I’m a part-time independent novelist. I published my first book, Company Town, on April 16th, 2018. That was volume one in a trilogy. I completed the trilogy and started another beginning with the book Necrophiliac’s Honeymoon. I finished that series and took some time off. After the break, I wrote two more books—the initial entries in what I thought would be an ongoing series of detective yarns. The last of those yarns was published on February 1st, 2020. The combined income from those two books has been, well, less than stellar. Let’s take a moment to (perhaps) learn from my self-publishing difficulties.
I read somewhere that most authors make less than $100 per book, so I’m certainly ahead of that curve, but my literary career to date hasn’t been what I expected it to be. The reasons for that have left me scratching my head. I followed the advice I got from different sources–I spent time on my covers, and I actively promoted my books. So, why wasn’t I on my way to Easy Street?
There’s the rub. I’m not sure.
Let’s go through the potential problems I can think of off the top of my head…
1) Maybe my books aren’t any good. That’s always a possibility, but I can’t lock in on it as true because I don’t have enough reviews to say. Most of my novels don’t have a double-digit number. Some of my books don’t have any reviews at all. I would attribute my low numbers here to a lack of exposure more than anything else. (Although I can’t rule out basic human laziness. Something we all share. I’m sure the percentage of readers who leave a review is very, very low.) All of that being said, the reviews I do have are generally positive.
2) Maybe my covers aren’t any good. Again, this is totally possible. I don’t have a lot of money to spend, so I didn’t use professional artists. I do have an art background, so I made my covers myself. Offhand, I’d say they’re at the very least average (although this is me evaluating my own work, so take it with a grain of salt). I’m going to err on the side of optimism and say—in as unbiased a way as I can—that a small subset of the covers I see are better than mine, while a large subset of the covers I see are worse.
3) Perhaps my promotional efforts were poor. Again, hard to say. Nearly all of said efforts resulted in momentary surges in revenue—which is probably about all one can expect. I haven’t found the magic bullet yet that leads to sustained interest.
4) Too much input. This one’s on me. I guess. Since my outcomes have been nebulous, the lessons I’ve drawn haven’t been useful. I’m a victim of information overload. The volume of stimuli—and its sometimes contradictory nature—have left me scratching my head more than I would like.
Anyway, the point here is that I have yet to earn a return on investment, and I’m not at all sure why. Since writing fiction is something I’ve always wanted to do, I’m not yet ready to give up. This is the first article in a series. In subsequent entries, I’ll try and work up some kind of a system that works for me—and, hopefully for you too.
Maybe we can all learn from my self-publishing difficulties.