How Many Self-Published Authors Actually Make it?
Let me let you into a secret. You are unlikely to become a rich writer. And before you start waving Harry Potter and Game of Thrones under my nose, please scroll back to the word ‘unlikely’. Sure, there are some financially successful stories out there, and of course, you may be one of them-lets face it, JK Rowling started writing in a bedsit in Scotland, and look at her now! But realistically, only roughly 5% of writers even make a living at all from solely writing. As for getting your book out there in the first place, it is estimated that the odds of your book being accepted by a publisher are 1:100,000. I’m afraid on both counts, the lightning strikes very, very rarely.
So what about self-publishing? Increasing the odds to 1:1 seems a much more attractive proposition. To be honest, it would be rude not to! Add to that the creative control that you retain over your own material (rather than a bevy of gatekeepers giving opinions on your book cover, content, and even title of your precious ‘offspring’), along with an estimated 70% profit from your book sales, and the pound signs are positively glowing in your eyes.
Do you want to spend 90% of your time marketing?
Whilst there are obvious and definite positives in going down the self-publishing route, unfortunately, there is also a downside. If you are the kind of writer who needs total immersion in your art; if you need to lock yourself away and live in the world you are creating, self-publishing may not be for you. Selling books in the modern era is all about visibility and popularity. This means Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and whatever other platform becomes the next favourite of social media. Be prepared to spend upwards of 90% of your time marketing, and even to rope in friends and family in your quest for success. The struggle to be noticed amongst the purported 3.4 million books on Amazon is a very real one. Add to that the expense of all this, and you are just as likely to lose money as to gain it.
Is it time to give up on self-publishing?
So what is the answer? Should we hang up our boots, forget the whole thing, and spend the rest of our lives wandering around with fantastical stories in our heads? Most definitely not! For a start, writing is a calling. Just like nursing. Or teaching. You just have to do it. And just like nursing or teaching, you are unlikely to get rich on it. But it can fulfil you in a way that little else can!
Furthermore, imagine if Erin Morgenstern had hung up her boots-there would be no ‘Night Circus’. If Dr. Seuss hadn’t trailed round to 28 publishers with his first book, we would never have experienced the delights of reading ‘Fox in Socks’ to our children. Write for the love of it-then everything else is a bonus.