Thursday, April 21, 2011

Some possibly unpleasant facts of life for self-publishers

You’ll probably see ads proclaiming “FREE PUBLISHING” and you’ll also encounter publishing packages priced under $200. Here’s the truth: (1) No self-publishing company will print and deliver a book for free. (2) Unless you are prepared to spend $1,000 or more ($3,000 or more would be better), you probably won’t get a high-quality book and will not be able to tell many potential readers that the book exists and convince them to buy it.

Writing your book is just your first assignment as an author. Unless you are prepared to make a major effort to publicize your book, few people will know about it or read it.

Most books lose money—even those published by media giants with huge staffs of highly paid and experienced experts. Million-sellers are very rare in the book business. In self-publishing, thousand-sellers are very rare.

Most writers love to write but few people get rich from writing (or from poker, painting or singing). Learn as much as you can about writing and publishing, and work as hard as you can to produce a fine book. But don’t quit your day job and don’t remortgage your house to finance your publishing.

Although a first book can be profitable, don’t assume that your first will be profitable. Write your first book for the joy of it, or to impress your friends and family, or to change some minds, or as a learning experience or a business builder. Over months and years, as you improve your writing skills and learn more about the publishing business, the profits may come. If writing is not either fun or profitable or both—stop writing.

There’s nothing wrong with publishing for pleasure. The cost of publishing a book may be much less than the cost of a boat, a vacation or even a pool tableand nobody expects them to show a profit. If you can afford to publish for fun, do it. If you can make money while having fun, that’s even better.



  1. I heard of an organisation which decided to publish a book, but knew they needed no advice; it seems that, after a couple of years, they have about 4000 books unsold, retail price $A70.

  2. "In self-publishing, thousand-sellers are very rare."

    Not true. Take a look at this very incomplete list of indie writers who have sold, not one thousand books, but over fifty thousand.

    Many, many writers are making useful amounts of money from self-publishing. I think your comments are out of date - no doubt they were true three or more years ago, before the advent of ereaders and digital books.

  3. To Lexi: While the availability of inexpensive e-books has certainly helped indie book sales, I'd like to see your statistics before I change my mind. There are many e-books with terrible sales rankings on, and few or no reviews.