Friday, June 08, 2012

Writing: More About Self-Publishing

There's no question that many, many authors--either tired of fighting to get published in the traditional fashion or anxious to cash in on the ready availability of e-books--are going the self-publishing route. I've had interviews on this blog from authors who have e-published, and I'd especially encourage those of you interested in doing the same to read this interview from James Scott Bell.

For writers wondering whether to self-publish or continue to seek traditional avenues of publication, the May-June 2012 issue of Writer's Digest contains invaluable information, both about making the decision and what needs to be done if the e-publishing route is chosen.

Blogger Porter Anderson attempts to bring more light than heat to the apparent war between the self-published (or "indie-published" if you prefer) and authors published via the traditional route in this post on Writer Unboxed

But for those who see e-publishing as the road to riches,  this latest news may surprise them. The average earnings of a self-published author are about $10 thousand per year--but in that group are a lot of high-earning outliers, with at least half of those who self-publish earning $500 or less! The survey tends to back up what most of us have advocated from the start: the best results come from spending money for professional help--editing, cover art, etc. Sure, it's nice to see your name on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, but it's even nicer to get a royalty check that will make a house payment or two. Just a cautionary note.

Have any of you self-published? What have been your experiences? Any words of wisdom for those who haven't yet dipped their toes into the pool? I'd love to hear from you.

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15 comments:

James Castellano said...

What is the average income for traditionally published authors?

Richard Mabry said...

Jim, I don't have exact figures. Advances (assuming you get a contract) can range from $1000 to $10,000 to much more--depending on the author's track record, the publisher, etc. Then, realize that an author can turn out anywhere from a book every few months to one every few years. Of course, there's the question of getting a publisher. After that, it depends on how many books sell, the royalty negotiated for that author, etc.

For the pros and cons of self-publication vs. traditional publication, a number of knowledgeable people have addressed the subject, and I'd suggest letting my friend, Mr. Google, give you those sites.

Thanks for asking.

Charmaine said...

Hi, Richard! I am an independent publisher and writer. I hire a company to design my covers and my husband is my editor. He has an English degree from William and Mary and was a sportswriter, editor and copy-editor at three different newspapers, and no he does not cut me any slack. Newspapers are not the same as books, but hey, he helps me put the commas in the right place and tells me what I need to hear.

It was my husband who encouraged my to go on my own. I'm so glad
I did. I have so enjoyed learning about the craft of writing, formatting books, marketing, etc. I feel like a pioneer, a trail-blazer...

Anyway, regarding being paid for writing...I've always heard this adage from traditionally published writers--"don't go into writing if you expect to make money." Although, I would love to be able to make enough money to hire a live-in maid, I am making some money. And you know what? I don't have to.

I am honored and blessed to have people buying my books! I'm astonished every day that someone took a chance and bought my book! I don't have to be Stephen King or Amanda Hocking--if someone is reading my books and enjoying them--hooray!!

I don't have the pressure of some big House ready to drop me if I fail to earn out my advance (assuming I get one)or have poor sales.

Furthermore, I really don't have the time or emotional fortitude to vet and woo both an agent and a publisher when all I need to please are my readers.

Charmaine said...

Me, again. Sorry for the book ^. There seems to be a perception that a writer who independently publishes is a dumb hack with no concern for readability, story, professionalism, etc. I view my writing as a small business. Everyday I spend hours learning my business and how to market--it's not throwing something up on Amazon and waiting for the money to flood in.

The world of books is actually a universe and people finding and buying my little stories is a miracle and blessing from God--they chose me? Wow!

Readers are smart enough to chose the books they want to read and if they like or don't like them--the sales will tell the tale.

Richard Mabry said...

Charmaine, Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. I think that it's great that writers now have more choices of the road they take. I commend you for the use of a professional editor (and it sounds as though your husband is certainly qualified) and cover designer. And I love your attitude.

Readers are going to have to be more discerning when choosing e-books, but that doesn't mean there aren't some good ones out there, even those that are self-pubbed (or "indie pubbed" if you like the term).

Appreciate your comment. Good luck with your books.

DawnRaeMiller said...

The one thing I rarely hear is the difference in being paid upfront (traditional advance) and having to pay upfront (self-pubbed). My book is self-pubbed in the US & had been bought by traditional foreign publishers. Overtime, I MAY earn more through self-pubbing, but at the moment, my foreign contracts dwarf my self-pub income. However, I paid for a professional cover, etc. for my US version and needed to cover those costs whereas with foreign, I was paid a contract & don't have to pay for anything.

I wish more discussions included this part of the money equation more in depth. 5, 10, 20k at once (or in two to three payments) seems much more significant than 10k collected in $100 increments over a year or two - and after expenses are covered.

Charmaine said...

Readers can make better choices in reading selection by utilizing these three tools: 1. the synopsis, 2. the look inside feature and 3. the reviews--good and bad.

Richard Mabry said...

Dawn, Thanks for sharing your experiences. We need to hear more than the major successes and the total flops. Appreciate the comment.

Charmaine, Online reviews can be "loaded" by friends and by those who hate Christian fiction--have to be discerning. Synopsis helps. Not all books have the "look inside" feature--wish they did. (For traditionally published books, that's up to publisher, as I understand it).

Charmaine said...

Do you know how hard it is to get friends and family to write a review for you? Lol...

Amazon now has a new feature, the words "Amazon Verified Purchase" appears underneath a reviewer's name. This reveals that the reviewer is a buyer. However, this can be tricky. Some authors like me, have ARC readers who have read the book, but did not have to make a purchase. Thus another tool in the reader's toolbox.

Timothy Fish said...

It is never easy to compare self-publishing and traditional publishing. (And actually, I hate the term "indie publishing".) Traditional publishing is all or nothing. If you get a contract, you make money. If you don't get a contract, you make nothing. On the other hand, in self-publishing nearly everyone gets some return on their investment, though they may not make a profit. I've never seen the average payout for traditional publishing include those authors who are still searching for an agent and an editor, but the comparison is incomplete if they aren't included.

Also, self-publishing includes a significant number of books that the author knew when he wrote the book that he probably wouldn't get a traditional contract. As the author defines success, these books may be very successful, even though he made well less than $500, if he made anything at all.

The saying is that he would defines the terms wins the argument. When traditional publishing is defining the terms (in this case, how much money a published author makes defines success) it will always look better. Measure success by the measuring stick of self-publishers and it looks very different.

Richard Mabry said...

Timothy, thanks for your comment. Yes, definition--or, as I like to call it, "indicators of success"--makes a difference. I hope that writers have a firm grasp of the ins and outs of both routes before making a choice. And the choices are not mutually exclusive.

Deb said...

The study cited was flawed, in my opinion. The survey was completed by writers who self-selected into it, and encompassed around 1,000 respondents. Of the thousands who have published, either traditionally or self, does this constitute a valid sample size? And problems always arise in studies where respondents self-select.

I didn't read the study because it was a paid e-book, and because the core data weren't provided in the book. The authors of the study also admitted they threw out some results that didn't seem "real" to them, which makes me suspect the study doesn't reflect an adequate examination of the output.

(Now I remember why I endured all those hours in grad school stats and research design classes!)

Richard Mabry said...

Deb, Appreciate your perspective and analysis. I don't claim to have any expertise in the self-pub vs traditional pub debate, but thought it was appropriate to throw this out and let others discuss it. Glad you and so many others did just that.

James Castellano said...

What is your stance on the subject?

Richard Mabry said...

James, because I'm under contract for several novels with a traditional publisher, and the rights to my prior ones haven't reverted to me (i.e., they're still in print), I'm just looking on from the sidelines with interest.