This week like many on social media, I saw another author quite their dream. This one stated that the spent $4,000 with nothing to show for it. Unfortunately, that isn’t unusual, and it isn’t a reflection of this person’s writing skill either. It comes from the dense fog around being an author even in this world of self-publishing.
Unfortunately, many people start their journey into the world of publishing with dreams of becoming a best seller or quitting their day job to live off of royalties. We all hope it will happen, but I want to write this article so that new authors will know the truth and be able to prepare for the marathon instead of expecting a quick sprint to success.
Electric Lit has a great article about how book sales work, but this is traditional publishing in which you are dealing with a team who has a marketing budget. The author shows the variation of a book’s sales ranging from 3,000 to 100,000. That is a huge variation. A recent Author Earnings report suggested maybe 4,600 writers earn 50k a year off of book sales alone. That isn’t very many considering that there are millions of books on Amazon, and each of the those were written by someone, but again, this is traditional publishing which often takes years to get a single book out with an advance of between $5,000 to $10,000. Usually, that is all the author will ever earn for the life of that book.
The Steve Laube Agency also has an article about book sales. He gives the average as being around 10,000 books for an author at a major book publisher.
What is a major book publisher? If you have been in the business long, you will hear of the big 5. Most imprints are owned by these.
So what about small publishers? Their typical sales are much less averaging 3,000 books, and their advance is also lower. Often, the author is also responsible for a large portion of the marketing.
Then you have self-published authors. These have the lowest marketing budgets and the biggest dreams.
BK publishers has an article with some other facts. 700,000 books a year are being self-published. With 13 million previous published books out there, the market is saturated. Get your self-published book seen at all is a struggle when most self-published books never get on a bookshelf. Most sales are on the internet.
CreativeIndie has a great article. He says that the average indie author sells below 250 books. In his experience, below even 100 books. My experience with social media validates this as the norm, and most authors get very discouraged thinking everyone hates their books. The problem is marketing.
So then, what has happened is that there is a whole industry of people who market services to these discouraged authors promising them six-figure income if they just take their course, or hire a professional editor or get a fancy new cover for their book. Authors are milked for money and get nothing in return. This makes me so angry because it is predatory scams.
The fact is that you have to treat your writing as a business and take it slow and steady. Starting out on this journey, I promised myself I would not spend more on my books than what I earn. If you want to have some starting capital, that is up to you, but don’t assume you will get it back right away. All businesses take time to grow, and it isn’t easy. Any person can make a living from writing, but as this article shows, the majority don’t keep at it. It didn’t write this to discourage anyone, but to put things in perspective. You aren’t a failure just because your sales are average. You just have to keep going. Take time to learn about the business of writing and publishing. Have patience and don’t fall for the scams. Any dream worth doing is worth fighting for, so don’t give up!