Friday, 16 December 2011

Self-publishing: it's crucial to be realistic

I read it more and more on writers' websites that authors, being fed up with getting rejection after rejection, are eager to self-publish. Often accompanied by the words 'I've heard so much about all the success stories, I'm thinking about it, too.'

As much as I support self-publishing at some point, I can't help but wonder how they define 'success'. Would they call one book a week a success or maybe one book a day, perhaps ten books a day? And I wonder if they know how little they get from each sale. Unless they start with a novel at $2.99, which is what you need to have to receive 70% royalties, but readers are more reluctant to buy. If you price it lower, you might get more sales, in fact you have to make many more sales to have the same royalties you'd get from one sale with $2.99 (about £2, I think)

I had priced my novel at 99c to start with and sold 65 in the first month. I then put the price to $3.49/£2.50 and the sales dropped drastically. Might be the subject matter (paranormal romantic comedy), but it could easily be down to pricing.
Reviews from independent blogs didn't seem to boost sales either. Now don't understand this as a moan; I've always said, you never know if a book sells or not; despite good reviews readers didn't exactly queue to buy the book. It's just something one has to accept. I will release the sequel to No Wings Attached in Janurary and will see how it picks up and if it picks up, if it will push the first book's sales, too. If not, then there's not much I can do other than writing them off as 'good books, but nobody wants to read them'.
Unless you couldn't care less about sales, for most of us self-publishing is a full time job; the press release, the plugging, the guest appearances, interviews, blogging, give-aways, talks, signings (if you have paperbacks), blog tours, etc. Marketing isn't to be taken lightly, because it's crucial to selling, unless you have a highly commercial book in a popular genre, like Thriller, for instance. Then it might pick up without you doing anything, especially if it's of good quality.

My short stories have been rather consistent in sales, I had them on a low price from the beginning and they have been perceived well by readers, which I'm glad for. Still, I personally wouldn't call rougly over 3500 sales (kindle only) since March as successful -- others might disagree -- but to me success begins if I sell about 1000+ in a month, because that's when your book is visible in the Amazon charts.

I think the sales figures often sound much better than they actually are. I receive 30% of each sale for 86p. Again, I'm not complaining, it's not a whinge, I'm just trying to bring across the reality of self-publishing to those who are dreaming. Hocking, Locke, Leather and the likes are the exeptions of the rule. Certainly, there are a few inbetween who sold over 10k or more books, which is fantastic, but the majority of authors struggle in the lower ranks, competing against the vast amount of new authors who release their books daily.

My advice is to be realistic, don't expect anything and if success comes around the corner by surprise, you will be more able to enjoy it.

Note: I'm refering to amazon kindle and smashwords here, as I don't have experienced B&N yet. Smashwords, to me, has not been proven the right platform, which might be due to less promotion because I have my main sales through Amazon.


  1. So true. Great article. Just because a book is well-written doesn't mean it's going to sell. Standing out in a crowd with hundreds of thousands of other e-books or paperbacks takes luck and talent combined. I have seen publicity websites, but their services also come with a price tag and there's no guarantees. Distribution seems to be key. Or maybe if you have some celebrity status that helps too!

  2. Hi, Sandra, my dear.

    I think the recipe is a well-wrtten novel in a popular genre, starting with a low price and you need a lot of support from readers. If those who love your book recommend it do their friends, it's going to take off. Then again, many think they have written a great book, when it's just not what readers want, hence my example. The market gets more and more competitive so only the cream will rise in the end.

  3. Thanks, Stella. Ah to be the cream... :)

  4. Very good post. Thank you for sharing. I completely agree with you. I knew going into this that it was going to be a lot of work. I'm still glad I did it. It has been quite an experience. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Even still, I do plan to eventually submit some of my work to be traditionally published. I can't say which way is better with only trying the amazon/smashwords route. I wouldn't call my efforts thus far successful, but I expected that going in. It takes quite a bit of time and energy to get your name and books out there when it's just you. There's all kinds of "tricks" to make it easier, but no one solution. Every case is different. That said, I've come across some amazing writers since I've started this journey. I know I wouldn't have heard of their work otherwise. There are some real gems out there. It's a shame the self-pub industry can be so overwhelming.

  5. Hi Stella, Success in writing? A popular myth these days I'm afraid my dear. No matter how we all try to offer the largely fickle reading public something worthy of their time, in the end its all down to luck whether or not the product of all our hard work will 'make it'. Regarding this latest post of yours as 'not a moan,' moan away to your heart's content say I. :)

  6. Hello, Wendy. Welcome back ;-)

    I would recommend everyone to submit the traditional way first. I don't know many writers who don't dream of a contract with a well-established publishing house. You have nothing to lose trying first. Self-publishing will be there tomorrow, too.

    The main problem is not only are a lot of people publishiing daily, but also a lot of them publish drivel as there is not quality control whatsoever, which means you have not only to compete with the very good books out there, but also with the not so good books in your genre.

  7. Jack, I won't moan. I might moan when my muse has buggered off again, but I won't moan about my book sales. It's something you can't influence. Either people love your book or they don't. If they won't bite despite promotion, you simply have written a book nobody wants to read.
    To me it's a simple formular. :-)