Sunday, December 08, 2013

Are You In It For The Money, Or Something Else?

Every now and then, I like to take a look at the state of self-publishing. After all, it’s gone through as much of a revolution as the e-book industry has, and why not? The two go hand in hand. A USA Today article reported that the number of self-published titles released in 2012 was 391,000, a whopping 60% rise from the previous year due, in part, to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program. Smashwords’ numbers are also high: 250,000 titles from about 60,000 authors. Author Solutions (purchased by Penguin) has 200,000 titles from 170,000 authors. The thing is, how many of those authors are actually making money?

According to a marketing VP at Author Solutions, authors spend between $1,000 and $2,000 to publish their books and most aren’t making their money back. I don’t know how much Author Solutions charges for their services, but I do know that to produce a professional product, you’ll likely need to hire either a typesetter, jacket designer, or editor. Based on my own informal research, $1,000 to $1,500 for a jacket designer and good editor isn’t out of line.

But the article raises an interesting point. Not everyone who writes a book publishes it to make money. In fact, a study by Digital Book World revealed that making money was only forth on the list of a writers’ priority. I think there’s some truth to this. I know plenty of writers, myself included, who’ve been writing and publishing for a couple of decades or more, but still aren’t making a living. For the first twenty years of my career, money wasn’t even on the radar. Learning to finish and edit novels was, along with the long journey to find a publisher. I kept going because transforming a single idea into to a fully formed novel was tremendously satisfying.

As Digital Book World’s study showed, I wasn’t alone. The two top reasons respondents gave for writing and publishing were to build a writing career and to fulfill a lifelong ambition. Maybe this is why so many people I know don’t put the time and energy into selling their books as they did to writing and editing them. I think most of us want something to be remembered by. Publishing a book provides immortality, at least it does in Canada, as every book ever published winds up in Canada’s National Library to be saved forever. So, I have immortality. But wouldn’t it now be nice to make some money?

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