Eusebius book – doing the money

A day that I have long dreaded has arrived – the day on which I have to work out just what it cost to make the translation of Eusebius of Caesarea’s, Gospel Problems and Solutions.

Why now?  Well, it’s the end of the financial year.  The company has been selling copies of the book for the last two years and, unless I want to pay tax on non-existent profits, I need to book the costs incurred in making the thing in the first place.

Trouble is, the payments went out in small lumps.  There was twenty pounds here, and fifty pounds there, over quite a long period.  I did keep track of a lot of it, initially, in a spreadsheet.  But then I succumbed and stopped being so meticulous.  Which meant, of course, that today I had to go back through emails looking for the ones where I said, “the cheque is on the way” and things like that.

Realistically I cannot hope to have covered them all.  I know that there are more costs that I have been unable to find.  But everything I have billed is certainly a real expenditure.

There are also costs connected with the Origen, Homilies on Ezekiel book, which still languishes unpublished but still cost a lot (I need to hire a typesetter and get it out there).  These I have included, since they are part of the expense.  But even so, I spent quite a bit more than I thought.

The bill for translating and reviewing and editing and transcribing is a little more than five thousand two hundred pounds; around $8,000 dollars.  That, to put it mildly, is quite a sum.  Revenues from sales, which exclude the physical cost of manufacture, have been only around 60% of that.  The cost of manufacture and postage drives that revenue figure down further – I have not calculated quite how, since I charged for those costs separately.  So it looks as if I will end up with a loss of around $4,000 on the project, assuming I don’t sell many more copies (which is likely).

I don’t complain, mind you!  The costs came in, little by little, so I hardly noticed them.  I can afford the loss, spread over four years as it was.  And, heck, it’s not a huge sum, really!  A foreign holiday would often cost more, and leave nothing behind.

The great positive is that the job is done!  For a small sum, as most people count these things, a translation of this highly interesting work now exists.  Once sales cease — there is still a trickle of these — I shall place the translation on the web, just as I promised.  We shall all be the better for it.

And I will bring out the Origen book too.  All the main costs are already paid, so why not?


8 thoughts on “Eusebius book – doing the money

  1. Why not go further with your projects by using crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter to raise the initial funds necessary for a project (let’s say, 10 000$), with for exemple an e-book version for the contributers who gives between 0 and 25$, a paper copy for those who give more than 25$, a luxury printed version for those who give more than 100$, a bunddle with one previous book for those who give 250$ or more ? The Eusebius book would be a showcase of your ability to lead such a project to completion.

    Such a system could help you bring in the necessary cash for more publications, more projects, and help you build a true library of rarely translated texts, and also provide you with more visibility (and thus more orders, thus more chances for your books to still be availlable in a few years).

  2. Now that is a good thought! I don’t think the site existed back when the project started, but that would undoubtedly be a good way forward. The book has sold enough copies that this would probably be viable.

    The real problem, tho, is that it isn’t really possible to combine being a publisher with a full-time job! It’s very, very hard work!

  3. Indeed, it’s hard work, but you could probably set you goals (let’s say “publication of book x for 06/2014”), which would also help you with your translators by giving them true deadlines to work against, in place of the more amateur approach you took. You could then plan your editorial work in a project management approach, and eventually commission someone to help with the editorial tasks (especially if you ask enough money to start the project and hope to make some more money after the the initial kickstarter sales). I’m sure you could find young jobless or freelance editors that would love to add some real publications to their resume. The thing is, if you don’t have to pay everything out of your own pocket, you can also think about not doing all the work all by yourself anymore, even if you keep looking over everyone’s shoulder to make sure of the quality of the work provided 🙂

  4. Actually using someone else to do more of the work would be the approach Strassler used for his excellent editions of Xenophon, Arrian and Thucydides, but he did have the money to start all the process all by himself…

  5. If you use yourself as the worker, you can always kick your own butt. It is considerably more difficult to kick somebody else’s butt, especially if said butt doesn’t reside nearby.

    Hmmm. I guess I have to think about costs also. I’ve put a lot of labor into my translation, and I did spend money on photocopies of very large books, and colored pens, and a few books, and even a few printouts. But I seriously doubt I’ve spent anything more than $300 the whole time, in actual money, and that was mostly buying books so I could check my translations whenever I started feeling paranoid. (And because there’s always a reason to buy books and ebooks.)

    Of course, it mostly was that cheap because I was a city busride away from a couple of university libraries, rather than a cross-country busride… and because I’m probably not having a nice printed volume, unless I do it with CreateSpace. (Lo, I am cheap.)

  6. Also, just putting out something translated from just Latin is like playing the home game version of a game show — not anything as complex and a lot less pressure!

  7. But it is rewarding, tho, isn’t it? And don’t put yourself down for translating from Latin; you’re still doing excellent work! There’s loads of Latin that ought to exist in English and does not.

    I started out with simple ideas too. But gradually it got out of hand. I think the key mistake was deciding to print a text as well as a translation. That involved me in endless unnecessary pain. It made for a much higher quality work; but it also pushed the cost through the roof, made typesetting harder, and so on. I wouldn’t recommend anyone do that.

    I think the main thing I would remember, if I were to do it again, is that your own personal energy as project controller is the most limited resource. Once you get worn out, as I did during the Eusebius book, you make bad decisions because you just want things to go away!

    For the Origen book, I need to find someone who can set it up in Adobe InDesign. I will do this. When I get to it.

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