But Self-Publishing Makes So Much More $

A number of bloggers, including, most prominently, Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, have talked about how self-publishers make more money than traditionally published authors. This can be true. More often, it’s not.

It is obvious that you can get a higher share of the total revenue if you cut out a middleman, or even several of them. BUT a larger share of a smaller total may not equal more money in your bank account.

Before you jump on the bandwagon, wise authors will consider a few things, such as:

How much will your sales of print books shrink when you no longer have a large press’ distribution muscle behind you?

How much will your subsidiary rights income shrink? Are you clued-in enough to sell your own? Which ones? First and second serial aren’t too hard, but translation? Audio? Or hardest of all, movies?

How much extra time or money will you be spending upon doing, or getting done, all of the editing, cover design, marketing copy, file conversion and proofing, and so on that publishers do?

Will you earn enough more to re-pay that extra investment of time or money?

When you are contemplating the best use of that manuscript you just spent hundreds or thousands of hours writing, it should be worth a few dozen hours of your time to learn about and evaluate the options available.

Go buy some books on the publishing process, and on running a publishing company. (That’s what a self-publisher is, like it or not.) Pull up your copy of Excel and do some spreadsheets on various possible courses of action, using real numbers from books that would be comparable to yours. (And if you don’t know how to get those real numbers — read some of my other posts!)

As always, you are invited to tell me where I have it wrong, or to ask me to explain myself!

5 Responses to “But Self-Publishing Makes So Much More $”

  1. Good advice, as always, Marion. You provide an essential service to would-be publishers.

  2. Ashish says:

    It seems to me that authors who do not have any interest in business may have a hard time succeeding at self-publishing. Most authors fall in to this category, and the publishing system is set up to cater to them.

    But on the flip side, authors who do enjoy thinking about marketing and business may have an edge as self-publishers. They still have to do the work, but they get to keep all the margin that would normally go to a publisher.

    The investment in learning about the book business may be hard to justify for a single book, but is more likely to pay off over multiple titles. At least, that’s what I’m hoping.

    • You’re correct, as far as you have taken it, or at least that’s my experience.

      But unfortunately, you should also measure the amount of return that publishers get against the amount of effort you’ll be putting in. The return on investment for a typical trade publisher is usually less than a savings account at your local bank, but the risk is higher. In short, this is a business where you should either go into the unglamorous part (that is, not trade) or you should do it because you love it.

      Of course, after you try it, most book lovers find that they DO love it! Then they come to me to find out how to make enough profit to stay afloat and feed their publishing “habit.”

  3. Aaron Elson says:

    Marion — I quit the ebooks group after reading the beginning of your post. Frankly, I’m furious and disgusted that I wasted a day conducting an intelligent conversation and I thought adding to the discussion thread at hand. I didn’t mention my web site in order to promote it, and linked-in provided the automatic link of which I was unaware at first. But I’ll be frank with you, of the 37,000 or so members you have in your group, every one of them is promoting their own agenda and not looking to make purchases. Now I’m sorry I ever opened the email in the first place.

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