This is my very first blog post. I hope to make this entertaining for both authors and readers. Mostly, I will focus on my self-published writing journey, but I will likely dabble in other topics, like history, recent books I have read (from mostly self-published authors), and who knows what else (but no politics, guaranteed). In all, I hope you find it worth your time to read.

Here is my dog pic of the week…

As you may know, we have four rescue dogs. This week, we will introduce Ace. He is half yellow lab, half chihuahua. Please do not ask me for any details, as I do not have them, nor do I wish to know. Needless to say, Ace has the ball-chasing skills of a lab and the personality of a chihuahua. Quite the combination. He is affectionately known as Ace-hole.

Why am I blogging?

I published my first book in May of 2021. Since then, I have published two sequels (completing my trilogy) and four short stories (related to the trilogy). I have been relatively successful in this endeavor, and I am often asked to share some of the things that helped me along the way. Just as importantly, I want to share what has not worked. Lastly, I think sharing the experiences (and challenges) of self-published authors can help readers understand how difficult it is to write, publish, and market a book or multiple books.

What is success?

That is a great question. Some people want to see their stories in print. They love writing, and selling the book to a friend or stranger is secondary. Some people solely focus on traditional publishing and the validation that comes with that accomplishment (among other advantages). I think, deep down, everyone wants to be the next James Patterson or J.K. Rowling. When I talk about things like success, it is purely my opinion and experience from which I speak. I do not judge others who have taken a different path, nor do I believe there is a one size fits all solution. Writing, publishing, and marketing is an extremely personal journey, and no two journeys are alike.

I have different phases of success. First, break even on a day-to-day basis. This means generating more revenue in sales than I spend in marketing (measured day to day because I am a numbers geek). Second, generate enough profit to pay for what it costs to publish my existing novels. Those costs include professional editing, formatting, and cover design. The last phase is generating a residual income that I can use during retirement. Again, my goals are highly personalized. Currently, I am solidly in phase two, probably approaching phase three.

What is commercial success?

Generally, a traditional publishing house considers a book a commercial success if it sells 10,000 copies (all formats) over its lifetime. In those cases, they recover their investment and make a profit. Most books do NOT make this objective. For a self-published author, that is a very lofty goal.

From an industry perspective, here is a great link to get pure data:

Self-published Books & Authors Sales Statistics [2022] – WordsRated

Some really interesting points:

  • The number of self-published books has increased 264% in the last five years
  • Self-published books account for 31% of Amazon’s ebook sales
  • The average self-published book sells 250 copies
  • 90% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies
  • Of authors who have published their first book in the last 10 years:
    • 1,200 traditionally published authors have earned $25,000+ a year
    • 1,600 self-published authors have earned $25,000+ a year

As you can see, it is a really difficult endeavor. Why is that? There are multiple reasons, but here are what I think are the most critical (in order):

  • Lack of exposure. Over 1.5M book titles are self-published each year. That makes it incredibly difficult to stand out.
  • Lack of advertising. Ads are expensive, and they require constant tweaking to stay effective. And even then, it is hit or miss.
  • Lack of marketing. Blog tours, interviews, podcasts, social media engagement, newsletters, etc., can be time-consuming, and many authors don’t want to engage.
  • Lack of production quality. Far too many books are published without proper editing and formatting. Many covers are clearly not professionally done. “Never judge a book by its cover” applies to everything but books.
  • Lack of quality writing. I do not want to sound harsh, but while many well-written books don’t gain traction, there are also many poorly-written books on the market. These books can have two very negative impacts. One, they crowd the market. Two, they can leave readers with a wrong impression about self-published authors.

Where am I on this journey?

Here is a snapshot of where I am as of 11/25/2022. I included reviews, as I feel they are a critical part of the sales process (I will talk about that in another blog post).

Book one is almost halfway to that elusive 10,000 mark. I am not sure it will reach that (usually, 80% of sales are in the first year), but we will see. I should also mention that book one had 20,000+ free downloads during a Bookbub Feature deal (another blog topic). That certainly boosted sales for books two and three.

The reason I wanted to show this chart is not to brag or boast about my success. I am hoping that sharing my success gives me a measure of credibility around these topics. I am not an expert, but I am effective enough to navigate the incredibly complicated and intimidating world of self-publishing.

What next?

Next week, I plan to share what I think are the critical aspects of effectively publishing and marketing a self-published book. See you then! And please, feel free to comment below!

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64 Comments on “Let’s get started…

  1. What absolutely blew my mind was the ability to get such a high quality audiobook out with self publishing. Interested to hear about that process at some point!

  2. Good morning!
    I introduce myself, my name is Alba Martínez Vila, a 30-years-old translator who is hooked on Exile. So, I do not know if you had some thought on translating and adapting this story to Spanish. But if you are open to the idea, I will be honored to be considered as a candidate. If you need any of my contact information, references, or whatever information you need, please let me know and I will send you right away.

    Thank you for reading this email, I do not know if this is the right way of contacting you. I apologize if this is not the case.

    I am looking forward to reading from you.
    Alba Martínez Vila.

  3. This was a fascinating read! The author’s perspective brought new dimensions to the topic. I wonder how others view this issue. What are your thoughts?

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