Ten years ago today I self-published my first book, End of Mae. Wonder what it’s really like to be a self published author? Here are my facts and figures. Want to see where I started? To celebrate, End of Mae is free from June 1-5. Find that here.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of being part of the Self-Publishing Your Novel: Critical Steps panel at BaltiCon and I realized some things. First, I was about to hit that 10 year mark. Second, as I watched the explosion of questions in chat, people want information. And with 59 independently published books out in the last decade (ebooks and print), I have a few tips.
I was in nine panels over the last week and the self-publishing one last night was the busiest. The questions were all excellent. We ran over time with things unanswered. Everything from layout, taxes, royalties, printers, software… we just couldn’t get to it all. I was excited because I got to share some of the new things Amazon has coming up, like POD hardbacks.
It was also a lot of fun. This is one of the topics I love and I can fill hours talking about it. Because there was too much to squeeze into that short panel time, I plan to start doing regular, open Q&As starting in June. As soon as I have that set up, I’ll post details here.
But today I’m thinking back to where it all started: in 2011, I published End of Mae on the last day of May. Yes, I loved using puns as titles from the get-go. Originally the book was called The SilverJinx. The one remaining copy of The SilverJinx in existence is in the photo. For a first book, it did great. To date it has 30 reviews with an average 4 star rating. Yes, it took 10 years to organically gather 30 reviews. But what about the money?
End of Mae is my fifth best-seller, not including Space & Time magazines in that. In 10 years it sold 73 copies to net me a whopping $65 in royalties. But before you quit publishing in disgust, I want to show you my last decade of sales in a graph.
In all, I have earned $2,689.61. This doesn’t account for direct sales at signings, but that still wouldn’t add up to more than $3k altogether. Obviously, this is not enough to quit the day job. If I average that sum over the entire span of time, I have earned about $1.36 per day. But there is a bright spot. The good news is when I have earned these royalties.
You’ll notice on the graph that for most of the ten years I made lackluster sales. This is normal when you get started. You can’t build a writing career selling to friends and family, but they will be your first customers. The people who make it big off the first book are the outliers, and even then they often already have a platform built up doing something else.
It wasn’t until 2020 that my sales started picking up to even be worth counting. This makes me happy, because when I am doing this post ten years from now, I hope I’m earning a comfortable living with my words. But honestly, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is joy. In ten years, I know I will be doing what I love, whatever the income looks like. If I am successful, I can be doing it more comfortably.
So where am I now? A long, long way from that afternoon in Australia when I held my first book in my hands. While I still consider myself independently published, I have a specialty press (Yuriko Publishing LLC) which now publishes Space and Time magazine. Kraken Fever and Mark My Words are both published with Yuriko Publishing. In 2018, I was the only indie published book that made Bram Stoker Awards® finalist that year with my novella Bitter Suites. Since then, I’ve wracked up a nice collection of awards and honors.
I believe there is a place for independent publishing. While it isn’t for everyone, it does serve a segment of authors and readers that thrive on the creative freedom. There will always be a place for publishers because not everyone is willing or able to take on the daunting workload of self-publishing. For those that are, I am happy to offer whatever knowledge I’ve gathered.
Like anything, it’s a cooperative effort. If I can help someone else get a step up they are producing better books, faster. This boosts public respect for independently published books in general—mine and yours.
Right now I’m organizing my notes. Soon I’ll be announcing some free classes and open Q&As so I can pass on what I’ve learned as well as learn from other writers on this path. The past week with StokerCon and BaltiCon has been enlightening and I am excited to get to work on new things.