Self-publishing is very much the flavour of the month, but the whole industry is awash with rumour and speculation, with very few hard facts. This book attempts to fill the gap a little, if not with hard facts, then at least with a few statistics. In February 2012, the authors sent questionnaires to 1,007 self-publishing authors and this rather slim volume is the result: an assessment of what works and what doesn't for authors publishing and marketing their own books.
Of course, a
certain amount of caution is in order. The respondents were
self-selected, for one thing, although it's hard to know how else to
choose - randomly pulling names from Amazon, perhaps. But it's possible
that these particular authors were willing to participate because they
were more successful, or simply more vocal or more committed to
For new authors looking to this survey for
reassurance, it's not easy to find. Successful authors were more likely
to be women, more likely to have a degree, had been writing for longer,
wrote more per day, had more books for sale. None of these are things an
individual can do much about. Romance was the most successful genre,
but again, a committed fantasy writer is hardly likely to switch. But
looking at the figures more closely shows just how misleading statistics
can be. Almost half of romance writers in the survey had previously had
a traditional publishing contract; in other words, they were
professional writers with an established fan-base who simply switched to
self-publishing to make more money (and perhaps to have more control
over their writing).
In the detail of the report is quite a lot
of meat about what might actually help to sell self-published books.
Getting professional help with editing, proof-reading and cover art, for
one thing, and also the fairly obvious one - get plenty of reviews
(although paid reviews are not effective). Getting the word out, whether
by blog or Twitter or via email, is also important. There are some
useful ideas here, and although there's nothing wildly original, it's
good to see some numbers rather than speculation or anecdote.
is a very short book but for serious self-publishers it's a must read.
There's a mass of useful information, and although some of it is
discouraging (half the respondents earned less than $500 in the previous
year), there are plenty of helpful tips, and the underlying message is
simple: keep writing, be professional, build your fan base and you can
earn money from your books. I would have liked more graphs and charts,
and more raw data instead of analysis, and perhaps a lower price for
such a modest volume. However, for those squinting at the graphs on a
Kindle, they are all available in an easier-to-read format on the
authors' website. Three stars.