With the recent promotional period over, I want to offer a breakdown of the book sales of Interrogation Days and the associated fund-raising. Even though this specific information may not seem vital to everybody, my belief is that more publishers need to make this information public and, also, that such information can demystify how such a project works and encourage others to take on their own.
And before I get into the weeds with all this, allow me to offer my thanks to everyone who has supported the press in any way. You are the reason any of this is able to happen, and I greatly appreciate you all. <3
Numbers and Receipts
On October 17th, Interrogation Days went on pre-order, and on November 14th it was shipped to all those who ordered. During that four week period, we (meaning me and all who have supported) surpassed the sales goal of 40 books by selling 45 booklets and 4 .pdfs. Of these orders, Interrogation Days accounted for 34 sales, and the remainder included 3 copies of Dysnomia and 4 each of Civil Society and Three Essays. Most orders came from repeat customers, but a few came from new folks as well. Overall, the email list drove the most sales, with social media (primarily Twitter) coming in a distant second.
These sales earned a total of $453. Donating 50% of this amount the Gitmo Survivors Fund means that both the fund and the press each get $226.50. I've written in a bit more detail about the fund in a previous post, and I have also since contacted a representative at Healing and Recovery After Trauma (HeaRT, one of the orgs administering the fund) who confirmed for me that this amount is distributed to former detainees through an application process and that it helps provide former Gitmo detainees with help for living and medical expenses. Here are receipts for those donations to HeaRT, and in the second one you can see the Guantánamo Survivors Fund indicated:
Overall Accounting for the Press
Currently, the press's finances are in good shape, and I'm now operating with an actual surplus of $516.78. This puts me in a very good position going into 2023, when I will be publishing four other writers’ work in March and June. The coming year will teach me a lot about what can be achieved by the press, and I’m very excited about it all.
The full breakdown of the press's costs and earnings is a follows:
Total costs to date (for materials): --$1080.13
Total income for the press (pre-donation): +$1504.36
Total amount donated from this: --$848.95
Remaining income for the press: +$655.41
Sales of musical equipment to offset initial costs: +$441.50
Donation from a supporter of the press: +$500
And again, after all this is calculated, the press a surplus of $516.78. Also, you will note the last item in the above list, because that amount -- generously donated by a friend whom I've reconnected with after several years -- makes an enormous difference. Without that donation, the press is merely $16.78 above deficit. In other words, something I could not have planned or budgeted for made all the difference in the press's finances.
So what do these numbers means for the actual sustainability of my project?
Conclusions and Looking Ahead
First, while the press aims to be sustainable, it is not trying to be profitable. Breaking even is acceptable to me, and I would consider it a victory to be able to break even while 1) putting good poetry into the world and 2) continuing to donate half of all sales. If there are times when I go into deficit by a hundred dollars or so, this too is acceptable to me personally. However, I am rigorously working to avoid this. And again, even without the $500 donation, I've still basically broken even on a relatively large ($1000) investment, and I've also managed to give away almost $850 -- all while getting my poems into the world. So I'm OK with how things are going.
Secondly, the great majority of the money spent so far was "start up" money, and this does not represent ongoing costs. These initial costs include both tools I will not need to replace anytime soon, if ever, as well as a lot of practice materials I won't ever be buying again (different weights of card stock and paper, in particular). Thus, the longer the press continues to exist, the more it will produce from these initial materials, and the more it will earn from them.
Third, I am being as thorough and strict as I can be in accounting for all of this, and there is a more lenient way of accounting for some of these expenses (which I used in an earlier summary post from April 2022). For instance, the printer is actually used for more than just printing books, and so it may not be entirely accurate to chalk up the entirety of that expense ($235, or 23% of the total) to the press on that. Additionally, I have 1500 sheets of plain white paper which I will not be using for the press (because of their specific weights), but which have not been wasted, as I can use them for other purposes. Do I count these costs against the press? In the past, I did not, but to keep myself honest, I've begun to count these things (all of which have been recorded from the start): if it is money I would not have spent if the press did not exist, I count it (even if it is for things like an awl and thread or rubber stamps, which I ended up never using).
Now, all of this will become trickier when I begin publishing other writers, as the margins begin to shrink considerably, tho they still seem (on paper) to be sustainable. I'll learn more in 2023, but for now, I am committed to sharing 50% with the writer while still donating 50% of my own earning. That means, a book selling for $10 earns me $2.50 for the press. As each booklet costs $1.00 to make, this is still a 150% profit, but clearly things tighten by quite a bit. As I get into this phase of the press, I'll learn much more about all this, and adjustments may have to be made. However, I would consider this whole project a victory if I could break even while helping a writer get 50% of their sales while also raising money for a good organization. [Note: I'll be publishing two writers at once and pooling the earnings into one donation fund, which will end up leading to amounts very similar to what I earned with Interrogation Days.]