The Numbers: Not a Disaster!

Our budget relies heavily on finding at least one dragon’s hoard

Well, here we are! Wyngraf #1 has been out for (a little over) a month, giving us our first peek at how, exactly, the Magazine of Cozy Fantasy is doing out there in the big world.

Short answer: pretty well!

Much, much longer answer…

Issue 1 Budget

Going Global

Let’s start with the numbers (or, as our friend Oliver Brackenbury calls them, the numbies). As I mentioned on Oliver’s podcast, the total budget for issue 1 was $682.14. Well, I was wrong, because not long after that podcast dropped, we decided to go back and buy global rights to all the stories in the issue.

What does that mean? Well, our original author contracts were for what are called North American First Serial Rights. That means Wyngraf bought the rights to publish all our stories for the first time (i.e. we didn’t buy any reprints), but only in North America.

At the time, this seemed like a reasonable trade-off. At 1 cent per word, Wyngraf currently pays nowhere near a professional rate. We figured we could make up the gap a tiny bit by letting our authors keep first serial rights to the rest of the world, giving them the chance to possibly sell their stories again in a global market.

Turns out there are a number of problems with this approach. For starters, we had much more international interest in Wyngraf than expected! (This is what’s known as a “good problem.”) While the bulk of our sales has been in the US (and a few in Canada, already covered by North American rights), since going global we’ve gained readers in the UK, Australia, France, Germany, and Poland.

(Let us just say: cheers, merci, danke, dziękuję!)

But there were other issues as well. One was that sticking to North America in the world of internet publishing is quite difficult. Amazon makes it easy to list your book only on certain regional markets (.com for America, .ca for Canada, and .mx for Mexico, for example). But nothing’s stopping a reader elsewhere from buying the book on one of those sites. Nor can we limit a promotional tweet, for example, only to North Americans. (Not that we’d want to!)

Too, opening Wyngraf to the world increases our readership, which means higher revenue, more reviews, and more word-of-mouth. Since our budget for issue 2 will reference sales of issue 1, selling more copies now makes it more likely we can increase our rates in the future.

So what does that mean for the numbers?

Well, a few weeks into May, we decided to pay our idiot tax. We went back to our wonderful authors, asking to buy full global rights for an additional payment. (With gratitude to the awesome L.D. Whitney for pushing us to get this done!) Luckily, everyone agreed quickly and we were able to get new contracts signed and payments sent in only a few days. Then Wyngraf #1 went worldwide! (All future contracts will buy global rights, and each new issue will launch globally on day one. Lesson learned!)

We also created a handy link that automagically takes you to Wyngraf in your region!

Get to the Numbies Already

So with all that said, here’s the final budget breakdown for Wyngraf #1:

  • Cover Art: $250
  • Original Story Cost: $432.14 at $0.01/word
  • Global Rights: $160 at $20 per story
  • Total Budget: $842.14

You math-minded readers may have noticed a discrepancy. The issue contains nine stories and ~49,914 words, not eight and 43,214! (You knew that, right?)

Well, the ninth story was written by EiC Nathaniel Webb, who received no payment. At ~6,700 words, this let us hit the ~50k length we wanted but saved us about $87.

You may also have noticed a lot missing from this budget. Where’s the layout cost? Graphic design? Editing?

All that was done in house. Once we had our amazing cover art, the design (front, back, and spine) was done in GIMP, a free, open-source graphics program with a terrible name. The print interior and ebook were done in Vellum, which definitely isn’t free, but was a one-time purchase we’ve used for a number of other projects. As far as editing—that’s what Editors-in-Chief are for, right?

Issue 1 Sales (So Far)

The Bottom Line

At last, here’s what you came for: with one month since our debut, how’s Wyngraf #1 doing?

Not too shabby!

Our official net revenue for May was $494.97.

Goals and Expectations

This means we’ve earned back about 59% of our total budget so far. Or, if you don’t count the idiot tax one-time global rights payment, we’ve earned almost 73% of the budget.

Here’s the thing: we didn’t found Wyngraf to get rich. We did it to make something great, something we felt was missing from the fantasy fiction landscape. To give back to the community.

If we earn back every dollar we spent putting the magazine together, that is a huge success.

It means we judged correctly how much interest there is in a magazine dedicated to cozy fantasy. It means we can justify issue #2. It means we weren’t crazy.

So what if we make more than 100% of our budget?

Well, that means the budget was too low. Next time we could (and would) pay our authors more. For reference, not counting the global rights thing, to recoup a 2-cent-per-word rate, this issue would have to earn $1114.28. For the minimum professional rate of 8 cents a word, that leaps up to $3,707.12.

Copies Sold

So how many actual copies have we sold to hit our current revenue? How many would we have to sell to afford higher pay rates?

In May we sold about 110 copies of Wyngraf #1.

“About” 110? Yep. Let’s break that down…

  • Kindle ebooks: 46
  • Print books: 52
  • Kindle Unlimited complete reads: ~12

For starters, we actually sold a single Kindle book in April, at least according to Amazon. Considering the ebook went live on May 1, I don’t know if that was a time zone thing, an early preorder release, a rounding error, or what. But we’ve gone ahead and counted it for May.

Let’s talk Kindle Unlimited. This is a monthly subscription service that lets Kindle users read books for free. Publishers have to opt into it; if they do, they’re paid a per-page rate based on something called KENP, Kindle Edition Normalized Pages. Basically, Amazon has some way of calculating how many pages of your book were read by KU users, then pays a fraction of a cent per page.

Wyngraf #1 had 3,124 KENP read in May. The issue is 253 KENP long, so that works out to about 12.35 full read-throughs. In reality, it’s more likely that a larger number of readers each read part of the book, but Amazon doesn’t give us that data.

One last thought: we definitely expected to sell more ebooks than print copies! Maybe our gorgeous cover art and handsome interior design inspired readers to hold the book in their hands?

We’re delighted, as one of Wyngraf‘s goals is to create attractive physical artifacts. Despite the many benefits of e-readers, paper books are just cozier, after all.

Royalties By Edition

Luckily, the unexpected success of the print edition didn’t throw off our budget estimates. Each version of the book earns a different amount when all is said and done:

  • Kindle ebook: $4.856 per copy
  • Print book: $4.99 per copy
  • Kindle Unlimited: $1.111 per complete read

But as you can see, we tried to price ebooks and print copies so we earned roughly the same from each. The much higher cost of the print edition accounts for the printing cost (about $2.82 per copy) and Amazon’s lower royalty on print books.

As for KU… yeah. Turns out it’s a way lower profit than selling an actual copy, at least at our price points. For a bit over twelve full reads in KU, we only earned about thirteen bucks.

(We should also note here that all KU royalties are estimated. Amazon sets the KENP rate a little differently every month, so we won’t have a final number until that’s done. These numbers are based on the April rate, but any changes will be on the scale of pennies for us.)

The difficult question with KU is whether those readers would have bought copies otherwise (good for us, though not for them), these are folks who only checked out the mag because it was free (good for everyone), or they only wanted to read one or two stories and wouldn’t have bought the magazine just for that (also good for everyone).

We don’t have a good answer to that one.

Goals Revisited

So with all these numbers in mind, let’s return to those higher pay rates. Here are some numbers based on an average profit per copy of $4.91 (regardless of print versus ebook). They ignore Kindle Unlimited completely.

  • To recoup our actual budget (ignoring global rights), we need to sell about 139 copies
    • (we sold 98 copies in May)
  • To recoup 2 cents per word, we need to sell about 227 copies
  • To recoup 8 cents per word, we need to sell about 775 copies

The Sales Curve

So can we, or will we, sell 227 copies of Wyngraf #1? When will we hit that magic 139?

Let’s look at the sales curve!

There’s nothing cozier than a financial bar chart

So our total of 98 copies breaks down into:

  • 34 on launch day, May 1 (we’re counting that one errant April 30 sale here)
  • 13 on May 2
  • 7 on May 3
  • A little over 1.5 copies per day since then

I think it’s safe to consider the initial three-day period (May 1-3) our “launch.” We haven’t seen numbers anywhere as big since then—the best single day since saw 5 copies sold—and the pattern has held steady since May 4.

So are there any correlations to the little spikes throughout the rest of the month?

Well, our first international sale was on May 12, but those have only ever come in bit by bit. There was no spike with the global launch.

How about Flash Friday? Does it bring new readers to the website, or spur folks to grab the magazine proper?

Here there may be some relationship. On the four Fridays in May, we sold 4, 2, 0, and 2 copies respectively. Not exactly stunning leaps, but it’s something.

If we include the following Saturdays (thinking maybe folks came back to grab the magazine the day after reading some flash) we get 4, 5, 2, 4 for the two-day periods. Those mostly beat our average of 3 copies every two days.

So if this rate keeps up, how long until we make back the budget? Counting Kindle Unlimited, we need to sell about 38 more copies, which should take about 24 days. In other words, there’s a decent chance we’ll recoup our budget by the end of June, two months after launch day.

Not bad for a cozy little zine!

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