Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Self-publishing wake-up call No. 761



Hey. Wanna get depressed? Read this.

The fine people at Written Word Media — who must be associated with one of the many marketing outfits I’ve used at one time or another — conducted a survey of indie authors with the aim of figuring out how some of them achieve “financial success.” For the purposes of the survey, they defined “Financially Successful Authors” (FSAs) as those earning $5000 or more per month.

Sounds pretty successful to me.

The rest of us are termed “Emerging Authors” (EAs), and we bring in $500 or less per month.

(There should be a category called “Pre-Emerging Authors,” who earn about $7.99 per month. That’s where I’d be sitting.)

Anyway, you can probably guess what kind of advice the survey yielded because you’ve heard it all before. Nothing to see here, folks, let’s keep it moving.

In short, the results conclude: Write a lot of books, have your cover professionally designed, hire a professional editor, use free promotions, and write in a popular genre.

That last one is the most depressing finding of all. The survey results feature a graph that shows you need to be writing in one of the big romance genres to have much of a shot at becoming an FSA. And if you look at poor, shunned literary fiction at the far left of the graph, you’ll see that there are no FSAs in that genre!

Basically, this survey flies in the face of everything I hold dear. That’s just ducky.

I’m still trying to synthesize these findings with something I read a couple of weeks ago, revealing that only 40 self-published writers “make money” on Amazon. That means, according to a recent New York Times article, selling a million or more copies over the last five years. At just over three bucks a copy, that’s not far from the FSA definition when you do the math, so it’s hard to tell how many people are included in the survey. Maybe all 40 of the NYT success stories.

So what does it all boil down to?

You got it: We’re not in this for the money.

13 comments on “Self-publishing wake-up call No. 761

  1. francisguenette
    February 25, 2016

    Small is beautiful and all of that. I think the reality that pouring our heart and soul into our work, spending countless hours making it is sharp and bright and as perfect as we can manage will not have us hitting the big time is one of those processes we go through. It’s like growing up as an author, I suppose. The hype and the gimmicks are seemingly endless. After 4 years in the self-publishing game and 4 books out there all I want is off the hype train.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 25, 2016

      It’s exhausting, that’s for sure. More and more I think the best strategy for non-FSAs (like me!) is to seek out micro-markets and build small but loyal readerships. Ultimately — maybe — they’ll branch out like LinkedIn networks and expand.

      At least that’s what I’m telling myself these days …

  2. kingmidget
    February 25, 2016

    Selling a million copies over the last five years would eliminate most traditionally published writers as well. How about we establish a more realistic idea of success for writers of any kind.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 25, 2016

      Hey, good point. Especially literary writers, who almost always have to teach or something to support themselves.

      Same as it ever was …

  3. lgould171784
    February 25, 2016

    As one of those “pre-emerging” authors, what can I do? Literary fiction is what I do and what I like. If I were trying to do this full-time, it would be a job, not the fun hobby it is.

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 25, 2016

      Yeah, I’m in the same boat as you. I can’t write romance novels! I mean, I don’t want to write romance novels. It’d kill my soul to have a book out with an oiled male torso on the cover …

  4. The Opening Sentence
    February 25, 2016

    Is there anything below pre-emerging authors? A sort of proto-species or literary equivalent of a single-celled organism. I’d like to know what to call myself if anyone asks.

  5. John W. Howell
    February 25, 2016

    I knew that (not in it for the money) but nice to have it repeated. (yeah right)

    • Kevin Brennan
      February 26, 2016

      We have to be realistic, I suppose … Noooooooooo!

  6. sknicholls
    February 29, 2016

    I’m going to focus on having fun with what I do. Very fortunate to be in a position to be able to do that. If I had to depend on my writing income to live, I’d be living like Ghandi.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 1, 2016

      True. It’s nice to buy a sandwich or something every now and then, paid for by one of my books …

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This entry was posted on February 25, 2016 by in Publishing and tagged , , .
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