Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Wealthy Writer

My publisher recently sent me a copy of “The Wealthy Writer.” Not because they thought I needed a prod to assist me in making more money, but to review. It’s their book; they wrote it. You could do worse than read this book-—the marketing tips alone are worth the cover price—-but if you have aspirations akin to mine, you may come away more disheartened than before.

The book is part pep-talk, part practical advice from a duo who have been successful on both sides of the publishing game—-being publishers and self-publishers. This puts them in a unique position and makes their guidance worth heeding. The most impressive thing about the book is, even though they are publishers, they advise self-publication as the best way to make money with your writing. And they have real-life examples to back that up.

As they point out, if you self-publish your book, you stand to make a profit of £7 to £10 per book instead of £0.45. If you flog your book unmercifully and sell 3,000 copies, you make £30,000. If that sounds too good to be true, it isn’t. There are hard truths to back that up, but there are also mitigating factors.

The Hard Truths:
     - Even if you go with a major publisher, you are still going to be responsible for most of your book’s marketing, so you save little here and give up a lot.
     - If you go with a major publisher, you would have to sell over 66,000 books to give you the same amount of money you could make selling just 3,000.

Mitigating Factors:
     - You are not not going to sell 3,000 books.

The other, oft-visited issues I have with self publication are:
     - No matter how hard you try, your amateur product won’t be as good as what a professional would produce. I can personally attest to this.
     - You still have to face that "self-published" stigma.

All that said, self-publication is clearly a better option than it was just a few years ago. The advent of POD and computer graphics means you really can put out a (nearly) professional looking product, and get it printed, for a nominal fee. No more stacking boxes of unwanted books in the garage or laying out thousands of dollars for a print run. And as the option becomes more and more viable, the stigma appears to be shrinking. Even in its self-published form, I was able to get “Postcards” into a few books stores.

After reading this book, I am convinced you can make a decent living writing and publishing and flogging your own books, just as I became convinced you can make a decent living writing service articles after I read “How to Become Embarrassingly Rich by Writing Service Articles,” or something like that. In each case, however, it presupposes you are doing this full-time. Now I have nothing but admiration for people with the courage, conviction and drive necessary to quit their job and devote themselves to full-time self-employment, but the vast majority of us simply are not in the position of being able to walk away from a steady pay check. And take it from me, there comes a time when you simply cannot devote more of your non-work life to marketing.

But all of this is academic; self-publishing is not for me, and neither is it—-if you have writing ambitions similar to mine—-for you. This book, as well as “Aiming at Amazon” both state plainly that this model works only for non-fiction. Novelists, short story writers and humorists need not apply. Now, you are certainly welcome to publish your book yourself, but they practically guarantee you won’t sell many. A non-fiction book provides something tangible that people want: “How to Live on £0.37 a Day,” “Three Steps to a Better Orgasm,” “Eat All You Want and Still Stay Thin—-a Bulimic’s Guide to a Beautiful Body,” . . . really, I could do this all day, but you get the point. With non-fiction you have a built-in customer base; with fiction you have a story.

This isn’t a gripe, I’m simply pointing out the facts. And, personally, I’d rather have the stories; I just wish there was a way to make some money with them.


  1. Thanks for this, mike.
    Depressing read, but useful.
    I am a bit pessimistic when it comes to things like self-publishing. we should never underestimate the power of PR and marketing. A well marketed book, even if it is crap, will sell.exposure is everything, isn't it? From blogs to books...who would read it if they wont even know about it?
    what is service articles by the way, I have no clue?

  2. Useful comments, thank you.
    I agree on the non-fiction. I self published one, priced it so I would make a profit, even if the big book shops took any (they only pay 50% of price).
    I had a smal market Worldwide, about 2500, I estimated, printed 600 and have just about sold out.
    It's a bit of hassle, a lot of fun, it does not make a fortune, and I'm fortunate enough to be on a pension.
    That's what you have to look at. It does push you up in the pecking order in the line and, after ALL expenses, software, camera, computer, etc. I was getting a hefty 60% profit, instead of a dribble.
    Do enjoy, if you have the time!