Few of us think we will be the next Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking, but we dream that if we could make say, at least a low fraction of those figures, we would be happy; and why not? We believe we are reasonably competent (at least our readers tell us so) and we are willing to make the effort and do the hard work of publishing and promoting our books. So why won't we be successful?
Before you read on I don't want you to get me wrong, maybe you and I will be successful at e-publishing but there are some sobering statistics that we should be aware of. If you go to the site of the e-publisher Smashwords this is one of the things you can read in their marketing guide:
"...most books, whether they’re traditionally published or self-published, don’t sell well. Whether your book is intended to inspire, inform or entertain, millions of other books and media forms are competing against you for your prospective reader’s ever-shrinking pie of attention."
So what are the stats for e-book publishing? Smashwords has more than 18,000 published authors. Of these fewer than 50 (less than 0.3%) are making $50,000 a year. The vast majority of authors are not selling well at all. At Amazon it is not that different with many low-priced books not even selling a single copy. And I don't need these numbers to know this. I have exchanged messages on Twitter and other forums with published authors and their most common complaint is that their books are stuck in "low sales limbo". I want to add that these were authors who worked hard and went through all the recommended media marketing motions.
Of course we would all like to think that we will be the exception rather than the rule, and maybe some of us will, but let's be honest and accept this reality check. Going by the available stats, if all of us aspiring authors choose to self-publish, a majority will not sell very well. This is even more likely in the case of people like me, a no-name author without a large following.
I have lived long enough to have accumulated a significant number of scars from the sparks that fly in that threshold where dreams meet reality. So I am trying to tone it down. I try to tell myself that I am doing it for the experience, for the fun, and so forth. The truth however, is that I can't help dreaming: it's like falling in love. Like that Linda Ronstadt song that goes, "People tell me love's for fools, here I go, breaking all the rules...it's so easy to fall in love". And perhaps it is necessary, perhaps without wild unrealistic dreams, as without love, we would not write anything to begin with.
So, my fellow writers, I guess the take home lesson is, dream, love, and write, but don't quit your day jobs.