Sunday, February 19, 2012

I spend more money on milk tea than publishing

In January, I was invited by a group of writers to speak about my experience with digital publishing. It was a great afternoon, one that I should recap in more detail here. But first, I wanted to write this post because I have to apologize -- I gave an inaccurate answer to one of the questions asked during the session.

The talk I gave covered my "experiment" publishing Fairy Tale Fail, from putting it up on the Amazon Kindle Store, to ordering a print version via CreateSpace's print on demand service, and how it did in its first year. 

I was asked, a number of times, how much money I spent to get this done. I said, "under P3,000." I felt that I may have been too vague, because that question (and variations of it) was asked several times soon after, and I started to doubt my own figures. Or maybe I just didn't make myself clear. I guess it's safe to assume that people there were asking me how much, to compare to their own experience self-publishing in the Philippines via printers or self-pub services. 

So I checked my records, and apparently this is how much I really spent: $11.49. (Or 489 pesos.) For the entire experiment of having Fairy Tale Fail published both digitally, and in print. That is pretty much just the cost of shipping the proof from South Carolina to Manila (via USPS economy).

What could I have spent on but didn't?

- Editing and cover photography. Instead of paying upfront for these services, I asked friends to do it for free and rewarded them with a royalty percentage later.
- Copies of the book. Although many printers require a minimum order, CreateSpace does not. As soon as I received the proof and approved it for distribution, I didn't have to pay them anything, or order more copies. In fact, I only ordered copies to match my pre-orders, ensuring that I never had to spend more.
- ISBN. I got free ones from CreateSpace and Smashwords.
- Amazon publishing is free.
- Smashwords publishing is free.
- Did not take out ads or pay for publicity. (Not that I'm against this, but I was overwhelmed with everything and decided not to take the plunge for now.)

Since then I've partnered up with a local print on demand service that is just as flexible, and now I don't need to worry about shipping costs and the time it takes for books to get here. I haven't placed my independently-published books in local bookstores, but I have offered them through my Multiply store or direct order, shipped anywhere in the Philippines via Xend. Multiply hasn't started charging fees for their ecommerce platform yet, so buyers actually get the books for slightly cheaper. It's all so convenient that I've been able to process orders and ship books in pajamas. 

So that's the story. My books are available digitally and in print and I spent less than 500 pesos on the entire process. That is less than the dinner I had on Valentine's day. Or the dress I bought from Bayo two weeks ago. I probably spent more on milk tea last week, actually. Fairy Tale Fail sold more than 5,000 copies in its first year (print and digital), and since I only spent P489, I consider the experiment a success on so many levels.

I hope this answer clears it all up for the people who asked. 


  1. Grabe Mina. That's so encouraging. During my short stint in publishing, I was always given the impression that it's expensive, that it's a pipe dream to get a book published, yadda yadda. But hearing this from you, it kinda makes it a tangible dream, you know?

    I mean, I know it's different for everyone, and your previous books probably made a difference, especially when it comes to building a fanbase, but it's still a nice thing to imagine happening.

    Of course, getting any actual writing done is a different story... XD

  2. your previous books probably made a difference, especially when it comes to building a fanbase

    This is especially true for the print version ha. You and a number of people are suki sa paperback. :) It makes me smile just thinking about it.


  3. Di ko pa na-try pero sana magkaroon ako ng lakas ng loob mag-self publish.
    congrats,I'll follow your blog.

  4. HI Mina! I've a very important question to ask: been trying to set up my bank account on Kindle... however, they don't have an option for the Philippines... so what to do? Do I just let them mail me a check for my royalties? how to? hope you see this. thanks. :D

    1. Yes you can set it for check payment but you'll have to pick it up from your local post office. I've picked up from Makati without any problems. :)