No matter how long or short your self-publishing career has been to date, and no matter how many or how few books you have sold, chances are that at some point – maybe at many points – you’ve asked yourself “why do I bother?”
C Lee McKenzie, hybrid author and part of the management team of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, takes a clear look at the odds of success, rejects the role of chance in the writer’s career, and goes full circle to why we started our author journeys in the first place, ending with an uplifting message.
Against All the Odds – that’s not just an 80’s movie and Phil Collins song. It feels like our chances to make it in this industry.
What are our odds? Slim at best.
- Agents get around 5,000 queries a year
- 90% of those queries are weeded out immediately
- Between 600,000 and 1 million books are published every year – in the USA alone
- The average book sells 3,000 copies in its lifetime
- Authors making $25,000 or more a year – less than 700 big five, less than 500 small press, and over 1,600 indie authors
- Authors making $100,000 a year – fewer than 160 traditionally published and 425 indie published
- As many as 50% of all books fail
Excited yet? Ready to query and market your heart out? Or do you just want to throw in the towel?
Publishing Is Not a Lottery
When we look at these statistics, it’s depressing. But they’re just numbers, like the lottery.
But in the lottery, it’s sheer luck and nothing else. In the writing business, we have more options than those numbers. We can base the odds on our own merits and efforts.
Of course, sometimes that’s not much better. Consider my own journey, and I’m only sharing this because, after several years of associating with other authors, I know I’m not alone. My story can represent a lot of others.
- I sold my debut novel 2009 with an advance $5000.
- I sold my second novel 2012 with an advance $6000.
- My publisher then went out of business and it took me 6+ months to get my rights back, and it wasn’t easy or pleasant.
- I re-published the first two books, but sales were miserable because I didn’t know how to market. I’d expected help from the publisher, but that didn’t happen.
- I placed a third and fourth book with a new press. Sales are steady, but not brilliant.
- I self-published three middle-grade books with moderate sales.
- I placed a fourth middle-grade book with a small press. This one’s not published yet.
- I signed with an agent, but she hasn’t landed any contracts for me so far.
- My tax guy is now using words like “hobby” when he comes to my writing expenses.
If I had to depend on book sales to eat, I’d be very thin. 🙂
How to Beat the Odds and Keep Writing
How do we stay motivated through all of that?
What can we do to succeed against all odds?
We can play a lot of motivational music. I Believe In You comes to mind.
Or we can go back to the beginning of our journeys:
- Why are we doing this?
- Why do we write?
The answer’s easy. We write because we love it.
Despite what we might want to achieve now that we’re in the middle of this business, we began writing because we enjoyed the excitement of creating something out of an idea. We wanted to share our stories with others. Even if it was just one other person. It’s that joy of someone “getting it” – and “getting us” – that keeps us at the keyboard or with pencil in hand.
And that’s what will keep us going. Despite those odds!
OVER TO YOU What keeps you motivated to keep writing when you’re feeling discouraged? Do you have any top tips to share on keeping going?Why indie #authors keep writing against the odds - and why successful #selfpublishing is not a lottery - by @cleemckenzie Click To Tweet
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From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive