Ch.11 : Costing not less than everything

I was determined from the outset to keep track of my expenditure: there is a curious sort of excitement in working to a budget, and the magic figure of 100 books meant that any purchase could immediately be reckoned ‘per book’ which had the effect of reducing large numbers to gratifyingly small ones – thus, Gargantua the Chinese Guillotine (who deserves and will get a chapter to himself) added a mere 60p a book, since his retail cost of £80 was reduced to £60 thanks to the Am*z*n vouchers I was given for feeding the downstairs cats for a week (kindness does pay).

I’m a writer, so I invent names for things which may well have names already. In my scheme of things ‘recovery cost’ was what I would need to recover from sales to cover all my expenditure, including hardware; my aim was to keep that below £1000, i.e. £10 per book. The other was consumable cost, the amount I would have to spend in the making of each book – the unit cost, if you like, which would be a truer index of profit per book, since I got to keep all the hardware and could use it again.

Of course, my time did not come into the costing. As I said, I’m a writer – if you have taken over ten years to get something into publishable form, costing your time will only depress you. No doubt I would have taken my time into account had I been working for someone else, but here I was working for myself; besides, I could set my time against a couple of things I wasn’t having to do. The first was stand in a queue behind various middlemen and women – shopkeeper, distributor, printer, publisher, (agent) – who reduced the 8.99 the customer paid in the shop for my first book to 67p by the time it reached me (as a matter of fact, my first three books were unagented. I can only say that I gained no benefit from having one for my fourth). The second were the anxious days and hours spent in hawking my finished manuscript about various people (publishers, agents) and waiting for some sort of response, which genuinely is time wasted when you set all your unsuccessful efforts against the single successful one you may eventually get, if you are lucky.

So here is a list compiled, by the look of things, when the process was fairly well advanced – i.e. most of the actual buying had been done – then dressed up to look pretty:

Screenshot 2018-02-27 10.35.52

As you can see, this includes some expenditure that proved unnecessary – the ‘beech boards’ from IKEA were a typical ‘magpie’ purchase – two handsome-looking chopping boards that I thought might served as an aid to pressing books at various stages. I did use them, but in the event they exuded oil, so that any paper next to them became stained, so I abandoned them and used Encyclopaedia Britannicas instead. The bulldog clips were intended to substitute for a vice or press to allow the signatures to be sawn, but in the end a purpose-built frame and clamps proved more useful. The paring knife, a lovely thing, served to persuade me that hand-trimming 100 books was not going to be practical, so I bought the big guillotine instead. I had bought a small guillotine, not listed here, for about £15, but it proved too flimsy to be of much use.

So, the figures above suggest a ‘recovery cost’ of £8.43 per book and a consumable cost of £4.90, well within target, and including some things I need not have bought as well as some surpluses such as boards, tape and thread, where I bought more than I needed for economy. The only thing I underestimated was glue, but there again I had initially bought costly specialist stuff from Hewit’s but might as well have bought a larger cheaper quantity from Wickes, as I did latterly.

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