I recently answered a writer’s question on Quora about whether or not a new writer should go the self-publishing route or stick with a traditional publisher. If you’re struggling with this same question, here are some points to consider.
While self-publishing success is hard, breaking into traditional publishing is just as difficult. However, with a strategic marketing plan, great content, and perseverance, it’s possible to make money as a self-published author.
It’s very tempting to take an advance from a traditional publishing company because it feels like you finally made it. I get that. The problem with those advances is that they are usually very small. Only established authors with several successful books earn those six-figure advances. A typical advance for a new author could be anywhere from $3,000 – $15,000 dollars. Once your book is published by the publishing company, you won’t see any money in terms of royalties until your book sells more than the money advanced to you.
A huge misconception that new authors make when working with a publishing company for the first time is thinking that the company will sell the book for them. Unfortunately, mid-list authors are responsible for their own marketing, which means it’s often a struggle to sell enough books to earn more money than what you were advanced. Also, when going with a traditional publisher, you relinquish all control to your book. You’ll likely have little say in the cover design, the edits, etc. Also, if your sales exceed your advance, you’ll take home a smaller percentage in royalties than if you’re self-published.
As a self-published author, I’m not going to say from a financial standpoint that it’s easy to make a lot of money with one book. However, all the money you do make comes back to you. Your royalties are higher and you have the option to print and market your book wherever you choose, which means you have more opportunities to sell.
To make money as a self-published author, it’s important to build a brand and develop a platform. It’s important to keep writing. Once I wrote three books and started guest blogging, I saw my sales numbers go up.
Here are other things to consider:
- The more books you have, the more people buy.
- The more content you offer for free, the more engagement you get and, eventually, sales follow. You must have great content for this to happen.
- Be willing to give time and content for free to gain loyal followers who will gladly pay when you have a new book. So, when you’re done with your first start writing your second as soon as possible.
- Make sure it’s edited professionally with a great cover. Hire people to do this. Yes, it’s out-of-pocket money, but when you start selling books all that money comes back to you, not a publisher.
Working each day and doing something that promotes you and your books is what it takes to stand out in a crowd. I often liken being self-published to standing in the busiest train station in India, jumping up and down, and telling people to “Look at me, Look at me!” No one’s going to see you or give you the time of day. You have to find a way to carve a niche outside of the crowd where you’ll be seen and heard. Being traditionally published may not allow you to take chances and explore new opportunities for marketing outside of the box.
Will friends and family be the only people who buy your book?
Maybe for a little while, but that’s not going to be the case if you create a strategic marketing strategy. I’ve sold thousands of books over the last 4 years that I’ve been writing. I have a small family and a lot of my family members haven’t cracked a book in decades, so it’s not family that’s buying. What sells books? Word of mouth, great content, and perseverance (again with perseverance because it’s a big part of success in any area of life).
Also, traditional publishers ARE picking up self-published books. Why? It’s simple. Successful self-published books already have an audience of readers eager for their next work. Picking up a self-published author with a large fan base guarantees success for the publisher.
If you liked this post, consider the following for more writing tips:
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Piper Punches is an author of fiction and truth, tackling topics on social justice, mindful living, creativity, and the writing life. She is the Amazon bestselling author of The Waiting Room, and the short story, Missing Girl. Her newest book, 60 Days (Missing Girl Series — Book 1) is currently available on Amazon. For a limited time, readers can sign up to get a free copy of Missing Girl here.