Rob W. Hart wrote a pretty dark column, but one that might be true for not-so-entrepreneurial writers: “Six Tough Truths About Self-Publishing (That The Advocates Never Seem To Talk About)
Self-publishing advocates would have you believe that even considering a publishing deal is idiotic, when you can just put the work out yourself and become the master of your own literary destiny.
Look at all the advantages: No crazy contracts to sign. You get full say over everything, from content to cover. There’s no web of editors and agents to wade through. No publication dates set for years in the future. And the profits! Did you know that the split with Amazon is 70-30? Did you know that you get the 70? And setting up a Twitter account and a Facebook author page and a WordPress blog is dead simple. It’s a wonder anyone still goes through publishers, right? But a lot of this stuff is not nearly as easy as they make it sound, and if you’re going to self-publish, there’s a couple of harsh truths that you need to understand before you start.
1. Stimulating sales is hard.
Cartoonist Lars Martinson submitted a webcomic to Reddit, and as a result his website jumped from 100 visitors in one day, to 48,342. Given the 25,000 percent increase in traffic, he figured he’d sell a ton of eBooks. Stands to reason, right? Nope. He sold 23. That means a 0.048 percent boost in sales. You can read more about this over at BoingBoing.
And this is the funny thing about the internet; you can tweet and Facebook and Tumblr and Pinterest and blog tour and shoot book trailers and beg for reviews on Amazon. You can do all of those things and still barely move the needle. This is a long game; there are no immediate results.
2. Many self-published authors earn less than $500 a year.
A lot of the self-publishing advocates like to talk about how much money they make from their ventures (some bragging numbers upwards of six figures). But a recent survey of 1,007 self-published authors, recounted by The Guardian in Great Britain, found that average earnings were just $10,000 a year, with half of the respondents earning less than $500. (My comments: they almost all have only ONE book published)
As with all things, the self-pubbed authors hitting it big have a few things going for them. Many of them started with traditional publishing deals, so they already had a following and experience in the business. Some of them are savvy, experienced marketers who know how to sell themselves. Others have churned out so many books that the odds are in their favor for a higher payday. And some have just hit upon the biggest contributing factor to sales: Luck.
3. The biggest contributing factor to sales is luck.
Seriously, this stuff is unknowable. Regardless how you feel about Fifty Shades of Grey, it sold 10 millions copies in six months.
That’s staggering. The more attention it gets, the more attention it generates; this book is the perpetual motion machine of publishing. But why this book? Why is this the one that took America by the hand and…