How much money do you make?
It’s a question that a salaried employee doesn’t often hear, but one that self-published writers get at a surprisingly frequent rate.
The answer: It depends. And it really does depend. A lot.
Typically, self-published writers don’t start with their book sales as the only income stream. Because of that, a self-published writer might make anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 in a year. As the owner of a self-publishing company, I hear the “how much money do you make” question perhaps more than anybody.
I’m a straight-shooter. I won’t throw a smokescreen and only talk about the potential sales and the luxurious lifestyle of a full-time self-published writer. But I will always answer with a caveat: A self-published book delivers value that is more than money. Book sales are great, but there are four different types of value found in a self-published book that can be worth even more than a deposit to your bank account.
1. Your book is a business card on steroids
If you publish on any of the leading self-publishing platforms, one of the final steps is pricing your book. But you can’t truly put a price on a self-published book, mainly because of the way it can be used as a connection-building tool.
Consider business cards. When you give a person your card, what are you giving them? Contact info. Your occupation. Perhaps a website link. And, most importantly, you’re handing that person a physical token to help him or her remember you. A book does all of that, but at a much higher level.
Your book is a great way to convey your expertise and experience without coming across as overbearing. While some authors pick a side and argue passionately about the difference between self-published and traditionally published books, the vast majority of the people you meet will not care. People will come to think of you as a thought leader in whatever field you write about. To them, your book is a symbol of hard work, dedication, and expertise.
Additionally, your book can be a valuable giveaway. While the printing costs exceed that of a business card, handing your book to the right person can unlock doors you might have never imagined possible.
2. Sharing your ideas and creativity
When it comes to books, the number of genres is endless. But whether you’re writing nonfiction self-help or cozy mystery fiction, all books have something in common: They were written for a reason.
No matter what you’re writing about, publishing a book is the very best way to share your ideas and creativity with your audience. Whether you want to tell a great story or spark social change, there’s no better vessel for doing so than a book.
For readers, books are easy to consume and can be read over and over without losing value. For writers, books provide ample space to develop ideas worth sharing.
If you have something to say, a book is the place to start.
3. Your platform is expanded and enhanced.
All writers need a website. Whether you’re a novelist or researcher, it’s a great way to welcome online visibility to your work. Your site should be used to hub your social media accounts together, share your bio, capture email addresses and feature your blog if you have one. These are all ways to begin sculpting a personal brand and find readers interested in what you’re providing.
That said, nothing will pair better with a website than your book. Combining the two sparks a symbiotic relationship: If people visit your website to learn more about you and your ideas, they will discover your book. If they come to the site for the book, they’ll learn more about you. See how that works?
A professional website builds credibility for you, your ideas and your work. Adding your book to the site takes it to the next level.
4. Your content is more consistent with your personal brand
As you build your personal brand, you should always be asking yourself how you want followers to see you. What do you want them to think of when they hear your name?
Are you the playful investment expert? Perhaps you’re the stoic poet. Maybe you’re a combination of several ideas. However you decide to shape your platform, the key is making sure you’re creating content that is in line with that image. This takes some self-awareness and lots of careful examination of what you release.
When you sign a book contract with a traditional publisher, they’ll usually have full artistic control over the marketing of the book. Will they promote it in a way that aligns with the brand you’re trying to build for yourself?
No. They don’t care.
At the end of the day, traditional publishers don’t pay the bills with happy authors. They pay the bills with book sales. Because of this, they will do whatever they think is best when it comes to marketing your book. On the other hand, self-publishing gives you full artistic control of all decision making that goes into your book. From cover to layout, you can keep the book consistent with the brand you’re building for yourself.
While you might hear good ideas about your book from friends or peers, you will always have the freedom to say “no.” With a traditional publisher, that usually isn’t possible.
Bonus: The money is great, too
Finally, while there is more value to a self-published book than the money you make from sales, that income is always great, too!
It’s well-known that self-published writers make significantly higher royalties for their books than traditionally published writers. Those numbers are in the ballpark of 60% royalties vs. 10% royalties. This major pay cut is usually because writers are willing to sacrifice their cut in exchange for access to the publisher’s professional distribution channels.
But fear not. It doesn’t have to be this way, and if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t mind rolling up your sleeves and creating your opportunities, then you should never let a traditional publisher bully you. Despite what traditional publishers may say, it’s not difficult to market your self-published book on a budget.
On top of the passive income it provides, your self-published book can be used to spark consulting opportunities or speaking engagements, and those proceeds won’t have to be split with a publisher.
That’s more money in your pocket.