Oh my word, yesterday I did something that a normal person would’ve done a long time ago – research the fields of writing, publishing and selling books.
You might remember my earlier post on this subject. All of my books (so far) have been self-published, which means that not only did I write them but I also edited them, formatted them and designed the cover artwork myself. At the moment, they’re only for sale online and not in any physical bookstore.
I’ve never worked for a standard publishing house and I don’t know anyone who has either. I have a few writer friends and I’ve seen/read their work but I had no idea of what the overall quality is of most books. Manuscripts submitted to a publishing house are either “accepted” right away for review (because they come from a literary agent) or else set aside in something known as a slush pile.
Yesterday I found the website Self-Publishing Review, in which a real (former) editor from a publishing house reviews self-published books. According to her, these are on par with the books she used to review in the “slush pile”.
Most of those books are terrible. Many of them are downright awful. I’d be embarrassed to publish them for free on a blog. And it seems like this is the “normal” quality of books that are self-published. I am starting to understand why many readers are so leery of buying a self-published book, especially if they regularly encounter specimens of that quality.
I also did some research on sales figures for self-published books, since that’s a pretty vital issue for anyone interested in going that route. I highly recommend that linked article as it weighs the pros and cons of publishing your book that way.
Nobody seems to have any current statistics but from what I can tell, there’s one hell of a long tail going on in this field, and the average self-published book will sell anywhere from 9 copies to 99 copies a year. An extremely small percentage of books will sell more than that, including a few (extremely few) selling thousands of copies. According to the link, the average “regular” book (published by a traditional company in the old way) sales for a single title is just 500 copies.
By those metrics, my book The Complete Insider’s Guide to Romania is doing extremely well. Wow, I’m glad I never read any of this stuff before spending months writing the thing or else I’d have been quite discouraged. I am however quite curious to see how well Balada Supravietuitorului will do once it’s in “physical” bookstores.
Since many of you reading this have purchased my book(s), thank you! My goodness, I had no idea I was going to write a book that would do so well. I haven’t quite sold 500 copies yet but it’s only been two and a half months. I’ll definitely add up the final total come next December and write about it here because I’m quite curious myself!
If you are interested in being a self-published author, I found this extremely useful book that reviews (American) Print-on-Demand companies, rating them on their business practices and in some cases, warning about who the smecheri and fraudulent firms are.
It also seems like some authors spend literally thousands of dollars in marketing their book and on other expenses (such as hiring publicists, etc). Who knows, maybe that is the route you want to go. I was far too poor to be spending that kind of money and I darn sure wouldn’t do that today, knowing that 500 copies a year is the average. Mercy!
What can I say? I do everything backwards. The only research I did ahead of time was to look at upfront costs. I got lucky in finding a company that prints high-quality books. I’ve never once taken a writing course or been to a workshop for writers. I didn’t even look through forums and internet websites on the topic. I wrote my first book without having any idea whatsoever of how many copies it could or would sell. That’s a pretty stupid thing to do especially if you’re going to quit your job to write full-time :P
But then again, I’m the fool who moved to Romania without having a job or any source of income at all (and I darn sure didn’t speak the language). That’s just the kind of person I am ;)