Can You Make Money From Self Publishing?

The question of can you make money from self publishing gets asked a lot. In the past, the answer has been a clear no. As self publishing has gained a more prominent profile in recent years the answer has changed to possibly yes but how much money can you make?. Before we answer this question, we must first understand what self publishing is.

What is Self Publishing?

Self-publishing is a type of book publishing, where a writer takes on the whole process of editing and publishing their own book. This might sound hectic but self publishing gives you the control and rights over your content, which you would otherwise lose if you sign up with a publishing house.

This means self publishing authors handle editing, cover design, cover art, and everything else. You can ofcourse hire an editor and illustrator for the cover art. However editing and finalizing the book is just one part and the second more important part is getting the book published.

Once you have completed your book, you will have two options. You can either go for the physical publication of your book or you can release the book in ebook format. Both formats have their own pros and cons, which we are not going to discuss in detail in this article.

One major difference between both formats is warehousing and storage. With physical books you will incur the extra cost of printing, storage and shipping the book. Whereas with ebook, you can avoid all of these costs but then you run the risk of lower sales because nothing is stopping the buyers from sharing the ebook with their friends.

The Distribution Channel

If you go for complete self publishing, without using any distribution channel, then you will also incur 100% of the cost of printing, storage and shipping. Whatever you earn will be your revenue.

On the other hand, if you choose a distribution platform such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing or Sellfy, then the platform will take on the process of printing, storage and distribution and in return, you will incur fulfilment costs. Your income, if you use a distribution channel, will be in the form of royalty.

Negotiating a royalty with distribution channels is a different topic but based on market research the royalty for self publishing is under 35% of the selling price.

So if your book costs $10 to the buyer, you`ll make $3.5 if you are being offered 35%. Naturally, the next question is how much can you earn?

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How Much Can You Earn From Self Publishing?

To be completely honest and to the point. If you think that self publishing will allow you to retire early and enjoy a holiday at your dream destination, then you may be overestimating it a bit. While self publishing will create an income stream, in most cases it will not be a lot.

Why? For this, we need to understand how it works.

In most cases, when you publish your book the sales will depend entirely on your networking and marketing. If you have a good marketing campaign for your book, then you can sell a lot of books but if your marketing campaign is not strong, then your sales volume is going to suffer.

Secondly, book sales are high when the book is first published. This is because of the hype and marketing but it has been seen that as time passes, the sale of books goes down over its lifetime. There may even be months where you don’t sell a single book.

So you are not going to have a uniform and continuous sales stream. Book sales are most likely going to drop after the first few months unless you can counter this with an active strategy.

The Math of Self Publishing a Book

You are most likely going to invest something while your book is being completed. You may need to pay for the editor or graphic designer. You may need to bear the cost of listing the book on Amazon or getting it published. In any case, there is going to be some outflow before you start selling your book.

It is therefore going to be important to calculate how much you have invested into your book and how many units or books you need to sell to recover that investment before you start making a profit. In other words, you need to calculate the breakeven number of books that you need to sell before you start making a profit.

The formula for breakeven has to be adjusted for this purpose. Take your total monetary investment into the book and divide it by the expected net profit per unit. The expected net profit per unit can easily be calculated by taking the selling price of your book and subtracting any per unit variable costs such as storage or shipping.

For instance if your total investment is $500 and the selling price of your book is $10 and the variable costs are $5 then simple divide $500 by $5 and your breakeven point will be 100 books. This means that you need to sell 100 books to recover your investment and start making real profit.

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Republishing is a very common strategy employed by many authors. This is a good way to increase the lifecycle of your books. Once you have published a book, a couple of years down the line you can republish the 2nd edition and so on, of the book with updated content that can perhaps target a wider audience base.

Republishing, brings the book back into the market and increases its shelf life, while requiring minimal efforts.

Bottom Line on Self Publishing…

There is no question that the amount of people doing this is small but the market size is growing. Self publishing is a great way to publish your own book but do not bank on the income because it is going to be small, slow to accumulate and irregular unless you have a very strong marketing campaign or if you are a motivational speaker, in which case you`ll be promoting your book in your talks and are likely going to sell a few copies at the end of each session.

Main Image Source: Pixabay

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Dave P
Dave P
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