Tuesday, September 04, 2018
Does self-publishing actually make money for its authors (that is, pay its own way) often? It's "back to school"
To start the “back to school” period, I thought it would be good to review the question, do self-published books sold on Amazon (especially POD) make money for their authors?
Here’s a good answer on Quora . One problem is that there are so many “vanity” books, so to speak, that the aggregate mathematically summed demand in society to make all of them profitable just would not be there.
Of course, there are many individual success stories. It is true that in the past, some things (even “self-help”) have been popular. And some “fads” might raise serious societal ethical or security questions. Could Amazon even deal with public pressure if it carried a book on how to make a 3D-printed gun right now? I wonder.
Let me add, on this particular blog, I don’t like seeing platforms (whether social media companies, mass retail sites, or even Internet hosts) expected to police the social consequences of what users sell. But there is obviously a growing pressure on them to do so.
One problem is that an author may not particularly care if a book “sells”; he or she may know that the content of the book will get around and have a political impact. This is easier for an individual author, if determined, to pull off than a lot of people realize (even given al the attention to the manipulation of social media algorithms by Russia and other foreign enemies). This problem could quickly get more attention than it has.
I’ll share a recent link (June 2018) on Amazon self-publishing, after Amazon stopped its own copyediting and formatting services.
My own first DADT-1 book in 1997 sold reasonably well in its first two years, and the first printing (380 copies or so) did sell out. I wend to POD in 2000, so lower numbers are partly explained by the fact that the POD was already a second printing (with some typo corrections, especially on the back cover).
One of the aspects of my experience with selling my own print run in the late 1990s (right out of the Churchill apartments in downtown Minneapolis, where I lived well while working for ING-ReliaStar right on the Skyway) was the dot-com boom, which would start to flounder in late 2000 (before 9/11). But that period was marked by unusual effectiveness of search engines. I was often found on Google, long before modern social media aggregation. A modern business climate were a few huge tech companies control everything has not been good for my own ability to sell books, even though it still gets my content out – for free. Competition matters.
The video above stresses the importance of a successful first launch (even the first few days), and for continued promotion of the book. I have been criticized for not spending more time on promoting books I have already authored compared to new content, blogging, or covert support for music or movie projects (some of this by others).