The co-editorial director of Publisher’s Weekly, speaking in a recent interview, said self-published authors typically sell less than 100 copies of their book, compared to the 10,000 copies a well-selling traditionally-published book will move.
Sad, isn’t it?
When a friend showed me this statistic in AARP The Magazine, I couldn’t believe it.
The article went on to compare two first-time writers. Both penned memoirs; both were over 50.
There the similarities end.
One sold more than half a million copies of her book; the other logged a measly 20 downloads to e-readers.
The difference? The first author has a traditional publisher, while the second is self-published.
Now that’s a pretty significant difference.
I hate the thought of laboring for years to produce a book I’m proud of, a book people will want to buy and read, if only a handful are going to bother doing either.
It’s like trying to carry sand in a sieve.
The quandary between self-publishing and traditional publishing is nothing new. Many of us are dealing with it right now. In fact, my friend Lynne Spreen over at Any Shiny Thing recently blogged about this very subject.
There don’t seem to be any easy answers, either. Especially when you realize that you the author are going to have to promote your book, regardless of how you publish it.
Anyway, the AARP article goes on to talk about how many “older authors” want to share their stories, profit or not. And how many vanity, e-book, and other self-publishing options exist for those who do. And how “easy” it is to become self-published — nearly three-fourths of a million nontraditional books came out in 2009, compared with fewer than 300,000 traditional titles.
This publishing guru speculates the market for self-published works will grow as more people accept the technology.
His advice in the meantime? Write for fun, not for finance.
When did writing a book become fun? Every real writer I know, including meself, calls it Hard Work.
And to embark on that journey expecting no remuneration is foolish.
I suppose people with nothing but time on their hands, or celebrities with a hefty trust fund and a full-blown ego, can afford to laze about and tinker with penning a novel, then pay somebody to publish it, not caring what happens after that.
The rest of us sweat bullets to get every comma in the right place, choose the right POV, work and re-work plot, act out our scenes with dialog, check pacing, and a thousand-and-one other details.
All in the hopes of finding the right agent. The right publisher. The right market.
Because this is our baby, and it deserves nothing less than our best.
Why shouldn’t we expect payment, regardless of how we publish?
Hey, Deb, that’s scary – the difference between selling a lot of books and selling a few may be the traditional publisher. Have you seen J.A.Konrath’s blog about the opposite strategy? Here’s a typical post: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/02/guest-post-by-bv-larson.html.
And thanks for the shout-out, Sis!
Wow, Lynne, interesting opposing view! He makes some good points, ones we as writers must take into consideration. Thanks so much for the link!
Yikes, that is depressing, Debbie! Writing our stories can be healing, and sometimes that’s all it can be.
Yes, Sunshine, I think part of our decision on whether to go the traditional or self-publishing route must involve just who our anticipated readers are. I know I, for one, would have loved reading memoirs by my grandparents (had they written them!), but I don’t imagine the reading and buying public would be as concerned.
I agree that writing is hard work, but it is also enjoyable for me. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t bother at all, because I know the publishing biz is rough and I may never get there. So, in a sense, I guess I AM writing for fun at the moment 🙂
You make a good point — if we didn’t get something out of writing (regardless of what that something is!), some of us probably wouldn’t do it. The others like me (who have to write) would like to think there’s a chance we can get published, share our writings with the world, and get paid, too! We don’t ask much, do we?!!