We have read many stories about authors jumping to the self-publishing world or becoming hybrid authors by self-publishing backlists or short stories that don’t fit into their traditionally published works.
Author Peter David is going in the opposite direction, he wrote on a blog. He’s decided to publish his next novel ARTFUL: Being the Heretofore Secret History of that Unique Individual, The Artful Dodger, Hunter of Vampyres (Amongst Other Things) through Amazon Books.
Despite having Crazy 8 Press, a place he and other writers can publish their own books, David is going back to a bigger company for one simple reason:
It’s because they pay me. Amazon forks over money in advance. And not only does that not happen with Crazy 8, but even when the books get out there, my readers are slow to pick them up.
David brings up an interesting point. Are authors making money by going the self-publishing route? Sure, but how much money? In David’s case the work wasn’t worth the effort because his books weren’t being purchased at a frequency that allowed him to have a sufficient living it seems. David says: “I’ll get monthly royalty statements that wouldn’t buy a bag of groceries.”
So here is the truth that maybe some people don’t realize: Self-publishing is not for everyone.
It sounds great on the outside, you get to keep a bigger percentage of the sales, you get payments every month and you get to track your own sales, which is important to market research. However, you also have to hire a good editor, do your own cover art (or hire someone to do it) and market your own book.
Essentially, you have to wear at least half dozen hats before you get to put the writing hat back on.
You can tell by the post and the comments that David and his colleagues put a lot of work into Crazy 8 Press. They had a lot of ideas. However, I feel this story is more common than the ones where self-publishers are making so much money they get to quit their day job.
There are THOUSANDS of e-books out there from indie authors. But only a handful you know by name.
When trying to figure out the path you want to take, it’s important to look at both sides. I understand some people not might have a choice because they cannot get a publisher. However, consider all the options while you have them.
“his books weren’t being purchased at a frequency that allowed him to have a sufficient living it seems”
What’s needed to have a sufficient living is going to vary according to author. I recently read a comment by a traditionally published author that he’d gone back to his day job so that he could make a decent living. Turned out he needed $100,000 a year to make a decent living.
Then I realized he lives in New York City. That explains it.
“So here is the truth that maybe some people don’t realize: Self-publishing is not for everyone.”
Absolutely. Some writers underestimate the amount of work publishing requires, even though they understand perfectly that writing takes a lot of work.
“However, I feel this story is more common than the ones where self-publishers are making so much money they get to quit their day job.”
Same is true for writers being traditionally published. 🙂
Because I was once curious about the reports of self-publishers earning a bundle – weren’t those the outliers, with everyone else earning pennies? – I collected the sales reports of about 70 indie genre-fiction authors, ranging from those who reported piddling amounts to those who were bringing in a lot more than piddling.
When I totted up all the numbers, there were a lot of authors on the piddling end of the scale. The scale looked like this (with the monthly per-copy sales numbers on the left). It was a classic long-tail formation. Yet the median sales per e-book were 72 copies monthly. (The mean sales per e-book were 442 copies monthly.)
72 copies of one e-book, with earnings of (say) $3 for the e-book, equals only $216 a month. But with 72 copies of ten e-books, the earnings would be $2160 monthly. That’s more than I earned the last time I had a 9-to-5 office job. It’s also about half the size of a traditionally published new writer’s advance, which is the most money that a new writer is likely to see for their book.
For an established writer like Peter David, these earnings are likely to look pitiful. But one has to take into account that a lot of indie writers would have earned zero for their books in the past, because those books just didn’t fit the traditional publishing market.
I agree with you that variety is wonderful. Not everyone needs to be indie published, nor should they be. I hope Peter David flourishes with his new publisher. But the general impression I get – again, taking the piddling sales in full account – is that the average indie writer is earning more than the average writer in the recent past did. I think this is comparable to the pulp fiction era, when it was relatively easy for fiction writers to earn a living, provided that they put a lot of labor into it. That era had ceased to exist by the time I heard of it as a child; I’m delighted to see it being revived.
Dusk (who’s still at the piddling stage of sales)