This is not a post against self publishing.
I love self publishing.
But all of my self published books failed.
And because they failed I had to find other ways to be able to keep writing.
If I didn't fail so miserably at self publishing you would probably not be reading this right here.
I would probably never even have started a blog.
I have now self published 8 books.
And as of writing this I make less than $100 a month with all of my books combined.
But I will keep self publishing.
Because I just love writing.
And even if it will never work for me I don't really care.
Because it enabled me to do so many things.
I had to find other ways to make ends meet.
And now I do so many other cool things I never want to miss in my life ever again.
But enough about how self publishing changed my life.
Let's talk about a few things that no one usually tells you about self publishing...
The average ebook makes something like $300 in total.
Yapp, that's right $300.
Maybe a few hundred more.
Maybe a few hundred less.
But it doesn't really matter that much anyway because that's the average. And not the median.
By definition the average also includes the bestselling author who sold tens of thousands or maybe even millions of copies.
So most books probably make a lot less than $300...
If you don't have an audience, then no one is going to end up buying your books.
If no one knows you, then no one is going to buy your books.
It's as simple as that.
There are millions of books out there already.
And you're competing with the best of the best out there.
But more on this in a bit.
And while I write this post right here there are probably thousands of new ebooks being published on Amazon.
Organic book discovery is pretty much dead.
Just like organic reach on Facebook is dead.
Maybe organic book discovery worked when there were just a few thousand books on platforms like Amazon.
But right now it just doesn't work anymore.
There's just too much stuff out there.
Again, if no one knows your name, if no one knows who you are, well then people will simply not buy any of your books.
No matter how good your books are.
No matter how great your cover is.
Or your title.
Or the story.
No one will even notice that you wrote a book.
But don't get me wrong here.
I'm not saying this to scare you.
I'm just trying to paint a more realistic picture of the whole self publishing industry and the dream the self publishing industry is selling...
So why should you even listen to me?
You don't have to listen to me.
As a matter of fact you should never listen to me.
You should always get out there, do stuff and see it for yourself.
I'm just talking about my own experiences here.
So maybe I'm just a really, really bad writer.
Still, if you don't have an audience, then no one will end up buying your books.
And people will never know whether you're a good writer or a bad writer.
And I'm not talking about an audience of a few thousand people here.
I'm talking about hundreds of thousands if not millions of people...
But what about all the best selling authors out there?
What about them?
What about all the Joanna K. Rowlings out there who appeared on the scene and became instant millionaires? Without having an audience?
Alright. You got me there. Maybe...
Joanne K. Rowling wrote for many, many years before she got any success. She's far away from an overnight success.
Her books were rejected by dozens of publishers. Just like most of the successful authors out there.
And if the stuff on the Internet is true she also had to live off of social welfare for quite a while.
Again, I'm not saying it's impossible.
It always depends on the price you're willing to pay and what you're willing to sacrifice...
# You need a tribe
So how do you build an audience of a few million people if you're a complete nobody?
I could tell you that you have to show up over and over again.
And all of the stuff that I'm usually preaching.
And even though this is true and I still believe in it, it will only get you so far.
Here's the truth...
You can't build a million people strong audience just by yourself and putting yourself out there over and over.
You have to build a tribe.
You have to build a tribe of people who are active in a similar field like you are.
People who have a similar audience.
And then you've gotta bounce around your audiences.
Invite each other to your podcasts.
Promote each others work.
And help each other out.
That's the exact same thing people like James Altucher, Gary Vee, Tim Ferriss, Ryan Holiday, Seth Godin and all the other folks out there are doing all the time.
That's what all the online marketing gurus are doing that are trying to sell you $1000+ online courses.
They share their audiences with each other.
I even wrote a blog post about it a few years ago.
I called it the content mafia...
So if you want a huge audience you've gotta build your own content mafia.
You've gotta build your own tribe.
So how do you start building your own tribe?
Study the past.
Take a look at what they did to get started.
But don't listen to me.
I'm really bad at this.
I never managed to build my tribe of fellow writers.
So just do your own research, take a look at how all the other successful people did it and then just do what they did...
# Editors & Designers
If you're self publishing your book you don't need a professional editor. Just like you don't need a professional cover designer. I know a lot of people will disagree with me here. And I can already tell you that they will have a stake in saying that this is not true.
Just like an editor will tell you that you absolutely need an editor to write a successful self published book.
Simply because they have to save their industry. And their jobs. They somehow have to make a living because it's just pretty damn hard these days to get a full time gig as an editor. So they have to create as many opportunities as possible.
And by telling you that you need a professional editor they create these opportunities...
So why don't you need an editor or a designer for a self published book?
Well, simply because if you don't have an audience, if no one is going to buy or read your book, then the best editor on the planet won't help you to get people to buy your book.
If no one is going to buy your book, then no one is going to read it. And if no one reads it, well then you also don't really need an editor...
The same holds true for a professional cover designer. Why? Because organic book discovery is dead. No one will even see your fancy cover.
The only scenario where it makes sense to hire a professional editor is when you already have a huge audience and you know that you're going to sell tens of thousands of copies and will be making tens of thousands of dollars.
Then it might make sense to hire an editor. And someone who creates a professional cover for you.
But for most of the self published books and authors it's a waste of money.
Oh and by the way...
If an editor tells you that you absolutely need a professional editor to write a successful book, then send them your script and tell them that they'll get a cut of the book sales but no pay.
That should tell you whether or not an editor believes in your book, your story and the future of your book. If he or she says no, then you know that you will probably also not really need a professional editor.
After all, if someone is trying to convince you that you need their services, why should you carry all the risk?
# Passive income
95%. That's probably the percentage of people who will waste their time (and money) writing ebooks. Sure, it's not only about the money. But most people do it because they think writing an ebook will help them to generate passive income.
That they will be able to make hundreds if not thousands of dollars every single month in passive income. That's what the self publishing industry wants us to believe in.
But that's far away from the truth.
There's no such thing as passive income with ebooks.
You have to constantly show up and promote your book (and yourself) everywhere. Over and over again.
You need to have a super strong tribe of people who invite you onto their podcasts with tens of thousands of listeners.
You need to build your own audience on your on blog and pretty much on every other platform out there.
If you don't promote your book, your sales will die.
As simple as that.
Just like I said before...
Organic book discovery on platforms such as Amazon is pretty much dead.
There's just too much stuff out there.
And every single day tens of thousands of new books are added.
So making organic sales is basically impossible.
Unless of course you have a huge audience that catapults you into the top 10.
An audience that's constantly growing so you stay up there.
So how do you generate passive income through ebooks then?
You have to constantly show up.
Put out blog posts. Videos. And be on other people's podcasts and build your tribe.
And this is probably even harder than writing the book itself.
I thought writing my first book was already the hardest thing I ever did.
Until I had to promote it...
Platforms will always tell you that today everybody can write and publish a book. Or record and publish an online course. Or whatever the next big thing is. But here's the problem. These platforms don't really care how much stuff you sell. Because they're in the business of selling dreams.
They make money with every single book (or online course) being sold. And because they are platforms and their costs don't really increase when they have a few more books on their platforms, they don't really care about how many books you sell. They care about reaching critical mass.
Because once they've reached critical mass, they'll get all the best selling authors onto their platforms. And that's where they can make the big bucks. After all, they get 30% of every book sold. Sometimes even more...
Here's something you probably didn't know...
The more books, the more online courses or the more whatever is on a platform, the better. Because then people will pay for reach. Then people will pay to get their books featured. Then people will pay to get their ads shown. Then people will pay to get their courses featured.
The more people on a platform, the better for the platform.
And by the way, you can now even promote your ebook with ads on Amazon.
Which is proof that organic book discovery is pretty much dead. Unless, you have an audience of course...
Here's something most people tend to forget. People's bandwidth and time is limited. We all only have a few hours a day that we can spend reading. So just because there are more and more books out there doesn't it mean that people will read more books.
No, they will read just about the same amount of books and spend the same amount of time they did before. Simply because we all just have a few hours a day. And we're just not able to spend a lot of time reading. At least most of us.
And the stuff people are going to read is the stuff from people they already know. From people they already trust. And naturally, we all gravitate to the best of the best.
So if you think you're not competing with the best of the best out there, think again.
This is your competition.
Those are the folks who own your potential reader's attention right now.
And those are the folks you'll be competing with...
# Building your "personal brand"
You can't build a brand on top of a 99 cents ebook. Or on an ebook you're giving away for free. Simply because no one is going to read that book.
How do I know?
I don't know.
The only thing I know is that I downloaded probably a few hundred ebooks for 99 cents or even for free over the years and I only read the ones from people I already knew. And I would probably also have paid up to $10 for those books...
You can't really build a brand on a 99 cents ebook anymore.
Maybe it worked a few years ago when writing and publishing an ebook was still something special.
But today, everybody can write a book.
That's why basically everybody has a book...
# Do what no one else is doing
This is the only way.
So how do you find something that no one else is doing?
I don't know.
Just do something that most people would never do.
Do what people are scared of doing.
For example publish your books on Medium.
That's what I did.
As a matter of fact I published books there so many times that I can't even remember how many times.
More than 20,000 people ended up reading them...
So what should you do instead?
What should you do instead of self publishing books?
I don't know.
But I guess the most important thing is that you don't listen to me.
And that you just get out there, do your thing and see what happens.
Maybe I'm wrong.
Maybe I'm right.
But the only way you'll ever be able to figure out whether it'll work for you is to do it.
Doing things is always the best thing you can do.
So should you even write an ebook?
I don't know.
But if you love writing, if you always wanted to write a book, then you should absolutely write a book.
Writing a book is great.
And it's a challenge.
For me writing (and finishing) my first book was probably one of the biggest challenges in my life.
And it changed my life forever.
But not necessarily financially...
So if you're up for it, if you always wanted to write a book, then you absolutely have to write a book.
But don't do it for the wrong reasons.
Do it for the right reasons.
So should you try to find a publisher instead of self publishing?
I don't know.
I have never sent any of my books to a publisher.
It seemed to be a waste of time for me.
So instead I just kept creating.
And doing tons of other things.
So instead I just kept putting my stuff out there.
Does it work?
Do people read my stuff?
I don't know.
Did you just read the whole thing?
You tell me...