E-publishing income?

editing_for_authors
Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

Status
Not open for further replies.

Cain

Wha, wer?
Registered
Joined
Jun 20, 2011
Messages
2
Reaction score
0

— Do no promotion.

That's my favourite bit. What he says makes a lot of sense, even if it's a lot of work. Enough to turn me into a short story writer...

It's also a reason OP should definitely publish his stuff, regardless of how little it might make in the short term.
 

James D. Macdonald

Your Genial Uncle
Absolute Sage
VPX
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
25,582
Reaction score
3,780
Location
New Hampshire
Website
madhousemanor.wordpress.com
How a book sells in the first week or the first month means nothing in this new world of unlimited electronic shelf space.
I suspect that in this brave new world the common fate of most ebooks will be the same as the common fate of most previous books: Ignored and forgotten.
 

veinglory

volitare nequeo
Staff member
Moderator
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 12, 2005
Messages
28,677
Reaction score
2,856
Location
right here
Website
www.veinglory.com
I think opening sales can still mean a hell of a lot. My ebooks make more in the first month than the next two years combined and that initial jolt is what makes the income they produce significant and useful to me.
 

Carradee

practical experience, FTW
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Sep 21, 2010
Messages
304
Reaction score
12
Location
Somewheresville
Website
mistiwolanski.com
But I wonder what serious college student has one to two extra hours a day.

…I did, when I was in college. Even when I worked part time—and on that semester where I was taking 15 credit hours across 7 classes. I had time.

Now, on to the OP's money question:

Personally, right now I make about 1/2 sales through Smashwords & distributors, 1/2 through Amazon. Granted, I do tell folks that Smashwords is my recommended retailer and explain why; and most of my non-Amazon sales are to buyers outside the US.

I've made most of my own covers (including that one that's my avatar). Here's my price breakdown:
Book A: free as web novel, $3.99 e-book.
Book B: $2.99 e-book.
Short story C-E: $0.99.
Short story F: free (but a new release; not yet free on Amazon).

I don't hit your $20 per month goal, though I have some solid reviews. (Note: None of my sales have been to in-person friends or family, most of whom don't know I've self-published.)

However, I'm also not worried about promo, just yet; I'm focusing on building a backlist.

I've participated in a few promo events, most of them things where I was approached by the event organizer; otherwise, I happened to spot the event info while doing something else.

I've submitted review copies (Smashwords coupons) to a few book bloggers to increase awareness. Many book bloggers seem to be a good 5 months backed up. There are a few other things I'm working on that, theoretically, should increase buyer awareness, but nothing I can announce yet.

Why am I going into so much detail? To demonstrate what I've done, which may or may not be influencing where I am.

Some folks do worse than I am, selling 0 copies. Some do way better than me out the gate, selling dozens or hundreds. There really is no way to predict your sales.

But my advice is still to try it. I would, in your shoes—but you might want to research the reasons not to self-publish first, to make sure you can live with the downsides.
 
Last edited:

Noah Body

Entertainment Ronin
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 21, 2008
Messages
2,799
Reaction score
375
Location
No Longer Styling in Shinjuku
I was mostly ignored by the traditional publishing industry with no proceeds from the endeavor in my checking account. Anticipate having about $20,000 in the account from 9 months of self-pub. For me, the choice is easy, but no one will every truly know which path is right for them unless they give both a whirl.

Of course, everyone's combat radius may vary.
 

Donna Brown

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Feb 6, 2011
Messages
119
Reaction score
14
Location
Texas
Website
www.deejaybrown.com
Not meaning to be rude, but it irks me when someone thinks he or she can just throw something up on Smashwords and earn extra money just like that because I have worked so hard to make sure my e-books are wonderful in any and all formats. I think this is one of the reasons that some people do not take self-publishers seriously.

I am also very curious about those of you who are earning several hundred dollars per month via e-books. Can you please expand upon your marketing techniques? Did you have a fan base in place before you published an e-book? Please share your secrets.
 

MysteryRiter

Murder isn't so bad...
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 3, 2011
Messages
1,719
Reaction score
325
I agree, Donna. :D Noah, you seem to be having great sales. Any promotional tips? You've got my attention.
 

shaldna

The cake is a lie. But still cake.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 12, 2009
Messages
7,485
Reaction score
896
Location
Belfast
Not meaning to be rude, but it irks me when someone thinks he or she can just throw something up on Smashwords and earn extra money just like that because I have worked so hard to make sure my e-books are wonderful in any and all formats. I think this is one of the reasons that some people do not take self-publishers seriously.

I also find myself exhausted when trying to explain to people that not everyone makes money self publishing, that it's not a get rich quick scheme and it takes actual work and actual talent.
 

Noah Body

Entertainment Ronin
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 21, 2008
Messages
2,799
Reaction score
375
Location
No Longer Styling in Shinjuku
I also find myself exhausted when trying to explain to people that not everyone makes money self publishing, that it's not a get rich quick scheme and it takes actual work and actual talent.
It does, and it's not a way to get rich quick--I should know, because I've been at it since late February and I'm not exactly putting a down payment on a Gulfstream yet.

How it worked for me: I've been around a long time, and have been playing the agent/editor/publishing game for a while. Very early this year (2011) I decided to pack it in temporarily and give the whole self-pub thing a whirl. I published two shorts, then a novel I'd had kicking around which had generated some request for fulls but had eventually been turned down. My initial covers sucked; I'm not a graphic artist, and while I'm an exceedingly visual person, I do not have the skills to manipulate images to mirror what I see with my mind's eye. I was fortunate in that I found a very good cover artist who works for cheap, and he was able to give me some good work for the products I had for sale so far.

Actual numbers posted below, from my royalty statements. If anyone wants to have a discussion about how some writers obfuscate their income and blow it up to make themselves look more important, that's great--but my numbers are true blue, so I trust no one will be using me as an example of any nefarious intent.

I started out pretty well, from what I've been able to find on the innerwebs. First month royalties (and I'll only disclose Amazon here, since B&N and Smashwords don't even come close) came out to be $5.60.

Added a military-on-zombie thriller set in NYC in March, and it took off very, very quickly--but I still screwed the pooch with that one to a degree, because even though I had a good cover and a fairly-rockin' product description, I did something that casts a pall over all self-pubbers: I tossed it into the wild without it having been properly vetted. I've been lucky in that most reviewers overlooked that in favor of what they tell me is a strong story that moves along at a breakneck pace. Personal tastes might differ, but the coin tells the story: March royalties were $65.95.

A military-action novella was released in April. Readership was 36 sold, so it didn't add a lot to the bottom line. But it did drive home the fact that people want zombie stuff. April royalties: $593.93.

May: no new releases. Raised prices--was operating at "the Locke point" of .99 before. Royalties: $1,096.71.

June: released a follow-on zombie novella that picks up where the first novel left off, at the initial offer price of .99, very late in the month. 348 copies sold. Royalties: $3,321.44.

July: Added the thriller in my sig line at the end of the month. Did not make any appreciable impact in royalties. $3,182.52.

August: Sales are receding. No new releases to bolster sales, but I do let folks know that a sequel to the first zombie novel is in the works. Release teasers every now and then to gauge the appeal, and it seems to be off the chart. $2509.51.

September: My avaricious eyes get all watery from tears of despair. Sales slump continues, but it's not just me--other authors are having the same problem, only the "big" names continue to super-elevate. Royalties: $1,733.83.

October: Still no new release yet, but work continues on the new zombie novel. Also made a decision to have the cover for one book redone by a different artist, one of the big names out there...for a big price. Subtract $500 from the earnings so far, and another $600+ for editorial. But it's a business, you have to pay to make money. Anticipated royalties: maybe $1,200 or so.

I'm told I'm wildly successful. For the first year, I'm presuming I'll make about $15,000 net, and from a small business perspective, profit is a fantastic thing.

What I do to make it work for me:

Pimp my work. Even if I'd sold all the above properties to a trad publisher, I doubt they'd be able to pimp my work better than I could. I blog, I tweet, I join mail lists, I do interviews on other people's blogs. I give away free books, not just ebooks, but paper too--I've spent about $150+ on postage alone sending books to reviewers and fans. I can't say I ever had a fanbase before--well, not since I stopped dressing like Huggy Bear while running a call girl ring--but it appears I do now. It's mildly humorous at the honorifics people assign me, and extremely embarrassing at the same time. (But it's not like the main title for the movie Fame has become my theme song or anything.)

I've never paid for advertising, though I could afford to pop an ad in the NYT Book Review magazine if I thought it would help (really, very reasonable--only twenty grand!), but I don't think it would, so I have not yet done so. I considered going to Comic Con and buying a table and tossing my books out, but laziness prevailed, plus I'd spend all my time dry-humping girls dressed up as super heroines, so it was fated to be waste of time from the start. Never bought a Facebook ad, or a Google ad, or any other kind of advertising presence. Everything I've done has been on the cheap: Wordpress blog, Facebook, Twitter, Triberr, Goodread, Author's Den. I beg and steal to get reviews--most have been good. I answer emails, be they good or bad, salutory or critical. And I continue to scour the web and tap other writers to find new ways to get the word out there. It's part of the job. No one else will do it for me. People who whine that this stuff takes away from writing have a certain point, but unless you blow one out of the park, no one in the traditional publishing world will do it for you either. It's a 100% fallacy that traditional publishing has some sort of magical fairy dust to sprinkle around. For those that disagree, I merely leave you to it. I'm not evangelical enough to press the fight.

One thing: Got several offers to have the zombie book picked up. I made some overtures as well, to Permuted Press, but they went unanswered. I was surprised to find some big names sending me messages on Facebook about the property, and that was gratifying, but also very annoying: after I'd done all the heavy lifting, I'm suddenly an attractive prospect. Stated contractual requirements that were beneficial to me, all but one publisher dropped out. Went with that one, but will not do it again. Future paper releases will be done by me.

You have to work at this, folks. And you have to be able to determine if the market will be able to absorb your work, and if that work can become a platform. I'm oh-so-weary of flesh eating zombies, but I know if I keep at it, it will become something of a money cow. So for now, I'll grind them out, because it's a market niche I can reach easily. Find one of those strong niches, and exploit it like hell. And do so using the appropriate Twitter hashtags.

Write.

Get editorial help.

Get a great cover.

Write a wonderful description--or pirate the skills of someone else to do it for you, which is my personal fave.

Publish.

Blog.

Tweet.

Repeat.

I'm no Konrath. I'm no Hocking, and I'm no Locke. I'm no Crouch, I'm no Sigler, Thomas, or Larson. I don't expect to start making $300,000 a year right off the bat.

But I could, one day. And that's why I chose this path. I like the control, and I work for the best guy on the planet: Me.

ETA: Even my worst-selling ebooks have not been "ignored or forgotten". They just don't sell very well. But they make more money as ebooks than they ever did as submissions to traditional publishers. Or on my hard drive, doing nothing.
 
Last edited:

MysteryRiter

Murder isn't so bad...
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Aug 3, 2011
Messages
1,719
Reaction score
325
Thank you for the advice, Noah!
 

thorjansen

Super Member
Registered
Joined
Oct 7, 2011
Messages
149
Reaction score
10
Location
Los Angeles, CA
Website
thesentinelsson.blogspot.com
Appreciate the explanation, Noah. Spells things out very clearly and cleanly, and I think it is solid, real-life information untainted by sensationalism that will be invaluable to those considering self-publishing.
 

Noah Body

Entertainment Ronin
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Nov 21, 2008
Messages
2,799
Reaction score
375
Location
No Longer Styling in Shinjuku
Appreciate the explanation, Noah. Spells things out very clearly and cleanly, and I think it is solid, real-life information untainted by sensationalism that will be invaluable to those considering self-publishing.
Remember, it appears my experience is somewhat different from the "masses" of folks who try this. I can't believe I'm not on the median, because I'm usually not this fortunate. :)
 

old cowboy

Registered
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Location
HOUSTON Area
I'm sorry if this sounds silly or shallow in any way, but... long story short, I'm a broke college student with a couple of completed YA manuscripts sitting on my harddrive taking up space. I was thinking of uploading some to Smashwords as a source of supplemental income. Even if it's 20 extra dollars a month or something, I do not really care. I am mostly interested in the type of money people have made from this venture. Yes, I enjoy writing and all, but I also happen to be desperate for money and many people have said they enjoy my work, so I figured this was as good an option as any.

Thoughts? How much money have you made from, say, an average-selling e-book?

If as you said, your short of money then I don't think you can self publish your work. It is going to take money to pay the publisher. Any income from your work will take a while before you will see any of it. I have been a published author for over thirty years. I made over thirty five thousand on the first couple of books that were self published.
 

old cowboy

Registered
Joined
Oct 25, 2011
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
Location
HOUSTON Area
Self publishing

If as you said your short of funds then I don't think you can self publish your work. You will have to pay the publisher up front and then wait for a while before the money starts to come to you.
 

merrihiatt

Writing! Writing! Writing!
Absolute Sage
Requiescat In Pace
Registered
Joined
Nov 5, 2008
Messages
4,001
Reaction score
477
Location
Pacific Northwest, Washington
Website
merrihiatt.com
I don't agree. If you do all the work yourself, there is very little outlay by the author. I am in the black already and have only been self-publishing since September of this year. Each person will have a unique experience, but I don't think it is accurate to say you need to have a lot of money to self-publish. You can spend a lot or a little depending on your skill level and how hard you are willing to work.
 

Old Hack

Such a nasty woman
Super Moderator
Absolute Sage
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 12, 2005
Messages
22,453
Reaction score
4,930
Location
In chaos
If as you said, your short of money then I don't think you can self publish your work. It is going to take money to pay the publisher. Any income from your work will take a while before you will see any of it. I have been a published author for over thirty years. I made over thirty five thousand on the first couple of books that were self published.

If as you said your short of funds then I don't think you can self publish your work. You will have to pay the publisher up front and then wait for a while before the money starts to come to you.

My bold.

If you're paying the publisher to publish you then you're not self-published, you're vanity published.

Yes, I know I'm picking hairs, and that the lines are now blurring between vanity and self-publishing: but I don't want anyone to think that they have to pay someone in order to self-publish. It's just not true, and that could be a very expensive mistake to make.

If you're intent on self-publishing and have some money to spend on the process then spend it on high-quality independent editing (the books I've seen which have been edited by the various vanity publishers and/or self-publishing services were edited very badly) or a good cover, and not on a "publisher".
 

shaldna

The cake is a lie. But still cake.
Super Member
Registered
Joined
May 12, 2009
Messages
7,485
Reaction score
896
Location
Belfast
Given that you can physically produce a book for free, or, if you really must go for a pro plan, for under 50 bucks, then there's not much to loose in terms of initial outlay.

If you're willing to do the work and spend the time then you can, theoretically, publish a book for free.

But, as others have pointed out many times, you have to ask yourself how much your time is worth. How many hours are you spending promoting, or editing, or marketing, or, let's be honest, just fiddling about trying to get the formating right. All that takes time, and, as they say, time is money.
 

valeriec80

Got the hang of it, here
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 12, 2009
Messages
388
Reaction score
33
I am also very curious about those of you who are earning several hundred dollars per month via e-books. Can you please expand upon your marketing techniques? Did you have a fan base in place before you published an e-book? Please share your secrets.

I think Konrath says it best when he says luck is a big factor. Here's what I think self-published authors can do to help get luck on their side--if making money is your goal, that is.

1. Write books that people want to read.

2. Having a series of books is a good idea. If your readers like the first book, they will jump to the second, then the third, etc.

3. For exposure, I think the best way to do things currently (and I'm not sure how long this will keep "working") is to set the first book of your series free on Amazon. (You have to make it free on smashwords, distribute to B&N or Apple, and wait for Amazon to price match.) You will make lots and lots of money on that series within a week. I have yet to read about someone who this hasn't worked for.

4. Capture reader's email addresses so that you can send out information to an email list when you have a new release. At the end of each of my books, before I put any blurbs/excerpts for my other stuff, I have a centered, bolded sentence that says, "Want updates, discounts, freebies and more? Visit my website to join my email list." Then I link to my website. On my website, I have my email list subscribe form at the top of the page, on my About page, and in my footer.

5. Understand the importance of Amazon rankings as it directly relates to also-bought lists. You can't force your way into also-boughts, but you can be sure that if your book is climbing the rankings, it will continue to climb (until it levels out) and that if your book is falling in the rankings, it will continue to fall. This is all part of the way Amazon figures rank and tries to keep new content in front of readers.

My experiences:
-My series originally climbed the Amazon ranks over a period of two years. It peaked around July--a really stellar month for me. But this was back when Amazon's ranking were a little "stickier," and they've changed the algorithms to (as mentioned) keep the content changing up more often. This means that slow rises like that are less likely these days. Instead, you see more really quick rises and really quick falls.

-When my rankings plummeted on Amazon, I set the first book in the series free and jumped back up the rankings again. That was in September. I can't quite tell if I'm about ready to take another nosedive soon or not. The free book is currently in the 500s in the Free Kindle store, and the second book is holding steady in the 6,000-8,000 range. In September, it was around 2,000, so it's definitely dropping. In my experience, once you drop below 15,000, it's essentially over and you're not getting any exposure from Amazon. Then your ranking can start doing crazy stuff like flipping from 80,000 to 30,000 in an hour, because below 15,000, you're selling very few copies.

I don't know if any of this is helpful or not. Though I haven't made below a grand a month on self-publishing since May, that's not very long. I basically figure that this could all stop completely at any moment. In other words, I don't have any secrets. There aren't any secrets. Making money at writing has always been a crapshoot. I think it's less of a crapshoot with self-publishing, but that's probably because I could never get an agent or editor to send me anything besides form letters, and now I'm paying my rent with my writing. So I'm coming at it from a highly subjective place. If there were a way to duplicate success by following certain steps, everyone would be successful.

Someday I'm going to follow my own advice and stop worrying about how much money I'm making and just have fun making stuff up. That would be easier to do, of course, if I didn't have this nagging dream of making a living from writing, and if it didn't seem like I was starting to get close to realizing my dream. But truthfully, I need to recognize how little control I have over everything except writing. For my sanity and mental health. So. I will. One of these days. I swear.
 

merrihiatt

Writing! Writing! Writing!
Absolute Sage
Requiescat In Pace
Registered
Joined
Nov 5, 2008
Messages
4,001
Reaction score
477
Location
Pacific Northwest, Washington
Website
merrihiatt.com
3. For exposure, I think the best way to do things currently (and I'm not sure how long this will keep "working") is to set the first book of your series free on Amazon. (You have to make it free on smashwords, distribute to B&N or Apple, and wait for Amazon to price match.) You will make lots and lots of money on that series within a week. I have yet to read about someone who this hasn't worked for.

I'm the person it hasn't worked for in terms of making "lots and lots of money on that series within a week." I've had over 500 sales from the other two books in the trilogy, but that has not equated to "lots and lots of money." Enough to cover my expenses for the entire trilogy and then some. I am in the black.
 

valeriec80

Got the hang of it, here
Super Member
Registered
Joined
Jun 12, 2009
Messages
388
Reaction score
33
Royalty on 500 sales, if your books were priced at $2.99, would be about a thousand bucks. I'd consider that lots and lots of money.

But since I realize lots and lots of money is an extremely subjective term, I suppose what I really meant was I've yet to see someone try it and not dramatically increase their sales and income. (And I apologize for my imprecision. :)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.