The Initial Numbers: Expenses and Incomes for Zenbi Press

It’s been just over eight months since I first set up Zenbi Press and almost three months since I released Aisuru to the world.  This seemed like a good time to talk numbers a bit, more specifically my expenses so far vs earnings.  Fair warning, it’s a longish post.

Oh wait, talking about that stuff is taboo right?  Yeah, I know, some people don’t like to talk money or numbers.  In the US in particular, it seems to be a big thing to treat it like some huge state secret (okay, maybe more securely than that *swish*). 

To me, one, I’ve never felt like that about money.  I don’t mind talking about my incomes, expenses, debts, etc. to friends, family, hell even acquaintances.  And when it comes to being an indie author, I strongly feel more of us need to be honest about it, give real numbers, not just euphemisms and generalities.    Why?  So those following in our footsteps have facts to ground them and can plan appropriately. 

(BTW, if you can’t pull this sort of info together relatively quickly, get thee a better record management system – you’ll need it come tax time!!!)

So, with that said, first, the tables because I like tables.  Tables are awesome and make data easier to read.  Oh, and I should note, for sanity sake, I rounded to the nearest dollar because I hate dealing with cents   😛 




Podcast Expenses
The H1N1 Recorder


Writer’s League Membership




Aisuru Editing


Aisuru Publishing Costs
Proof copies, set up fees, copyright


Purchasing Copies
For giveaways, review copies, and direct sales


Shipping Costs
Includes packaging and actual shipping costs to send out copies from giveaways, review copies, and direct sales


Web Site**
Includes domain and Ecwid storefront


StoryCartel and Facebook Ad


Tax Expenses
Paying out sales tax collected and doing 1099s






** Website expenses do not include hosting because I am bundled on my personal hosting; it would be roughly $33 a year though if I properly split out the cost.




Sales From Aisuru






My Takeaway

The income table is pretty tiny…but you guys probably guessed that from my earlier discussions on Aisuru’s lack of sales.  So the other $2,765 spent on expenses so far is all money out of my own pocket. Put another way, thus far my publication business is operating at a loss of $2,765. 

Most of that money came from the bit of savings I did before I got going, two healthy chunk from my income tax refund and a fortuitous escrow account refund, and the rest from just budgeting out small infusions here and there as I could.  My business bank account now has less than $40 in it – I just add enough each month at this point to pay the Ecwid bills and other coming expenses.

Getting started as an indie writer is expensive, no doubt about it.  Of course, if you make $100k+ a year or have absolute no debts, maybe $2,900 is small potatoes (all about ratios, as I often say).  That’s not me though.  I don’t get paid nearly that much, I am not independently wealthy, and I have not won that lottery I sporadically play. 😉

That said, I am lucky.  I do make a decent salary, and while I still have a mortgage and student loan (aka stupid tax) debt, I have absolutely no credit card debts and I own my 10+ year old car outright. Thanks to living by a budget, cutting unnecessary expenses, and otherwise following the combined guidance of Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, and Gail Vaz Oxlide, I have excellent control of my money. (Seriously, My Total Money Makeover changed my life 1000x times for the better!)

Therefore, I’ve been able to comfortably pay for the expenses so far, though it does hurt to think that’s almost 3 months of mortgage payments there.  *ouch*

What I’d Change?

While I’ve tried hard not to waste money, I will note there are some places I’d probably do things differently for anyone wanting to learn from my mistakes.  The Goodreads giveaway, for example, cost me nearly $100 in shipping fees, plus the actual costs of the books themselves (roughly $50) and did nothing for Aisuru.  No reviews from those giveaway copies, no sales from the briefly increased exposure, etc.  In contrast, StoryCartel cost me $25, 13 people snagged the free eBook from them, and I got 2 reviews on Amazon.  Much better return, IMHO.

As for those costs of copies, with my future titles, I’ll be stocking way fewer copies for direct sales – maybe just 3 or 5 to start with, until there are actually enough consistent direct sales to justify having more. 

And I’d totally skip the Writer’s League Membership (haven’t used at all) and the Facebook ad (pointless), and instead do some more focused spending on more useful promotional opportunities.

So those are my numbers so far. They suck, but well, I’m still “starting out” by most standards.  And I haven’t given up.  Sure, Aisuru may not have tons of sales, but it does have some great reviews so those who are reading seem to be enjoying it.  That’s worth a lot to me anyway 🙂