Freelance book editors provide services to authors before literary agents or publishers come into the picture. The assumption here is that the original manuscript has potential that can be accentuated with a little help.
There are many subjective and commercial aspects you need to consider before you decide to hire a book editor. Some of the subjective elements were covered in an earlier post titled ‘Hiring a freelance editor for proofreading & editing your book’. This one focuses on the commercial perspective.
Life as a struggling author can be tough and complex. So rather than focussing on too many parameters, I’m going to keep it simple here and just talk about one – Breakeven point. This would be the number of copies you need to sell just to recoup the money you have invested in your book before it gets published and hits the shelves.
Of course, the line of thinking outlined here (and the broader definition of the breakeven point) has different connotations if your primary motivation to get published is non-commercial. But if you want to make some real money from your efforts (whatever little that might be), then you might want to spend some time thinking about the following rationale.
Here’s the logic. If you spend X thousand Rupees on a book, then your income (from book royalty) should exceed this amount before you make any profit from the project.
Let’s put some numbers in there to understand what that means. For each of the scenarios, let’s assume a royalty rate of 10% and the book sells for Rupees 100 (typical pricing of most mass market novels that are coming out nowadays)
Scenario 1: Zero investment from your side (i.e. X = Rs 0)
In this case, your breakeven point is 0 copies. This means, you start making money right from the first book sale.
Scenario 2: You pay Rupees 10,000 for book editing services (i.e. X = Rs 10,000)
Now, each book you sell will fetch you 10 Rupees. So your breakeven point is:
10,000 / 10 = 1,000 copies
This means you need to sell thousand copies of your book before your bank balance is no longer in the red.
Scenario 3: You pay Rupees 20,000 to book editors, cover designers, others
The breakeven point now jumps up to 2,000 copies. You’d need to be in the top 10% of all books sold to cross that mark.
An estimated 90% percent (God only knows who makes those estimates, but anyway we need a number so we’ll take it and move on) of the novels hitting the market each will struggle to come even close to that number.
You know the drill now. For every additional 10,000 Rupees you spend on getting the book to the market, the breakeven point gets pushed further. If you are comfortable with this basic math, change some parameters like the royalty rate or book price to see how that impacts your breakeven point.
Do keep in mind that there are interdependencies. For instance, if you increase the book price to 200 Rupees, the breakeven points falls to half, but the book may also sell lesser copies.
Book editing isn’t the only expense you need to keep a tab on. Marketing expenses are another category where going overboard won’t help you. Read the post ‘Book promotion celebrity book launches’ where break-even point gets another mention.
Decide how you want to define your parameters for success as an author and then take a call on whether the expenses are justified.