I've self published 9 books over the past four years.
Self publishing isn't anything special anymore.
Still, I wanted to talk a little bit about my experience.
Simply because you only hear about the people who have a hell lot of success self publishing books.
You never hear about the people who don't have success self publishing books.
And I'm one of them.
I never had any success self publishing any of my books...
The average ebook generates around $300. In total. And this is the average. Not the median. That means that it's probably a lot less. Because the $300 average also includes the bestsellers. So the average is probably around $100. If not less. So when you hire an editor and someone to design your cover you'll basically be losing money. Personally, I make less than $100 with all my self published books a month combined.
You don't get any organic book sales from Amazon. Simply because there are millions of books on Amazon already. On pretty much every topic out there. That means that no one will magically find out about you or your book on Amazon. Ever. The only sales you'll ever be able to make come from people who already know about you...
# YOU NEED A HUGE AUDIENCE
The only way people will ever end up buying your self published books is when they already know you. When you already have a huge audience. And when I say huge audience I'm not talking about a few thousand or tens of thousands of people. I'm talking about hundreds of thousands if not millions of people. And only when you have that huge of an audience will your initial audience help you to get more exposure on Amazon that might lead to sales from people who don't know you already. If you don't have an audience and don't get a few hundred or thousand sales under your belt through your followers, posting your book on Amazon won't lead to any additional sales.
# BESTSELLER STATUS
Almost all of my books had bestseller status at one point in time. So how come I barely make any money with them? Here's the truth... Everyone gets bestseller status on Amazon. You just need a to sell a few copies. Why? Because Amazon isn't dumb. They know that people will post the tag “Bestseller” status on their Facebook profile or wherever and more people might buy some copies. But at the end of the day bestseller status doesn't mean a damn thing. All you need is a maybe 50-60 sales of a 99 cent ebook and you'll get bestseller status (depending on your category). By the way, most of the time when people post something on Facebook where they say they've reached #1 on Amazon, they've reached #1 in the free category. And not in the paid category...
# 99 CENT EBOOKS
When you sell an ebook for 99 cents on Amazon you only get 35% (above $2.99 you get 70%). That means you'll get something like 35 cents whenever you sell a 99 cents ebook. Which is less than 30 cents after tax. So to be able to make $3000 you'd have to sell 30,000 copies a month. Or something like that. I'm not good at math. Not even the most popular books on Amazon sell that many copies a month. If you can sell 5-10 copies a day you'll already be in the top 50 in most categories. By the way, I'm talking about non fiction books here. I don't know how it looks like for love stories... :)
After a launch your sales go completely flat. If you don't promote it consistently, if you don't show up on podcasts with tens of thousands of listeners, if you don't write for huge publications your book sales will basically die. Unless of course you have such a huge audience that grows every single month by a few thousand followers a day. Then it's a whole different story...
# PRICES RACE TO THE BOTTOM
Because there are so many ebooks on Amazon people drop their prices. What happens when people realize they're not able to sell any copies is that they panic and drop their prices. Or they even offer them for free. That's why almost everybody sells their ebooks for 99 cents. And what happens is that pretty much no one reads those books anymore. Whenever you try to sell a book for more than that, it basically stops working. Well, actually not even selling an ebook for 99 cents really work. Because everybody does it. Unless of course you have an existing audience and people who trust you and know that your stuff is good. Then it's a whole different story.
# EDITOR & COVER
Most people will tell you that you need an editor and a professional cover. I don't believe in that. I never used an editor or someone to design a cover. Maybe that's the reason why most of my books aren't successful. Maybe not. Probably not. But if you want to give it a try, feel free to pay an editor hundreds or thousands of dollars to edit a book that no one is going to read. Again, the most important thing is to have an audience. If you don't have an audience your cover or an editor won't make a difference (of course an editor or a designer will tell you the opposite). And when you have an audience, when people know that your stuff is good, when they know you already they will buy your book. No matter what your cover looks like... or whether or not you've used an editor...
# BOOK PROMOTION
It's so crazy that there are even websites out there that charge you to promote your 99 cents ebook to other people so that you might maybe finally be able to sell a few of your 99 cent ebooks. Book discovery through Amazon is dead. Just like book discovery through 99 cents ebook promotion platforms is pretty much dead...
# THE TOP 0.1%
So how come some people are able to sell thousands if not tens of thousands of ebooks for $10 or more? Well, it's very simple. Those are the folks who already have a huge audience. And they have an audience of people who trust them and know that their stuff is good. So they're willing to pay the price. On the other hand if no one really knows who you are, it's just really, really hard to write an ebook and position yourself just with that ebook in the top 0.1%. Sure, every once in a while one out of a million pulls it off. But for most of us it's just not going to happen.
# BUILDING YOUR BRAND
A lot of people tell you that you should write a book to build your brand. I think this is complete B.S. Simply because an ebook will only help your brand when you already have a brand. When you already have a huge audience. When you're already giving talks on stage. When you have fans. And a proper business. But leveraging a 99 cents self published ebook if that's your biggest achievement so far just doesn't work anymore (if it ever really worked). Because everybody out there does is...
Alright. So that's it for today.
Again, this is just my own personal experience and opinion.
I'm sure there are dozens of other people who will tell you the exact opposite.
Which is cool.
Just make sure you know their agenda.
I also don't want to discourage anyone.
If you feel like writing a book, write a book.
If you feel like you have a book deep down inside of you, get it out there.
You have to get it out there.
But don't expect too much.
Especially not financially...
So is self publishing dead?
I don't know.
But it's always good to know the game, its rules and its players before you start playing the game...
So why did I even write 9 books if it doesn't work for me and I don't make any money with it?
I don't know.
Maybe because I just like to write.
Or maybe so that one day I could write this post right here and you could hear from someone who isn't crushing it with self published ebooks...