Self-publishing! It’s been the buzz word in the publishing world for quite some time, as authors, editors, agents and more debate just where the future of publishing is heading. To help us all figure it all out, we'll be spotlighting various self-publishing heavy hitters — including authors, editors and industry professionals — here on the RT blog each month with our new Self-Pub Like a Pro column.
So what’s really going on behind the curtain? Author Beverley Kendall recently conducted a comprehensive survey to find out just that, and the results were surprising and illuminating. We got in touch with Beverley to find out more.
What are the top three most important takeaway points from your survey?
My first takeaway from the results of the survey is that self-publishing definitely isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme. It requires hard work and being successful in it takes time.
My second takeaway was all the things the higher-earning authors had in common. It became very clear to me that there were certain things that just plain worked when it comes to self-publishing. Things like tapping into the popularity of certain genres like fiction, and more specifically romance. It also became quite obvious that series are extremely popular with readers and a free book is a very enticing way to introduce an author to a reader. These are several of the things that have been proven to work.
My third takeaway was that self-published authors are doing even better than I anticipated. If 30 percent of authors had made more than $10,000, I would have thought overall, we were doing great. That it was as high as 48 percent was really surprising.
Why did you decide to run the survey?
It was after reading Steve Zacharius’ Huffington Post entry on self-publishing, that I decided to do the survey. I felt he conceded, yes there have been some breakout stars, but they are few and far between—that they are the exceptions. I knew that I was making a comfortable living self-publishing and I’ve never hit any of the lists nor have I been approached by any publishers. I knew other authors in the same boat and wanted to write a post to say just that, success in self-publishing isn’t the exception everyone is trying to make it out to be. Then I decided to do the survey and see whether it supported what I believed.
What is the most misunderstood conception about self-publishing, that you think your survey debunked.
I hope the survey debunked the misconception that only the top few are making any money self-publishing. And for those who thought it was an easy way to make money and didn’t require a lot of work and discipline, I hope the survey debunked that too.
What would be your advice to an author self-publishing who’s only sold a few copies?
The first thing I would tell them is keep writing and get more books out. Then I would advise them to reevaluate their cover and their blurb. Make sure it’s professional in appearance and fits the genre. I would also tell them to keep their finger on the pulse of the market. And that’s not simply a matter of what’s popular and what’s selling, but what’s working in terms of marketing and promotion.
Tell us about the methodology of the survey, specifically how it was self-selecting, and what that means in terms of your results.
It is a self-selecting survey, which basically means the respondents volunteered their information. Most surveys like this will be self-selecting as if would be very difficult to capture this kind of information otherwise.
Does that mean perhaps the authors doing better were more inclined to participate as opposed to those who weren’t? That’s entirely possible. But I don’t believe that takes away from the most important thing the results convey, which is to highlight and underscore the commonalities of those authors in the higher-earning ranges.
The survey goes over genres, in terms of popularity, and things like the impact of having a series and how free books can attract new readers. It also goes over the importance of professional covers and proper editing, as well as emphasizing the importance of backlist.
In a nutshell the survey makes it clear that self-publishing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. When done right, self-publication is much more work than going the traditional route.
What do you see happening with self-publishing in the near future?
I see more hybrid authors emerging and traditional boilerplate contracts either drastically altering or being done away with entirely. My biggest hope is that we’ll see the end of things like non-compete clauses and (cross my fingers) in the not-so-distant future the producer of the work is not the one getting the smallest percentage of the earning pie. Self-publishing, as difficult as it can be, is currently the only method of publication in which an author can actually get that.