With self-publishing, the question as to whether or not you’re wasting your time on your novel becomes null and void. No longer does your manuscript need to languish in the drawer, waiting for some publisher to bless you with their attention. Once your book is done, you can get it out to a world-wide audience essentially overnight. Then it’s up to the readers to decide if your work is good enough. Yet until you get your book out to the reading public, you’ll never know.
In the old days, the Big Five publishers served as very effective gatekeepers, separating readers from the writers. That’s no longer true. Now it’s the authors who have the final say as to when and how their books are released. And even though you may not make a million off your first book — or even your twentieth — if you have even modest talent and can spin a good yarn, you should be able to make a decent living as a self-published author. (The numbers I reveal at the end of this post go to support this statement.)
There seems to be a trend these days for authors to reveal their sales records, with dollar amounts included. I have no problem with this. In fact, although I love to write, I still need to pay my bills, and it was by seeing what other authors were doing with ebooks back in 2011 that I developed the incentive to create my first book. Without this information I may have continued with my day job and never taken the leap.
These days I spend a lot of time speaking with people about self-publishing and giving advice and encouragement. I don’t feel other authors are my competition, believing truly that the market is large enough for all of us. And being as empathic as I am, I want everyone to experience the same joy and satisfaction I’ve experienced over the past two years in my writing career.
It’s been during these conversations, that I occasionally experience some discounting of my efforts by people who do not consider self-publishing as a legitimate endeavor, since I haven’t been vetted by a professional publishing company. I’m sure many self-publishers have also experienced this same condescending attitude from a few purist authors. However, when push comes to shove, I simply quote my yearly earnings … and that seems to shut them up, if not change their attitude about self-publishing.
I have to say I’ve met quite a few authors — both in person and online — over the past two years, and I do realize my results are not typical. Many have made far less, while a few have earned in the millions. Seriously! It also seems that most of us started about the same time — in 2011 or afterwards — so the success some of us have experienced is newfound, and therefore very prominent in the our lives. I have to say, it’s been a real head-rush!
So now, without further ado, I offer those of you who have read this deep into this post my 2013 sales numbers.
I don’t do this to brag, but rather to show what can be done with self-publishing. And I’m the first to admit, I’m not the best writer, but I have been fortunate that my first foray into self-publishing was with a series of science fiction books that have found a loyal and enthusiastic audience. I did this with essentially zero promotion, except what’s provided by Amazon to every author — which should be another source of encouragement for would-by authors.
The bottom line: If I can do this, then you can, too. And in these times of tough economic prospects, becoming a self-published author could be your way out of a dire financial situation. It could happen.
Summary of 2013 Sales:
Background: The numbers for 2013 are for a total of seven titles (books). They are: The Fringe Worlds, Alien Assassin, The Human Chronicles Saga (a compilation of both books one and two of the series), The War of Pawns, The Tactics of Revenge, The Legend of Earth and Cain’s Crusaders.
Fringe, Assassin, The Human Chronicles, War and Tactics all saw a full year of sales. The Legend of Earth came out in February 2013 and Cain’s Crusaders came out in August 2013, so these totals are for only a portion of the year.
Here’s where it gets a little complicated. My fiscal year runs from November 1 to October 31. The reason is because Amazon pays royalties sixty days after the close of a sales month, so my December royalties are for the prior October and my January royalties are for the prior November. Since the IRS deals in calendar years for tax purposes, I only count the royalties when they’re received, so my 2013 revenue covers sales from November 2012 through October 2013.
The average number of books I had selling fulltime for 2013 were six, since Legend and Cain’s were for only part of the year. Combined, they equaled one fulltime book, so my numbers are based on what are essentially six books selling over 12 months.
Please note: The numbers below are ONLY for the Amazon.com website (USA sales) and does not include any foreign sales, although the total dollar amount includes all sales. (FYI: Foreign sales totaled 6,712 copies for the year, but they’re not broken down by book.)
The Fringe Worlds = 6,114 copies sold for 2013 (originally published in Oct. 2011)
Alien Assassin = 6,437 copies sold (originally published in March 2012)
The Human Chronicles (compilation, not a new book) = 5,774 copies sold (originally published mid-June 2012)
The War of Pawns = 11,060 copies sold (originally published mid-June 2012)
The Tactics of Revenge = 18,809 copies sold (originally published in Nov. 2012)
The Legend of Earth = 15,070 copies sold (originally published in March 2013)
Cain’s Crusaders = 6,528 copies sold (originally published in August 2013)
(Please note: Sales cutoff date was October 31, 2013.)
Total books sold in the United States in fiscal year 2013 = 69,792 (plus 6,712 foreign sales)
Total books sold in fiscal year 2013 = 76,534
So … if you sold this many books in a year, how much money would you make?
My fiscal year 2013 income was … $222,254.00.
Now that I have your attention, you can see that making a decent living writing light science fiction adventures in ebook format is possible — and without needing the blessings of a traditional publisher.
(There was another blog I saw recently by a traditionally-published author with sixteen books on the market — both in ebook format and mass-market paperback. He made a little over $60,000. My contention is that if he bypassed the traditional publisher and went for the higher royalty rates self-publishers get, he would have made a lot more money … just off his ebook sales.)
And now after seeing these numbers, I hope this has motivated you to get to work on that novel you’ve been thinking about for years. You may not make $222,000 in a year — you may make a lot more! But you’ll never know until you complete your book and put it out to the reading public. And guess what … it’s only YOU keeping this from happening — and from changing your life forever.
Now — get to work!
T.R. (Tom) Harris