Writers like H.P. Mallory, Victorine Lieske, and the young upstart Amanda Hocking are but a few of the names I can mention who struck out on their own and have made it big as fiction authors in the new world of self-publishing. Have they sold millions of books, like J.K. Rowling or James Patterson? No, not yet, but you can bet they will, because they are selling hundreds, sometimes thousands of books every day. Ms. Hocking recently reported selling 100,000 books in one month! More importantly, when these self-published authors sell a book, they keep most of the money, because they are the publisher, as well as the writer. Rather than taking home the typical four or five percent of the sales price, they are pocketing 35-70%, anywhere from a quarter to a buck or two or even more per copy. Even at twenty-five cents a pop, 100,000 books in a month adds up to a very handsome income.
Let's compare and contrast the current viable options for book publishing and distribution today. An author has basically four choices when it comes to getting their work in the hands of readers:
- Traditional publishing with a big-name house like Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Harlequin, etc.
- Traditional publishing with a small, independent press like Beacon Press or Booklocker
- Self-publishing with a packaged, pay-for-service provider like iUniverse or AuthorHouse
- Self-publishing with DIY providers like Smashwords, Amazon/CreateSpace, or Barnes & Noble
The odds of finding a publisher go way down if you choose a pay-for-service publisher like AuthorHouse, because those type of companies sell publishing as a package deal. You, the author, pay up-front, usually hundreds or thousands of dollars, for all the production, editing, marketing, etc., so there is no risk to the publisher. That might be all right if you, the author, were then completely in control of your work and entitled to all the profits from sales, but that's not how it works. The publisher still takes a huge cut of sales, often 50-60%, even if you are hawking your own book on a street corner. Frankly, I don't feel that this is a fair deal at all. If you take all the risk, pay for all the services, and created the original product, then all the profit should be yours.
So that leaves the DIY route. When you do it yourself, you will either have to perform all publishing services yourself or buy those services from individual providers, like proofreaders, cover artists, and websites where you advertise and sell your work. All of those are up-front or ongoing costs, but they are known and controllable costs, and you are the one in control. There are often inexpensive options you can take advantage of like online critique groups, writers forums, or providers who might barter services with you. Plus, there are many no-cost marketing methods you can perform yourself, like blogging, article-writing, and social networking. When you go this way, you can then sell your book through your own website or use the services of Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace, etc. These companies will take a reasonable commission (10-40%) on whatever you sell through their site, but the product, price, and presentation are always yours to manage as you wish.
Will you sell 100,000 books in a month? Maybe, maybe not, but with hard work, patience, and persistence, it's not out of reach! DIY publishing and promoting of their own work is one way that many authors are slowly, steadily building a healthy long-term income.
See the self-published, best-selling works of: