Common question #43
Another question that often turns up when writers are looking at self-publishing: can I make a living at this? how long does it take to start making money?
From what I've seen, after almost a year of doing this, the answer involves a few factors
- do you have a supportive family? Do they read your genre?
- do you have friends online and/or IRL who read your genre?
- how effective is your advertising?
- do you have a backlist? (more than one publication?)
- what genre are you writing in?
- oh, and is your story any good?
Will you earn money hand over fist like E.L. James or Hugh Howey? That's pretty much a no. Though it does happen, the statistical outliers are the ones that get touted as proof that self-publishing is the land of milk and honey. (Needless to say, it's not.)
Got supportive family and friends?
More importantly, socially active family and friends. Word of mouth is the best, but hardest to get, advertising. The support you get here really is priceless.
Got effective advertising?
Do your homework when picking an advertising venue or promotional service. Check the Promotional section at Preditors & Editors. Check the Bewares forum at Absolute Write. Information about promotional companies is spottier than for freelance editors, agents, or predatory book "publishers" but it is out there.
If you're considering buying a spot on book recommendation sites, look for the ones with acceptance standards and high traffic. BookBub, for example, has been reported to get good ROI, but they have minimum review/star ratings requirements and limited acceptance rates. I don't even qualify to apply to BookBub yet.
Backlist and genre
Having several published titles implies that you write well enough to keep publishing, that you're going to keep writing, and it offers readers a block of material to dive into. We all know how fun it is to devour a series of novels by an author you just realized you like.
Some genres do seem to work better for self-publishers. The big example is erotica, both straight and gay. Romance moves a lot of self-pub... but romance moves a lot of titles anyway. Urban fantasy seems to still be going strong, as do YA and the new NA designation.
Speaks for itself, and this is a whole 'nother blog post that I'm not going to write today. I'll also skip the part where I rant about how well crap sells (because crap does sell, and everyone needs to get over it.)
Be ready for the long haul
That's what self-publishing is. Don't expect big sales numbers. Stop checking your Amazon ranking and keep writing. If you can earn more money selling widgets, do that too.
I'm involved in the self-publishing community over at Absolute Write and of the people who regularly post their monthly sales, I'm consistently at the bottom. Yes, it's discouraging. Yes, I'm envious. Yes, I notice that people who post numbers like mine tend to disappear.
...but I haven't disappeared. Stop the violins. Let's get back to work.
Yes, Disciple, Part III is on sale now!
The gritty fantasy romance will continue...
Part IV (of VI) to follow in 2014.