Can You Make a Living Self-Publishing?

04 Oct

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 7.24.03 PMWhile I enjoy hearing amazing self-publishing success stories like Hugh Howey’s “Wool” and Amanda Hocking’s “Trylle” or even moderate successes like the book “Warm Bodies” which was made into a movie before most people knew it was a book, I like to think there are more folks making a go of fiction writing careers than industry publications indicate.

Awhile back “they” claimed that 80% of self-published authors make less than $1000 a year, which is quite discouraging to start-ups. So I’ve put together a few bits from around the web rejecting that dismal claim. Take heart! If you plan to make a career of writing, think long term. There are few one book wonders in the world today. Write on!

The leader of the WANA writing group (i.e. we are not alone) wrote a blog rejecting the 1K a year claim and adding how to’s for success saying:

Anyone who has studied the industry knows that one book alone isn’t going to cut it. Professional authors, those that treat their writing as a career, focus on building a backlist. If we have 3-6 books out, it doesn’t take much income from each to break $1000….

While 80% of respondents with 1-3 books for sale make $10K or less, that figure drops quickly with additional books. About 50% of respondents make more than $10K when they have 4-7 self-published books available, and 20% make more than $50K. At 12-20 books available, over 50% of respondents are making 50K or more, and 30% are over $100K.

Beverley Kendall’s report is a gold mine for those on either path. Her results show what works for maximizing income, but many of the tips are also no-cost ways we can reach more readers:

  • Write a series
  • Make a series-related short story, novella, or the first novel free
  • Include excerpts of other stories, especially at the back of the freebie
  • Price novel-length books in the $2.99-$4.99 sweet spot
  • Build a backlist of quality stories
  • Don’t expect success overnight—think in years

See the rest of this eye-opening post on making a living as an author at Kristen Lamb’s Blog “Show Me the Money” here.

Meanwhile, The Passive Voice had to shut down the comments to his most popular post ever: Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs post received so many comments the wordpress theme would no longer operate properly. Need a bit of encouragement? Peruse the “Comments” on this topic here.

If you happen to like statistics and numbers fascinate you, check out Dana Beth Weinberg’s series of posts using Bowker’s ISBN database to analyse the rise of self-published books vs. traditionally published titles and differences between authors who do one or the other and both (hybrid publishing).

As interesting as these various sites and perspectives are the biggest item on your to-do list if you want to write is Do It. Do it now. Do a little every day. Then I’d say, Finish something. Finish it BEFORE you show it to anybody (even your spouse or mother).


Kristin King is an author, publisher and new US expat living in the Netherlands. Her top sellers are “Unsinkable Vampire” and “Cain’s Coven,” and her latest novel in the Begotten Bloods Series is Death Taint.

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Posted by on October 4, 2014 in Indie Business


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