“The time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things.”

(Lewis Carroll)

Today’s unspeakable thing is what all new authors want to know: how much money will I make as a self-published author?  Will it give me the freedom and riches I truly deserve?

The quick answer to the first question is, not much… and the second one is, no.

Bestselling author Federico Pistoni (of Robots will Steal your Job) agrees with me, and I quote:

“Most people don’t make any money writing books, and chances are, you won’t be part of the 0.01% that makes it”.

Federico Pistoni

Derek of CreativeIndie actually worked out one day that only the top .06% of authors actually sell 1,000 books over a period of three months at Amazon – so Fed’s supposition is pretty darn close to statistical averages.

To put this into real life context, a celebrity who often appears on subscription television, along with featuring her book’s name, and with massive online commentary and PR behind the person… even with that, book sales disappointed. Although eBook sales seemed to be a bit better, this publicity headstart appeared to make no difference to actual profits.

According to Federico, traditional authors don’t fare much better: talented first-timers might get an advance of $2-4K, and 6-10 percent of the book sales of the first 10,000 copies, plus 20-30 percent of the eBook sales. The average book sells nowhere near that; probably more like 2,000 copies (and thus $4-6,000 in royalties). It’s a known thing that publishers expect only 1 in 5 books is truly going to make a profit run for them (and the author).

On the eBooks side, you might expect to actually get the 70% that Amazon advertise; sure, but what about VAT in the UK, GST here, digital download fee (esp if large eBook size), currency conversion/PayPal rort, countdown deals you need to do (bringing the price down for a week), and so on.  Put it this way, if I had a cat, royalties from all four of my eBooks currently available might pay for a plain version of its cat food. But kitty might get skinny sometimes.

So, if book sales alone – whether traditional or indie published – won’t make you a living, what fun and opportunity will it get you?

Let’s Take Back Our Power, Authors

The great thing about reading Federico’s article is that he disparages Amazon (finally, someone who knows!). No, that wasn’t the great thing; it was that he sells digital books direct through Sellfy – which takes away the problem of hosting your own eBook sales/downloads on your website. He doesn’t use Smashwords, which also gives you an ability to sell direct (by showing your eBook widget) at 80% – but this still pales in comparison to Sellfy’s 92%!

Plus, Sellfy’s commission includes the PayPal commission (around 2.5%)! You have the ability to sell PDFs that are not under Digital Rights Management (DRM) plus fully finished ePubs.  Being careful, I’d probably just go with ePubs.

While I don’t completely agree that authors make little to nothing for sales on iBooks or Kindle, because that depends on whether you claim your Australian tax-treaty exemption and how you price it, I believe that it does pay to DO YOUR OWN marketing. Create a simple website-and-social-media-based path for fans to give you the most in royalties… and why not… you wrote the darn book – Amazon didn’t!

1 comment. Leave new

Great article Jen and very true. Personally my book makes me money through other means other than the royalties. To gives me the opportunity to speak at events, expos, conferences etc and then I may have the option to sell the books on the day.

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