I know nothing about being an agent for writers.
It happens that I do.
She's halfway decent at writing such things, but doesn't know
shit about getting published or self published.
Does she have a manuscript ready for publication, or is this something she's just now considering doing? In my experience, the typical novel takes between one and two years to write.
I've heard of kickstarter
Kickstarter provides an avenue for people to offer donations, but one would still need to direct people to the site and convince them to actually donate.
I'm also thinking she isn't going to pay me shit either
No, she won't. Nor should you expect her to because there is unlikely to be enough money going around for her to do so. New authors don't make as much money as even college bands playing at local bars and it's much more expensive to do. A band already has their instruments. If you book them a gig, what does a night club pay? $200? Divide that by let's say 4 band members, and everyone can walk away with $50, minus whatever percentage you charge for the booking. There are no up front costs to the band, and it is immediately profitable. Even if the club only pays $100 and you take 50%, even if they print and pass out their own flyers, they can still be making money on day 1.
In comparison, let's use a recent example from my own experience with a local print shop. We recently did a 250 run of a 533 page softcover novel for $4000. This is a book with a list price of $18.50. Do the math. She'll need to sell 216 out of those 250 books just to break even on printing costs. Now...costs do decrease rapidly with numbers. Getting a second run of 250 printed would cost closer to $2000 because much of the expense is setup, cover and one-time fees. A print shop will generally keep data on hand so that an author can simply call up years later and ask for additional runs and all they need to do is load the file and click print.
So now that you've paid $4000 up front, let's look at how you then start making money from sales:
Unless you're already famous, getting a publishing company to front printing costs is not easy. Getting into the industry is not simply a matter of writing a book then handing it to a publishing company and expecting money. The majority of your sales will come from personal footwork: attending faires, book signings at libraries, etc. It is not difficult to book events. Some, like county faires, will charge you for tablespace. Others might not. For example, the standard approach for a library would be to donate a couple copies for their shelves then offer to do a book signing. I've never had a library say no to that. You give them 2-3 copies, then set up a table near the entrance and sign copies that people buy. The problem here is that, using the previous example, if you give a library 2 copies, that cost $32 and you only make $2.50 profit per sale. Just to break even on a library book signing you probably need to sell 13 copies. That can happen...but it's by no means a sure thing. It's simply something you do to get your name out there. Really what you're hoping for with a library signing is for those couple people who actually bought the book to tell their friends and hope that they give out the number from the business card you slid into the book. Very often, however, rather than doing this they will instead simply loan
the book to their friend. Or give it to them.
Events like county and state faires can be far more profitable. Sacramento state faire charges $400 for a table, but in some cases they'll waive that and simply charge 15% of sales. The author that I work with made $800 over a weekend last time she went. But it's an annual event. It's not something you can book every weekend. High school boutiques are more frequent and typically charge much less, $40 to $80 for a weekend. Those can be profitable. But again, you have to remember printing costs. Even if you make profit after tablespace, you still need to be selling hundreds of books over the long term to have any chance of recouping those costs. And at all of these events an author is spending 8-12 hours a day sitting at a table, talking to people, passing out business cards and being grateful for the rare, occasional chance to actually sell and sign a book.
Short answer: even if she spends the next year writing a book, several thousand dollars printing it, hundreds of hours at book signings and events...it's very likely to be years before she breaks even.
Something like Amazon Self-publishing?
For new authors, selling hard copies via amazon is generally a losing, or at absolute best break-even proposition. Amazon takes 55% of sale price, and it costs a couple dollars to ship them a book. Unless you are already a well known author, they don't generally like to keep more than 1 or 2 copies. Here's the process:
You print a book. Using the above 250-run example, that book cost you $16.50 to print. You then send amazon that book. In this case, shipping costs were $3 per copy. Amazon holds that book until they sell it to a customer. In this case, they sell it for $18.50. They keep 55% of that and give you the remaining $8.35, then ask you to mail them a new copy. Your net loss is $11.15.
In order to make any money selling through amazon, you need to have massive volume in order to reduce printing costs. The author in this example I'm giving is personally eating
those losses in order to establish herself and get her name out there. Now, granted...this is a bit of an extreme example because it was an especially small run (only 250 copies for $4000) and the book itself was unusually large at 533 pages. It's not always this bad. But this is a real life example and it happens to be the most recent example I've worked with. A more realistic expectation might be to hope to break even. Either way, expecting to make a profit right away is probably not realistic. Amazon is bad
for authors. It's not an avenue for selling books or making money. It's simply an expected expense because people ask if you're on amazon, and it's generally worth the losses in order to be able to say that you are.
A more profitable option is to self-publish e-books
via amazon kindle, yes. This is much less expensive as it does not require you to print physical books. Merely to convert them to kindle format and upload them. Amazon imposes an upper limit sales price of $9.99 and keeps either 30% or 65% depending on your royalty type. As of the last time I submitted a book there isn't any reason to give them the 65%. Pay the 30%. Note also that amazon reserves the right to arbitrarily sell your books for less than you say. I've never seen them actually do it, but it's possible that they might.
In order to get a book on kindle you will need to convert it to the kindle format. If you are technically inclined, the format specification and tools are freely available from amazon. If you are not technically inclined, there are plenty of services who will do it for you. If you're looking for a referral, I charge $400. If you shop around you might be able to find cheaper. Note that "convesion tools" does not mean "plug it and and say go." It's more complicated than that.
So there's a quick overview. Any more specific questions?