This Week in Publishing – September 28, 2015

Snake-headWhile most of my posts are meant for readers, I know a lot of readers are also writers, so I’m going to try to make a post once a week for the interesting articles I find on the internet. I’ll pick a few new and a few old interesting articles meant for those who want to explore the often murky world of novel writing and publication.

Hopefully, you’ll find these interesting, even if you aren’t a writer!

Self-Publishing is tough. The Guardian (see article below) recently reported on the median incomes of self-publishing and traditional authors. The story is terrifying–and, in my opinion, a fairly accurate indicator of what career authors face.

This article has a few interesting points. Pay close attention to point one. This is really the most important one. Not being able to afford help sucks, but you’d be surprised how many helpful and skilled people there are out there. If you can’t afford to pay an editor, barter with one. These people do exist. Some authors recruit fans who are sticklers for grammar and spelling.

No matter how you go about it, get help. Your book will thank you.

Number three is the reason I chose this article for this post. This does not mean a fan newsletter. This means forming relationships with book bloggers and reviewers. You want some people who will post reviews of your book on your opening day. Having the marketing power of a for-fans newsletter is great–but it is not necessary! Having a stable of readers who will review your book on opening day is important.

Alternatively, you can hire a book blog tour for reviews. This is a great way to reach out to bloggers you otherwise don’t have access to.

Number five is a trap. You need some self-confidence, but too much is a bad thing. You need motivation to do better each and every book. Going with five is as much of a trap as ignoring it. Be wary.

If you’re considering becoming a career author, self-publishing or traditional, you need to read this article. This is something many authors have talked about before, but the Guardian does an excellent job of breaking down the numbers for those who aren’t aware of how challenging writing is as a career.

Note: Averages are not used because of the outliers; JK Rowling on her own makes so much money she skews the global average. The median is where the highest concentration of authors fall, which limits the affect the super-earning outliers make.

Yes, if you score big, you score really big as an author, but these numbers show you where the majority of authors land. This is the median, or where the highest concentrated number of people is at. Medians are useful for removing outliers, including multi-millionaires, and providing a realistic view of the reality of the every day author looking to make a living at their career.

It’s not a pretty picture. In the interest of full disclosure, Real Me is above median for self-publishing authors. Real Me is a member of the SFWA through the self-publishing branch, and in order to qualify, you pretty much have to make higher than median. Qualifying requires earning $3,000 in royalties on a single title in a 12 month period of time. Most self-publishing authors do not make $3,000 in royalties on their first title in a year. The next article is an eye opener about the hard facts of book sales–and why reaching $3,000 is pretty difficult nowadays.

It took Real Me three novels to qualify for the SFWA.

This article posted on September 17, 2015. I’m listing the date because I feel it’s of importance–and may not be valid in a few years, although I suspect it will be.

My perspectives come as a self-publishing author, but I found Hurley’s traditional background actually translated pretty well to paid sales. Many self-publishers have to account for free book giveaways, but here’s the thing: the paid sales are what make or break us, not the free books tossed around.

I went over my book numbers, compared them to Kameron Hurley’s and walked away with some interesting insights. Note: While I’m linking to the article and discussing it, it doesn’t mean I agree with everything in the article–but I definitely think it’s worth talking about.

In no particular order, I am going to highlight two of the more important bits of this article:

  • The average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime (Publishers Weekly, 2006).
  • The average traditionally published book which sells  3,000 in its entire lifetime in print only sells about 250-300 copies its first year. (Hurley goes on to state indies have a more difficult time selling books. I am inclined to agree, most indies will struggle getting 250-300 sold in a year. Print is more difficult, because print has a five year lifespan, roughly. Most indies are digital only.)

Here are some facts from Real Me’s financials. Note: Sold means someone paid money for the title. In most cases, between $3.99-$5.99 per copy. Real Me loves giving away books, especially to people who can’t otherwise afford to buy them. Real Me has, to date, given away 20,000 books.

  • SFWA qualifying novel has sold 1,400 copies. This title is a year and a half old.
  • Second ranked title has sold 700 copies. (This book should qualify this year, not that it matters now.(You only need to qualify once for lifetime entry.)) This title is less than a year old.

As I mentioned above, Real Me is above the median. Real Me wrote books that hit into a desired genre at a good time. In short, Real Me got lucky.

For the record, I decided to disclose this information because I find the secrecy of surrounding so much of the publishing world prevents new, aspiring, and talented authors from understanding what they’re getting into. There’s a reason most authors suggest against quitting the day job. If you make it as an author, you make it big–but most people never make it, and that’s a cold, hard truth every author needs to face.

And since I sense I’m about to get a lot of flack for presenting these numbers, I’d like to point out one final thing:

The publishing industry is tough, but it’s worth every minute of it. Nothing is quite as rewarding as bringing a book to market and connecting with readers and other lovers of books. That up makes it worth all of the downs–and the expensive risks writers take to publish a title.

For my last article, I present to you a way you can help your favorite author succeed.

This is an older article from 2013, but it still applies–with a few oddities that make me scratch my head. I’ll address each point (for no reason other than I can.) Readers, this is so important. I know some of these items are a little scary (like leaving reviews) but they really do help.

  1. Yes. Your financial support is huge. Last reasonable statistic I saw on book buyers showed each reader buying (and consuming) 12 novels a year. That’s a lot of competition.
  2. Reviews are really important. Doesn’t have to be long, just honest. You let other fans know the book is worth buying or worth avoiding–that’s important, too.
  3. This ties in to number one of this list a lot–I’m far more likely to buy a book a friend recommends.
  4. Yes. This is a great way to help your author and give the greatest gift ever. (Because books are great.)
  5. This one is really pushing it… book parties are strange to me. The only time I go to them is at conventions, and that’s only because I had nothing else to do at the time. I guess they could work, but… I’m not sold on this idea, personally.
  6. Could definitely work, if you’re in such a position–or if you’re big enough of a name. Exposure is nice. Personally, this idea horrifies me, but I’m your average author. In short, I’m shy. This sounds a little bit like my worst nightmare come to life.
  7. Yes. This is a fantastic way to help an author, tying into points one and two on this list.
  8. I’m really not sure on this one. See my reasoning for point six.
  9. This needs to be approached with a lot of caution. Subject matters. Handing out erotica to a group of business men won’t really work so well. Audience matters. This is a bit of a stretch. Okay, it’s a lot of a stretch.
  10. Yes, please. This is a great way to get involved with an author and help them out.

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