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CHROMOPHOBIA: The Hard Art of Setting Expectations, Pt. II
Ew, we are looking at how the sausage is made and it's so gross
This article is a “sequel” to an article we posted back in October 2021 (and you can read the full article HERE). We spoke as frankly as possible about the realities of producing an anthology as a micro press, and setting up one’s expectations accordingly, especially as to sales performance. Now, here we are, almost a year later, and we are ready to build on those earlier expectations.
The anthology in question is, of course, CHROMOPHOBIA. It is the follow-up anthology to NOT ALL MONSTERS, and it is the only title we are releasing in the year 2022. I’m not going to say that expectations are high, but… they are.
So, let’s get into it, shall we?
We’ll address the earlier article’s points as they originally appeared, which would bring us to the length of the pre-order window for the hardcover edition of CHROMOPHOBIA. Initially, we had very, very short pre-order windows for the hardcovers we produce. But, while QUEEN OF TEETH was in production, we decided to expand the pre-order to several months. And, that title did well enough to convince us that an extended pre-order window was probably a smart idea. So, when it came to CHROMOPHOBIA, we elected to expand several months into a (for us) whopping 8 months. Was this worth the effort? We would argue “Yes” but with a few caveats.
The biggest caveat is that we simply did not move as many units as we had hoped, falling short of even our conservative estimate. However, in our experience, anthologies never move quite like single-author titles. And, on top of that, CHROMOPHOBIA was not inexpensive at $76. For a two-person micro press, every one of those sales felt like a success. Had this been a single-author title, chances are high that units moved would have been significantly higher. Not a complaint, really, inasmuch as it is the reality of micro-press business.
We used this extended window as a way to also build word-of-mouth, creating a lengthy social media campaign of awareness as we navigated production of the title. And, we believe this helped secure pre-orders, as well.
Ultimately, no, we did not move as many copies as our wildest dreams had hoped, but we still moved a respectable amount of hardcovers. Would we continue to use the extended pre-order model of sales? Absolutely! In fact, 8 months likely isn’t as far as we would be willing to push out pre-orders. A year or more wouldn’t be out of the question.
Again, the publisher’s quest is to get books in hands. A longer window is more time for awareness to build, to secure art and excerpts and early blurbs and reviews. Nothing gets a book into a reader’s hands faster than hearing and seeing word-of-mouth. Pique that interest enough and you have sold a book.
In the previous article, we wrote:
For CHROMOPHOBIA to be a success, financially, the book will have to move many copies. If we were to use only the hardcover release as a barometer of said success, then we would need to move about 140 hardcovers. Now, we don’t necessarily think we will hit those numbers in hardcover, but you never know. Considering that, though, whatever we don’t move via hardcover will need to be made up by paperback sales, later in the year.
This is called “Dreaming Big” and it is part and parcel of navigating the world of publishing. Or, any field wherein one hopes to create and sell art. This is why we referenced “the hard art of setting expectations” and, sometimes, you gotta be happy just breaking even.
Well, guess what? We sure as hell didn’t sell 140 hardcovers. Far from it. But, we did the next best thing. CHROMOPHOBIA broke even in the last month of pre-orders. Raise a glass of champagne! However, we aren’t exactly out of the woods yet. Breaking even is all well and good… to an extent. But our measurement of success is that a title needs to earn out at least three times the cost to produce said title. And this is especially true if one wants to continue producing books like this.
You want to cover your costs, you want to earn enough to consider covering the costs of a future title, and you want the company to be able to profit so that it can continue to keep its proverbial doors open. And that is the simple truth of the matter.
So, we are heading into the paperback release having covered the upfront costs. That is a good, and not unenviable, position to be in. But, for CHROMOPHOBIA to succeed in ways previously outlined, the anthology now needs to earn twice as much as it cost to produce. That means a gross of about $6,400.00 is needed for us, as a company, to consider entering production on a future anthology (and, no, crowdfunding is not in the cards).
That’s… a shaky proposition! Not impossible, by any means, but a mighty hill to climb for an indie release. Typical lifespan of a book’s sales are 6-9 months from its initial release. That is where the bulk of the money will be made, and that is certainly where we expect the bulk of the money will be made for CHROMOPHOBIA. And, trust us, we will be watching.
The book has legs, though, in our opinion. It has already gotten some pretty rave reviews. If it finds itself (or its individual stories) hitting the awards ballots, then all the better. As we’ve stated previously, NOT ALL MONSTERS took over a year to break even, and that was after it had been nominated for a Stoker! We’ve bested that, at this point, with CHROMOPHOBIA. Here’s hoping it keeps performing.
Every book is a roll of the dice, folks.
Thanks for reading, and thank you so much for your support!