Lessons from the ‘Shark Tank’

 

“Every morning when you wake up you should ask yourself ‘What do I need to do to break even?’”

                                                                                                       -Robert Herjavic, Shark Tank

I had this idea for a kid’s book. It was going to be about Larry, the Big Bad Biker, who loved his motorcycles, his tattoos, and adored soft, adorable puppies.

It was a cute story. I got a good response from friends, so I contacted an illustrator. I loved the guy. He understood my vision. Then as we moved forward he gave me the numbers: $3000-$5000 for color illustrations. That’s not bad for a professional illustrator. His art is amazing.

‘Okay,’ I thought. ‘It’s an investment.’

So my husband and I crunched the numbers. Each book would roughly cost me $3.50, but when you count the cost of illustrations we realized I’d need 1000 books to just break even.

If you know self-published authors, you know that 1000 is a hell of a lot of books to move. Sure, we had plans to sell them at bike events. They probably would do well. But when we discussed the leg work I’d have to do, contacting distributors, delivering the books, keeping them stocked, I realized I’d be entering a 20 hour a week job for at best a few thousand dollars.

The bottom line? I don’t feel so passionate about this book that I am willing to devote many, many hours to getting it sold. I love Larry, but not that much.

So, what’s the lesson learned here?

As a self-published author, I recognize that I am in a business.  Money is going in, sometimes thousands of dollars. To make it work, I’ve got to not only create something people want, but figure out how to make it fall into their laps. It is a hard road. It just is.

I will always write. I don’t know if I will always self-publish. I’ve lost at least a thousand dollars in my five book publishing venture so far. Those guys on Shark Tank would hear those numbers and send me packing.

I know I’m sounding very gloom and doom here. I’m not saying give up—and trust me, I wont. I’m just saying as self-published writers we need to do a cost benefit analysis before diving in. Why are you publishing? If it’s to make six figures I’d say try a different venture. If you’re publishing because you love to write and you want to share it, then amen, keep on going.

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2 comments

  1. I’m sorry – but I don’t think the Shark Tank logic can be applied across the board to all business ventures…especially independent authors.
    Writing books is not like opening a restaurant where you have a finite amount of time to recoup your investment – said investment being relatively small compared to most businesses.
    A book, once written does not have a shelf life.
    From my own experience – sure, my first book didn’t sell well when it was released, because I was unknown, had no brand, no market presence and didn’t know he first thing about selling books.
    With each novel since then (up to 7 now, with 2 novellas) I have learned more and more each time and I’ve gradually increased my brand recognition along with my market presence.
    I now have a following and my first book is selling better now than it did in 2009 – as are all of my books.
    Becoming a financially successful author takes time – in my case over 5 years and 9 books.
    The advice independent authors need will not be heard on Shark Tank,…it’s “be patient, keep writing and get out there and sell yourself.”
    I think I’ll be writing a blog post of my own to go on in more detail…

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