As some of you may know, I have been publishing for over a year (under a pen name) and in that time I have done better than most authors without 100+ page books or an editor. Even the reviews that comment on my editing have been more than kind about the stories themselves. So far I’ve made $60-$100 with no real advertising and just using my other(more popular) blog. It isn’t much, but let me tell you it is better than most indie authors out there who have just gotten started with putting in exactly $0.
And I am happy with this because after a year of lurking, and preparing books/short stories for release under my name I have learned one solid fact…self-publishing eBooks is not a money making scheme. Data Guy of the Author Earnings Report had an interview with the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast in Feb. 2016 that broke down the difficulties and successes of the market brilliantly. One comment he made really stuck out to me, however, because he recounted how the media seemed totally uninterested in the AER’s discovery that a large number of authors were getting by fine with their writing. They weren’t making millions, but they weren’t making cents. The stories people were interested in, and the stories I kept/keep finding when I first began researching self-publishing were the million dollar success stories or the failure stories.
These people had one thing in common…they couldn’t possibly be the majority of self-published authors. There’s two groups in those who “fail” at self-publishing. The 1st of those who claimed to fail? They’d written books purely to get rich off a market, usually erotica or romance. They rushed a book, published it, and though any schmo would buy it because why wouldn’t they? They didn’t have a real long term plan. They were hopeful or desperate in a way most of us have been in our lives. But they had no heart in their book and sometimes no respect for their genre or audience. They listened to the people whose only advice was “write a thing. Hit publish.”.
Elsewhere the successful indies all have a variety of stories, and the most authentic were often the most unique and inexplicable. Their situations were happenstance. The right person read, word of mouth, and they struck at the right moment. There is talent involved, but the reality is plenty of talented people in this world don’t get a damn lick of attention of praise. Remember Van Goph was pretty much only known by other artists until Johanna Van Goph, his sister-in-law, refused to let his work be forgotten after his suicide. These people are not common and their books might not even be that well written (which is fine the goal is for people to enjoy them)
While every other no name blogger may include “write an ebook” as an easy way to make passive income the truth is nothing about ebook sales or writing is easy. The truth is most of those bloggers began with a large audience they could sell to, and that’s why they made what money they did. Book quality aside they had buyers before they thought of a book. More seedy individuals have turned kindle, kobo, and smashwords into a means to get you to give them money. These individuals may have written a handful of actual books, but their main skill is marketing. While they can have very useful advice attached to that advice is convincing people that ebook sales are easy. You will look at their backlogs on their blogs, on amazon, or their websites only to see how they’ve made their money is convincing people like you to buy their book, course, etc. Every blue moon you will find someone like Mark Dawson who actually walks the walk, and loves the craft of writing. One thing that differentiates him and others like him from the former? They will tell you how to do better, write more, and become a better marketer for your writing. They don’t promise you instant sales. They don’t belittle legitimate ebook authors. They will tell you this can be fullfilling, but full of hard work. That said there’s something about people, even Dawson who I’ve interacted with and who is a nice man, whose fortunes are spent on marketing you techniques perhaps more than their actual writing.
If you notice I didn’t mention the other half of those who feel they “failed“. The reason is the second group is far more common, and unfortunately is the majority of us self-publishers. For the rest of us authors, both successful and not, the trouble is we’re all trying to get noticed. With hundreds of books being released every month every author is tasked with the torturous task of pimping themselves, and we don’t even get a pimp cup for it. The sad thing is here is where a lot of authors struggle. Those with the mean green to buy $300 worth of facebook ads or use ad services have an upper hand over those of us who simply can’t. This is a tremendous problem for black authors who traditionally face both prejudiced gate keeping, the racist belief that black books have no value for black people, and who don’t always have the social or economic capital to spend $300 or make that $300 really turn into sales.
A bit of advice, the best way to spend $300 is to find an editor and someone who knows how to put together the cover you want. I’m cheap, artistically inclined, and honestly hate 90% of covers in the genres I write in. So I make my own covers. However, I am preparing to send my proper novels to an editor once they’re complete and I find one who understands my work. My 99c story, Mind and Frost, will be self edited, and released in the next three weeks or so because I just don’t see the benefit in paying for the short story with experimental tense use. But perhaps I’m dumb as rocks because those who receive any sort of help on book production see a spike of around 34% in sales.
Despite that we can work our buts off instead, really making constant mistakes and correcting in order to find the best marketing tactics for our audience. We just have to market differently, be more aggressive, and more clever. It’s not that simple by far, but that’s the long and short of it.
Book marketing, book writing, and taking the time to create your brand isn’t something you can just throw together. Story after story after story gets published about authors who break the bank only because they’re extremes. Humans like extremes because they make for eye catching stories. The reality is most self-published authors don’t quit their day job unless their partner has a stable job or, I suspect, they come from money. The reality is most self-published authors of any quality with a good cover sell, based on observations over the last year, about 20-50 copies on average depending on the genre, and supposedly make under $500. But that’s money you didn’t have before, and money that if you hit critical mass (let’s say 3+ books in a series/world) you can make twice over that, take what you’ve made, and reinvest in your passion.
But you will not get rich quick.
Instead focus on getting your book done in a way you will be happy with.
That’s the first step to making your life richer.
One of those articles I sort of trash has some good advice.