Monday, November 10, 2014

Can Self Published Authors Make Money?

My guest this week is Indie author, Liz Schulte. There's a great deal of hype around the issue of self publishing. Much of it is opinion, based on emotion, not fact. Liz's straight forward approach to the business of self publishing deals with information backed up with indisputable facts. She not only shares her personal financial records, but also offers some excellent advice for would-be writers. If you are considering becoming an indie author, I believe you will find her post both fascinating and helpful. Welcome to Book Blather, Liz. 

Hello. My name is Liz Schulte and I am a self-published author of mystery and paranormal romance.  I have been publishing for around three years and this past year (in June) I became a full-time writer.

I find when I tell people that they tend to think it is because I am married and have another means of support, but that isn’t true. I am single, I have mortgage, and I have two dogs. I am living on my writing income 100%.

Marilee asked me to share with you guys my story about my journey to being a full-time writer. I have been thinking a lot about this, and I think the best way is to first explain a few misconceptions I had and I see other new writers coming into this with, and then I will hit you with my numbers for all three years.

1.    So-and-so author did it this way, so it will work exactly the same for me. False. It is important to remember that everyone’s story in self-publishing or any form of publishing is different. What works for one person may not work for others. It is always good to research and know what others are doing, but if it doesn’t impact your sales, try something different. Find your market.

2.    One book will make me rich. False. Very few people release one book and skyrocket to fame and glory. Very few writers will ever skyrocket to fame and glory. Yes, some do it, but most don’t. Look at any artist industry: music, acting, art, etc. There are three types of people: the elite standouts, people who make a living, and the rest (the majority) who work day jobs. It is the reality of the industry. Making your place in this industry is hard work. It isn’t a 9-5 job. I work all day and most nights every single day of the week. All other aspects of my life have suffered in order for me to get here. It takes dedication and determination beyond anything your non-writer (muggles) friends and family will think is reasonable.

3.    I am an excellent writer and I don’t need to hone my craft. (This one is going to hurt.) False. It is great to have confidence, but no one’s first book is ever their best—nor should it be. Everyone needs an editor, and everyone should continue to study and grow as a writer. If you are not willing to do those two things, you probably aren’t going to last very long.

Now for the numbers.
**Note: All numbers are before taxes, and I always have travel, conference, and professional membership expenses, but I do not consider them a must-have for publication so I am not including them here.

2011: 2 Books published - Earnings- $462.67; Expenses (advertising and production) - $2591.13 NET LOSS

2012: 3 Books published and one short story (total of 5 books and a short story for sale) - $61,102; Expenses (advertising and production) - $8916.39

2013 (so far): 4 Books published (total of 9 books and a short story for sale) -  $100,987.24; Expenses (advertising and production) - $9111.56

These numbers probably lead you to a few questions. What are “production costs”? How do I advertise? And what changed between year one and year two?
1.    Production costs. Included in this are cover, editing, and formatting. A breakdown of my expenses in this category looks something like this: copy editor - $2.50 per page (250 words per page), proofreader - $1.00-1.25 per page (250 words per page), cover design (all formats) - $50-150, and formatting (all formats) - $70-100. These are the essential things you have to do to publish a book.

2.    Advertising. The truth to this is that I try everything at least once. Some work for me and some don’t. I have had the best success with Pixel of Ink (free), Bookbub (paid), and Ereader News Today (free and paid). Blog tours are great for growing a fan base and improving your SEO, but I have never noticed a huge jump in sales from them.
3.    The majority of the money I made in year two was made toward the end of the year. The factor that changed was that I published the third book in a series and made the first book free then ran ads with the three places mentioned above. It gave my books and series the boost they needed to get noticed. I don’t recommend using free books or having sales when you only have one or two books out. It is best to wait until you have multiple books so you get more bang for your buck.

4.    More than anything—and I cannot stress this enough—write more books. Stop stalking your sales, returns, ranking, and reviews and write.

This has been my experience with self-publishing. I am happy to talk to anyone who has questions. You can reach me at:
Twitter: @LizSchulte

1 comment:

  1. Hey Liz—great blog. I appreciate that you laid out how you achieved your success, and sharing your numbers and how you achieved them is inspiring. As an editor, I appreciate that you included editing as part of the "must have" of publishing. I'm copying and pasting the blog to a file so I can read it any time I need inspiration!