel much faster than others with work, family and other commitments. I was actually able to write 10,000 words in a day a few times, so you can understand why I then finished the first draft of my novel on August 7th 2020. Immediately, I started editing and looking for beta readers through social media and on September 3rd I sent my novel to my beta readers. Tip: If you're at, or soon will be at, the beta reader stage, then these resources will prove helpful.
Now, let's talk about my first (and my biggest) mistake. I did not have my book seen by a professional editor because, quite frankly, I had been made redundant and I didn't have the money. I still want it known that you do not have to have an editor if you can't afford it and I wouldn't want anyone to get into financial trouble. However, this is one of my biggest mistakes because I am not professionally literate. I don't know a huge amount about where all the punctuation goes, or how sentences should be structured and even spelling can be difficult but I do know how to tell a story. Now, even though the book has been published, I'm in the process of having Cloaked Shadows seen by an editor as the book really does need it. So this is a cost that I'm factoring into my publishing journey (even though it's coming about after the book has been published). Most editors charge between £150 - £400. The editor that I'm using is RaeAnne E and you can read my creative Q&A with her here.
I finished my edits in November and on November 22nd 2020 I started to build a launch team for my book. The incentives of joining my launch team were receiving a digital ARC and I used BookFunnel to manage and send these out. There is a cost to BookFunnel however it is very reasonably priced and, as I only used BookFunnel for two months, I believe I spent around $20 which is around £15. I then sent ARCs on November 28th 2020 and started a read along with my launch team throughout the month of December.
We're now coming on to mistake number two. During this time, I then started looking for press companies who would ideally create a press release for me and email press contacts to try and get featured in publications and newspapers. At the time it seemed like a great idea, but I now realise that it's much cheaper and you'll get a better response from press if you search for these opportunities yourself. I've been on BBC Essex radio six times now, and that was all through my own personal merit. I reached out to the BBC Instagram account and simply asked if I could come on their show to talk about writing and it worked. I used a company called PR For Books (who I don't recommend) and spent £195 on a 3-month campaign from them.
I will admit that they did create a brilliant press release for me, but it was nothing that I couldn't have easily created myself. They also did not let me know (until after I had paid) that I would have to send physical copies of my book out to reviewers. As someone who was still jobless, I was not able to do this so nothing came from this experience. I also feel that the companies they were reaching out to were not of the standard I was promised, and some of them even needed a charge from me to review the book, which again I couldn't pay! My advice to you is that if you're looking to build PR for your book (which I suggest you do) to please do it yourself if you feel you're able to. Please don't spend money on sites like the above that make promises they're not able to fulfil on.
Now we're on to design and marketing!
Still during the months of November/December, I paid for graphic design services from my friend Danielle (you can read the Creative Q&A interview with her here) who designed my map to go inside my book and sigils for each Class of Magic. She also designed the marks/crests for the Cloaks and the Sinturi. Take a look at some of her designs below:
I spent just under £150 in total on this graphic design service which is really good considering there were over 10 pieces I needed designing, with some (like the map) requiring more time than the others (sigils). If you divide £150 by 10, that works out to be around £15 per piece, which is amazing! Danielle's rates are fair and reasonable and I can't recommend her enough!
At the same time, I reached out to an artist to draw my character drawings which I'd go on to use in my preorder campaign. I paid $25 USD per drawing, and I had three drawings at this point. So, together that was around £54. Again, considering the amount of time that went into each drawing, that was really reasonable.
We've now made it to mistake number three. I didn't order proofs of my preorder items and some had to be changed. During December, I was starting to really get my preorder campaign together, which included ensuring I had graphics, which I made using Canva, to post to social media and ensuring I had the actual gifts and a way of posting them. One of my preorder gifts were the Class of Magic pin badges you can see in the above photos. Do you see how they have a white background? Originally, they had a grey metallic background. I had ordered around fifty of them in this grey metallic background and, when they came, the actual designs (which were in black) couldn't be seen! So, that was a waste of money as I couldn't send these badges out. I then had to reorder the badges in white (after ordering a proof to make sure they looked how I wanted them to). Let me break down the costs of my preorder campaign...
Class of Magic pin badges: In total, I ordered 189 badges and the cost was £105.38. This is very reasonable and I used Camaloon to order.
Bookplates: I ordered 200 of these and the total cost was £40.26. I designed these myself using Canva and used Vistaprint to order these.
Character drawings: In total, I ordered 150 of these and the cost was £94.26. I used Vistaprint to order these.
A5 cover print and map: In total, I ordered 150 of these and the cost was £51.90. I used Vistaprint to order these.
Corner bookmark: I used @readwithabi to design custom corner bookmarks. As I was ordering such a big order she also did me a discount! I believe I ordered 120 and the total was £240.
Letter from the author: My mother actually designed and printed custom writing paper and envelopes for me. I ordered 140 of these and the total cost was £64.
So, the final cost of the preorder gifts was around £595.80. That is a lot, which is why for Unveiled Reflections I only did 3 preorder gifts, instead of 6. I am pleased to say that I have made more than half of this back from my royalties so far. Did you know that most indie authors won't receive a ROI (return on investment) until 2 years after their book release? So, I think I'm pleased with the ROI I've achieved so far.
Don't forget to factor in shipping costs. I sent my gifts using 2nd Royal Class stamps. I believe altogether I spent around £80 on these stamps as I needed so many.
Let's talk about author copies...
We have to factor in the author copies I paid for when ordering proofs of my book but also when utilising influencer marketing. I believe I ordered three author copies which cost me around £40 total (including shipping costs) for my own personal use. I did also send around eighteen author copies to bookstagram influencers on Instagram to promote on their social media. This alone cost me around £200.
My book came out on February 28th 2021 and I'm still trying to find new and exciting ways to market my book. From the costs above, altogether I spent £1,329.80. My bank account is crying! In all honesty, I really do believe that without the above my book wouldn't have achieved as much as it did in such a short space of time, since it's release the following has happened:
🌟 Cloaked Shadows reached #3 on Amazon's best seller list! (I believe it would have reached #1 if they hadn't run out of books!)
🌟 It has had 200+ adds to bookshelves on Goodreads.
🌟 The audiobook version of Cloaked Shadows was released.
🌟 Preorder gifts were sent to over 120 people from all over the world!
🌟 I've made a high number of royalties compared to the average numbers for indie authors.
🌟 I appeared on BBC Essex radio to talk about Cloaked Shadows and writing as a young adult.
🌟 Cloaked Shadows featured in the @booksbynaturebookbox for April!
🌟 Cloaked Shadows went on a May 2021 book tour!
🌟 The duology has since been completed when the final book, Unveiled Reflections, came out on 18th June 2021.