Okay, so you have written a book. Now what? Will you become a millionaire? Can you buy that beach cottage and yacht next month? Well...
Big Names vs. the Little Guys
We've all heard of the success of the Harry Potter series and Fifty Shades of Grey, but what does actual success look like for most authors? Think of it this way: there are thousands of struggling actors but only a small pool of highly visible A-Listers who make most of the pot of money. The same goes true for authors. So how can a writer be successful?
An author need not look far to find many mixed messages out there. Articles and blogs tout the huge successes of a few self-published authors (some of these authors were previously published by one of the big publishers).
Others argue that only a big house can offer a writer widespread exposure. But the big guys won't talk to you unless you have an agent. And most writers end up feeling like they're more likely to be struck by lightning.
Then there are the vanity presses who hide in disguise as a small presses, who encourage writers to publish their own books, and who take advantage of unknowing authors by squeezing their pocketbooks with exhorbitant fees. Lawsuits are pending against many of these companies such as Author Solutions yet too many authors still fall victim because of desperation, thinking that this option is better than no option.
Writing a Book is a Successful Feat
Stop and think about it. You have written a book! The time and dedication that you put into this project is admirable. You didn't just "plan to write a book" which many people like to brag about, much to the chagrin of writers who actually take the time and effort needed to finish a book. The process may have taken years. Completion is a great accomplishment!
But just because you have written a book, or had a harrowing experience, or have a brilliant idea, does not mean that your book will be commerically viable. For many, publishing a book through a service like CreateSpace which can produce physical copies for you, your family, and your friends will make sense. Decide what's really important to you: publishing a book or being a writer?
If your goal is to publish a book, decide how important it is to you for your book to be taken seriously. Publishing a high-quality book still requires you to perform due diligence, to have a professional design a cover, to pay an editor to edit your manuscript, and to--above all else--write a good story. Many speakers and legacy writers will go this route. Do keep in mind though that most professional reviewers will not look at "self-published" books.
Let's say you decide that you not only want to publish a good book, but that you want to be taken seriously as a writer. If you are not up for the countless hours of research and the demands of running your own business, then maybe you should attempt to be commerically published. Traditional publishing companies--large houses and small presses--offer the legitamacy that comes with knowing that someone, besides your spouse, children, and friends, believes in your book and takes you seriously as a writer.
Understandably, for many authors, the publishing business is confusing. Unrealistic author expectations, however, can take a tremendous psychological toll on new writers. How many books will you sell? 10,000? 100,000? 1 million?
The sad reality is that many, many books out there will never even sell one hundred copies. But, with a good story, professional appearance, active marketing strategy, you can beat those odds. However, do understand that this is a numbers game.
How Much Does an Author Make Per Copy Sold?
This is a great topic to research, one which very few writers understand. It is sobering to learn that many authors will not earn more than $1 or $2 per book. If all writers knew this before setting out to write a novel, would this affect their decision to write? If you truly are a writer, even this knowledge will not deter you from writing. Writing is a passion.
But how can an author make so little money off a book with a $20 retail price? That sure sounds like publishers are cruelly taking advantage of authors. Let's break down the math.
The large retailers require a large discount off the cover price, typically 55%. Wow! That sure sounds like they're making a killing off of the writers. So why do so many bookstores go out of business? They need to pay their employees, cover their large operating expenses, be able to discount books twenty-percent to their loyal customers, deal with book returns, and so forth.
Okay, so now the publisher has received $9 for that $20 book. But, before paying their authors, they need to cover the printing cost of the book (printing books is not cheap!), allow for the financial loss from returns, pay for the editing, interior designing, cover designer, ISBNs, copyright, shipping and printing copies for advance review submissions, marketing, websites, fees, etc. Then, from what is left, the publisher must make some profit to justify staying in business by not operating at a loss.
At the bottom rung is the royalties paid to the author. It is a frustrating place to be, but perhaps you can find comfort when you understand the time, money, and effort that everyone above you is putting into your book because they believe in your book. That is something to be proud of.
How Can I Increase my Income?
Contrary to what some might think, your work will not simply speak for itself. The market is saturated with books. Yours needs to stand out from the others. The publisher does their part by making sure that the book produced looks professional and has a visually appealing cover, and by promoting your book in every way they can.
Preparation for the release of your book should start months or years ahead of time. Authors should work to build a platform--oh, how many writers hate that term!--by creating an online presence on multiple social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, etc. Write articles. Start a blog. Comment on others' blogs.
Who will be your customers? Get involved in their world. Do not simply advertise your book. Nobody likes spam. Show the world how much you know or how interesting you are or how helpful your advice can be. If people like what they read, they will be more apt to purchase your book. Be willing to do author appearances and book readings. Take an active role in the marketing and promotion of your book. Your publisher should be your partner in these efforts.
The post below, regarding numbers of books sold, is worth checking out:
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September 16, 2017
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