Self-Publish!! But Please Be Realistic

First, I’d like to start out by saying that I hope and wish and pray that every single person who self-publishes a book finds countless readers.  We all put our hearts, souls, and endless time into writing, editing, hoping, and we all should (in a fair world) be amply rewarded for our efforts.  However….

This post is prompted by a post that I recently read.  A very nice young man wrote and self-published a book.  He was expressing frustration that his book isn’t selling very well, despite his best promotional efforts, and that he’s had to take a temporary, low-paying job in the service industry because the book isn’t producing much income.  And he was requesting that people donate money to him through a crowd-funding site until sales pick up.  Hmmmm…….

I feel for that young man.  He clearly is working hard on behalf of his book, he is doing everything right, but still… few sales.  This is no reflection on the quality of his book.  Some of the best books in history have never been published, I’m sure, and some of the best writers toiled in abject obscurity, and then died, unknown.  And some of the most successful best-selling “writers” write pure garbage.  There is no fairness.

Perhaps it is the millenial generation.  They’ve been told that if they just follow steps 1 through 10 (in whatever endeavor), if they just act confidently and speak articulately, if they network enough, if they just want it badly enough, it WILL happen.  But it won’t.  Not necessarily.  And the very few wild success stories only fuel the idea that it will happen for everyone.  So, I’ve got to say, PLEASE don’t depend solely on the potential future success of your books.  Have another profession.  Have a real, long-term backup plan.  Pursue your true passion while also pursuing a career that you like and would be happy doing for many years.  It is no fun being a starving artist (or an artist taking donations funded by the hard work of others).  Starving doesn’t produce great art, contrary to conventional wisdom.  It just creates skinny, frustrated, depressed people.

A little math to drive home the point.  If you work at federal minimum wage 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, you gross $15,080.  In order to make that same amount of money, you will need to sell 10,000 Kindle books and 1,270 print books (at $1 and $4 royalty, respectively) just to make minimum wage.  11,270 sales.  Just to make minimum wage.  And you need to do this year after year after year.  Just to barely survive.

I sure am being a downer today.  I know.  But hearing stories like that young man’s impels me to say something.  Again, I wish all of you, and him, the very best.  The most amazing sales numbers.  I am your biggest fan 🙂


8 thoughts on “Self-Publish!! But Please Be Realistic

  1. Good post. To put it another way…at least here in the UK…

    You finally get that publishing deal with one of the big 6 and so you end up earning about 30p (60 cents) a book.
    But you are offered an advance on your next book! Average advance for debut unknown author from a mainstream publisher is about £300 ($482).
    Your publisher and agent, collectively, will do no marketing for you. Despite the fact you still had to do all your own marketing and have no idea what to do, you astound everybody, conquer odds considered almost unbeatable by statisticians and have huge success! You sell 30,000 books in your first year!

    Congratulations! All your dreams just come true! You earnt less than minimum wage from becoming a successful author!

    £9,300 (or) $18,482!

    Live to write. But work to live. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Zara-

    Incredibly we’ll put. Not only is it true for those that write, but it’s so true for everything in life. I hope your words of wisdom are picked up and shared, because they so helpful for everyone.


  3. This is so very true. I have self-published my first book and my goal is to be able to pay off my laptop. I need to sell 1000 books for that to happen, so you know, not expecting it to happen overnight. I am hoping that clever marketing, active networking, and having a series will help me get there eventually, but living off it? Yeah, not so much.


  4. Well put, but I’d like to know how you’re selling 1270 print books a year at $4 royalty! ;-D I’ve done well recently, but sales of 2 of my 3 paperbacks are at 0 for the year (and the 3rd is only at 2). I take the lowest possible price on my paperbacks to the point where I almost get nothing out of them. It’s e-book sales or nothing for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am being a bit generous with the royalty figures :-). But that only serves to highlight how difficult it is to make a living income from self-publishing. I wish you all the very best with your future sales.


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