Self-publishing is not for dreamers. It is certainly not a quick and easy get rich quick scheme.
The biggest change to have hit the art of writing in the last few years has been the wild expectation that by simply self-publishing a book or an ebook, readers will rush to part with thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money and buy it.
This assumption could not be further from the truth. Dream on about self-publishing being a means of becoming an overnight millionaire and taking early retirement.
Writing is an art form that has never been an instant cash cow for authors. The starving artist analogy, trying to save money to pay the rent, works extremely well because that’s how it’s always been, and nothing has changed this fact of life.
Yes, there have been some famous authors who have done quite well out of writing full time.
But there were many thousands more authors and writers whose books were either lost in the mid-list or, who were never published at all and their manuscripts were left lying in a slush pile.
The list of rich writers who earn millions is probably only slightly longer than rich painters. Most only joined this elite group after they were long dead.
Self-publishing has not changed the way the book market works, nor have the chances of overnight success increased. Writing, publishing and selling books was, and still is, a very tough game.
Wild expectations from self-publishing
So where did this new breed of author come from?
The ones that expect to sell a bucket load of books, make tons of money, and attain instant financial independence and pay off their credit card just by self-publishing an ebook on Amazon Kindle.
Well, there are a lot of people making a lot of money out of promoting this fantastic dream. Some have implanted the notion that ebook publishing is a winning scheme because there are millions of people who buy books.
In my mind, the turning point was when Amanda Hocking’s success became big news. That she was a total outlier didn’t matter to many who read about, and envied her success.
From that point on, the rush was on to emulate her success. Well, I’m sure a lot of people had the same idea in the ’60s and wanted to be the next Beatles, Mick Jagger, Cher or Cat Stevens.
The truth about any art form is that it is next to impossible to emulate successful people and get to the top.
You either need to be so brilliantly talented, exceedingly fortunate or be in the right place at the right time with the right people.
In Amanda Hocking’s case, she had the perfect genre for the advent of ebook devices that were first accepted by younger readers.
Trying to copy her style now is a complete waste of time. The moment has passed, but Amanda Hocking can possibly build upon her popularity created at that precise and maybe fortunate point in time.
However, in recent years Amanda has not been making any headlines. So perhaps her moment of overnight success has elapsed.
Then and now in book publishing
Before self-publishing, your only choice was to take your chances with a literary agent and then, very, very very few manuscripts made it all the way to publication.
Of those manuscripts that were finally published, only a minute percentage became bestsellers. Even back then, there were no million-dollar contracts on offer, unless you were an ex-president and the fight was on to secure the publishing right to the memoirs.
Now that we have the opportunity to take either the traditional route to publishing or to self-publish, the odds of success have not changed at all. The fact of publishing life is that only a handful of new books each year sell like hotcakes.
However, you can self-publish your book and be very proud of your achievement. But there really are not more readers in the world today than in years past, and book buyers are definitely not suddenly spending more on books.
In fact, due to the effect ebooks have had on book prices, readers are paying a lot less for books today than twenty years ago.
In addition to these facts, you still cannot fit more books into the list of the top 100 bestsellers than 100.
However, there are positives in today’s book market for new authors who are starting a business in self-publishing.
The biggest positive is that readers are now the ultimate decision-makers in the book market, and not literary agents and publishers.
There are no gatekeepers any longer, so you can publish whatever you like, and it will be readers who will decide your writing fate.
If your only motivation in writing a book is to make money, I would advise keeping hold of your day job for some time yet. Don’t believe all the sounds too good to be true stories. There is no easy money in publishing.
There are better ways to build wealth quickly if you are a risk-taker. Invest in real estate or toy with the stock market if you want to try to fatten your bank account fast.
However, if you write for the love of the art of writing, and set goals that are realistic for your chances of success in the long term, you will certainly enjoy the freedom self-publishing gives you.
If you write well, and make sure your book is of a high publishing standard, and avoid the common self-publishing mistakes, you will sell some books and perhaps create a passive income stream from your book sales to help pay bills.
But of course, some authors will sell more or less than you. In other words, you will happily do your best and see what happens.
At least you can take the decision to publish; unlike days gone by when that decision was in the hands of gatekeepers.
Self-publish and enjoy the freedom it gives you, but, don’t expect to become a wealthy author and get rich overnight.