The Hidden Secret Behind the Self-Publishing Paradigm Shift

I’m not sure that authors reading my blog entry titled Are Self-Publishing Authors Saps? really caught what I was trying to say.  So I’m going to take another crack at driving the point home. Unless you are science textbook writer you probably aren’t into mathematics, but I will have to use a little 3rd grade math here, so stay with me. If you are considering self-publishing, you probably have a day job. According to the census the average American earns around $40 K per year. Suppose you paid less than five bucks each for a nice trade soft-cover book and could sell it for around twenty dollars? That would give you $15 profit per book. To replace your salaried income would require that you sell a tad over 51 books per week.

Let’s be honest here. No major publisher will be interested in a book that  sells only 51 copies per week, but if 51 books a week replaced your salary wouldn’t that be great? What would happen if you sold 100 books, or 200? Again, these aren’t numbers that will impress a big time publisher. They wouldn’t consider it longer than the time it takes to flick a fly off their foreheads, but what could it mean to you? Think about it.

This is the hidden secret: you don’t have to be a best selling author to make a decent living as a writer, but:

  1. You do have to put in the time. You will soon learn that writing the book was the easy part. Marketing and promoting the book will consume all you have to give.
  2. You have to be willing to take the risk. You will incur costs getting your book ready to print, not to mention the printing costs themselves.
  3. You have to learn the ropes. You probably aren’t going to sell your 51 books a week standing on a street corner hawking them like newspapers. You have to learn from the real pros, and therein is a rub. I hate to tell you this, but the Internet is crawling with wolves and knaves. Anyone with a tincture of information and some copy writing skill is trying to pass themselves off as your savior, the answer to all of your problems. If you follow their advice, the promised great riches will indeed appear–they’ll appear in their pockets–and disappear out of yours. Knowledge is the shield you need to protect you.
  4. You have to have a marketable product. It doesn’t matter what route you take. If the public isn’t interested in your book it won’t sell well no matter what you do. Take a good hard look at your book. Try to stand away from the emotion of your work and look at it for what it truly is. Everyone thinks that their’s is the most beautiful baby in the room, but love blinds. Listen to your critics. Weigh their advice carefully, but always remember that critics are often wrong. Their opinion is just an opinion. Ultimately the choice is yours to proceed or not.

Writers write because they have to. Did you get that? They have to. But a writer without readers is a cow without an udder. Producing the milk is one thing, but if there isn’t a way to dispense it, the readers go thirsty, and the cow bloats and dies. I don’t necessarily mean a literal death, but the death of the writer’s talent, a potentially promising career, and a unique voice.

You, the author, have something to say. You have some information to impart, or a story to tell, or maybe some humorous material. Whatever it is, you wouldn’t have started writing if you didn’t feel that people needed to hear from you. It could be that your particular audience isn’t very large, but are they large enough to sustain steady sales of your book? You may never interest a traditional publisher, but you could, and should aim at creating an adequate income to support your writing career. Who knows, if you are financially able to keep writing, and keep publishing, that illusive best seller might just come popping out sometime. Wouldn’t that be great?

Oh, by the way, don’t forget to keep up with The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors. With mutual cooperation we will soon know which of the services available have merit and which to avoid.

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