Back when I was in high school I had fantasies of writing a book, regularly perusing Writers Magazine and Writer’s Digest.
Take this with a grain of salt, though. These numbers only come from the small number of people who responded to the Author’s Guild survey. In the self-publishing world, it’s possible to have good success if you write good books and know how to market yourself. I personally know (as in have met and talked with) several authors who are making six (and sometimes seven) figures a year with their writing. There are more of them out there than you might think.
So don’t give up your fantasies yet! It could still happen.
Anecdotally, one of my wife’s friends is an author whose income dropped from around $100k to maybe $30k within a year due to how Amazon treats and ranks independent self-published authors. I don’t know the details, something about how they use a limited pot to distribute and other authors game the system by having a ton of underlings publish as them in a sort of pyramid scheme, draining the pot and reducing truly independent (single) author’s income. I just know (through my wife) that it’s demolished her family’s income in a pretty devastating way.
Here is a pretty good recent summary of some of the Kindle Unlimited problems.
I know someone who makes a good living self publishing. But she does it as a result of being traditionally published first and bringing her audience with her. I know far more self-published authors who sell 100 books if they are lucky, and barely pay for cover artwork and stuff.
I know someone else who self-published a memoir. He was excellent at marketing, and even got on the radio in his home town. He has a garage full of unsold books. (This was a while ago.) The book just wasn’t very good, as he realized after it was too late.
Sure you can get rich self publishing - but you can also win the lottery.
Knowing one relatively successful self-published author, I’d say that this sort of leaves the realm of being an author. You’re really an entrepreneur at this point, working connections, running promotions, perfecting your SEO, haggling with printers, etc. The book - while nominally written by you - is just the product that you’ve chosen to flog as a part of your business. The “author” part is the minority of the work.
I got my royalty check today from Oxford University Press. I don’t want to say how much it was, but it makes me glad I never quit my day job.
There was a notice on it that they were going to stop sending out royalty notices under $10. At least I haven’t fallen that far. Yet.
Exactly. Are you interested in writing quality fiction (poetry, whatever), or do you want to be a full time publicity hound? I was a book editor in a big fancy Manhattan office with a big fancy paycheck and expense account for over 20 years. The writers I respected were the ones who preferred to stay relatively anonymous. But none of them got rich.
“Family of three” - yeah, right - but how does Amazon, or whatever entity sets the prices, expect the flow of quality material to continue unabated if the royalties are insufficient to cover a chain-smoking and/or Scotch habit? Maybe also rent on the kind of room or garret Bukowski would have stayed in.
This is partially true. Yes, self-published authors are responsible for their own marketing and promotion–but then again, so are most traditionally published authors, unless they’re at the top level. Publishers don’t put much money into promoting mid-list authors.
If I’m going to do my own marketing and promo, I’d rather not have somebody else taking the lion’s share of my royalties.
BTW, there’s no “haggling with printers” involved in most self-publishers’ activities. POD places like KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) and Ingram Spark take care of this, so the writer with a garage full of hardcopy books is a thing of the past unless they either make a lot of money selling in person (usually non-fiction authors) or they just want to buy a bunch of books for some reason.
There are a lot of outdated attitudes out there about self-publishing. I am a decently successful indie author (between ebook and audiobook sales, I had my first six-figure year in 2018) and there are many, many others out there who do much better than I do. I belong to some Facebook groups for serious indie authors, and I’m in awe of some of these folks. Their talent and work ethic is amazing. But believe me, they are all authors. Yes, they market. Yes, they promote. Yes, they are entrepreneurs. But every one of them spends a good chunk of their time actually writing. Ultimately, if you don’t have a product to sell, none of the rest of it matters.
I have a friend who is a successful author. She was around 32 when she got her first contract and has worked steadily ever since, writing one book a year, managing to make a decent living.
Recently it started to give her serious back problems, so I think she’s slowed down a bit, though she’s disappeared off social media so I’m not sure of her status right now. In any case, she managed to luck out, and also be diligent and talented, to reach international success; however she’s still not rich, and suffering literal physical pain for her efforts.
How would writing give you back problems unless you are lugging cartons of unsold books around your garage?
I have not yet been able to quit my day job.
Too much sitting at the computer, what else? That’s how I ruined my back, though I just played video games.
Exactly. I don’t know the details, but that’s what she says in her blog. She may have had a pre-existing condition, or spent a lifetime on a bad office chair and it was too late before she noticed, or, you know, just got old (my back is in a poor state too). The point is having the bad back has made it harder for her to sit for long periods so she has had to slow down.
If Bird Box is any example, just write a fictional book (YA a plus) utilizing ideas from a mish mash of current successes, wait 5 years so people hopefully won’t notice, and voila, instant millionaire.
Self published online books- How often are they professionally edited?
I ask this because I get tired of downloading something that looks interesting, only to find spelling, grammatical and factual errors by the boatload. If I pay money for a book, I want something that is higher in quality than what you can find on fan fiction dot net.
You can usually tell by looking at the “Look Inside” feature. Most of the good indie books have pro editors now. Some even employ editors, proofreaders, and reader groups to catch errors before release.
There are definitely still a boatload of crappy self-pub books out there, and there probably always will be. But you can usually get a pretty good idea of quality by a combination of Look Inside, reviews, and sales rank.
My co-workers and I have spent an average of about twenty years sitting in office chairs, but we wouldn’t blame our back problems on our work.
I’m thinking there’s bad posture involved here.
Of course there is. Which happens a lot when you sit and write for long periods.
Here she is talking about it on her blog. Turns out I wasn’t remembering the details exactly, it’s her neck more than her back, but it amounts to the same thing in the end.