Since the upsurge in ebooks, self publishing or indie publishing is the latest hot potato. Now anyone who self publishes or is thinking of self publishing has probably heard the success stories of people such as Amanda Hocking and JA Konrath, but for every success story there are thousands and thousands of struggling authors that might sell a handful of copies a month if they’re lucky. And I’m firmly in the latter camp.
To put this into perspective, I’ll share my details and my story for those interested, or for those contemplating going this route.
To start at the beginning, I had my first novel published in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2009 that my next one appeared in print. Since then I've had one novel adapted for film, which is now awaiting release. I put my first self published work up for sale in December of 2010 and I now have 4 works available (3 of those were previously published in paperback and I received advances and royalties). The 4 books are Dead Man’s Eye, The Kult, Deadfall and Evilution. Now I won’t go into individual sales as it’s not really relevant, just the totals from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Smashwords on these books. They are priced low (some may say too low, others might say too high) between $0.99 and $1.49:
Amazon.com sales from December to May this year have totalled 164 copies, which resulted in royalties of $75.42 (£46.58)
Amazon.co.uk sales for the same period totalled 90 copies with royalties of $45.81 (£28.30)
Smashwords sales are more erratic to work out as they include copies that I’ve given away for free, but paid sales, which includes sales from Barnes & Noble, Sony etc, came to $60.70 (£37.49)
So total money earned from December to May = $181.93 (£112.37)
When you take into account the hours put in writing the books (on average each book took me about 6 months to write), and then the many more hours promoting them, you can see that in this case, it’s not paid me back. Also take into account that I paid for promotion at various places such as Kindle Boards, Goodreads etc, which totalled more than $125 and total profit falls to less than $55 (£33.97). And that’s for 6 months solid promotion using message boards, forums, paid adverts etc! So that’s hardly enough for a meal and a few drinks on a night out. Not much return for all the hard work. And this is for books that have received some excellent reviews at various places which you can check on Goodreads and Amazon.
Luckily my paperback sales before the publisher went bankrupt and before I withdrew one book were far better, so I made more money on the paperback books. I won’t list advances or how much these paid, but just let me say that even the lowest selling one made far more in royalties after earning out the advance than I’ve made in the last 6 months through ebook sales.
Now to be honest, I used to dream of making a living as a writer, and the embers of that dream are still there, but the realist in me knows that it doesn’t look as though that is going to happen. But I’ll continue writing because I love writing. Being paid is icing on the cake.
So for those contemplating taking the indie road, good luck. Because believe me, no matter how good an author you are, you’ll need it.