It always baffles and angers me when people say – You’re not a real author because you self published, meaning you’re only a real author if you traditionally published. This is a load of horseshit. All authors work hard at writing and editing their books. I read a statistic one time, and I forget where, that said 97 to 99 percent of people that want to write a book don’t even write down the first word. Of the 1 to 3 percent that actually do start writing their books, 99 percent of those guys don’t finish it. Of the 1 percent that finish their books, 99 percent of those guys do not publish their books. So, if you start your book, finish it and publish it in any form, you are doing better than 99.999999999 percent of all the people that want to write a book. I wouldn’t call that being a raging joke or a loser.
According to Publishers Weekly, self-published books jumped 40 percent in 2018 as compared to 2017 with Amazon being the largest self-publishing platform. I believe they hold 80 percent of the self-publishing market, and they are estimated to have nearly 2 million self-published titles.
The US book industry as a whole has maintained flat sales for several years with 26 billion dollars in sales, according to Forbes. The global market for book sales hovers around 114 billion and is forecast to increase to 124 billion by 2025. Of course, it depends on the site projecting the statistics. Statista says that the current market is 122 billion and is forecast to increase to 129 billion. However, both of those stats forecast global sales increases, even if the US sales remain flat.
Self-published titles currently comprise about 30 percent of the book market and are forecast to consume 50 percent of the market in a few years. That doesn’t sound like a joke to me.
Author Income Statistics
Authors don’t make much more than minimum wage. Of course, you hear stories about the mega authors that sell hundreds of thousands and even millions of books and live in lavish mansions, but that’s not the reality for most authors, regardless of how they published. The average advance for a traditionally published author is $10,000, and that has not increased since the 1970s. If that traditional author writes full time, it means they earned a whopping $4.80 an hour, not taking into consideration that if they have an agent, the agent took 15 percent of the $10,000. Initially, that author may not even make minimum wage.
Self-published authors do not get advances, but they do earn more per book. A traditionally published author may only make as much as 10 percent on each book. A self-published author can earn between 30 and 70 percent on each book. This means that self-published authors don’t need to sell as many books to make the same money as a traditionally published author, which is good. Self-published authors don’t tend to sell as many as a whole.
Understanding What Self Published Authors Do
Self-published authors do everything. They don’t just write and edit their books and hand them off to be professionally edited by the publishing house, fitted with a cover and formatted. Self-published authors:
Write their books (Not any different from a trad pub author)
Draft and edit their books (Not any different from a trad pub author)
Format their books for publication as ebook and print books. (The publishing house does this for the trad pub author.)
Design their covers and create them. (Trad pub author does not have to do this. The publisher does it, and the author approved it.)
Upload the book to the desired platforms (Trad pub authors do not do this.)
Market the book via social media (Trad pub authors should do this.)
Take out paid ads if income/budget allows. (The publishing house is supposed to do this for trad pub authors. Up in the air if they actually do. It depends on the book and the celeb status of the author.)
- Build and maintain an author website (The publishing house for trad pub usually gives them a webpage)
- Build and maintain a YouTube channel
- Build and maintain a Podcast.
In other words, when a self-published author finishes his or her book, the work doesn’t stop there. They must also get the book ready for publication, choose the platforms where they want their books published and advertise and market the book while growing their author audience.
Self-publishing is no joke. It’s a lot of work that goes well beyond the crafting of a good story. I like to call it my second job because it can take 40+ hours a week to get it done.