Do Writers Make Money If They Self Publish?


Are there more writers than readers? The New York Times says there will be more who wish to write than those who wish to read, if it hasn’t already happened. An article by Motoko Rich, on self publishing and vanity press, emphasized that fewer people buy or read books, which is why all – check that,  ALLpublishers are cutting budget and dumping authors and editors.

Motoko’s piece goes on to say self-publishing is thriving. But are the writers who are self publishing thriving?



What Happens to Self Published Writers?

I know an 84 year-old woman who wrote a compelling book about life in Polish concentration camps, and her subsequent post-war world travels seeking her family. She couldn’t find a publisher.

Oprah Winfrey took two or three stumbles into books that turned out to be not what they seemed. One was a similar story. A man wrote of meeting his wife in a labor camp. Trouble is he didn’t. The book was a poignant novel, sold as non-fiction.

Nevertheless, my feisty acquaintance tried several publishers before giving up. She went the self-publish route. She’s ecstatic, having sold about 800 books. But when she went to her accountant to do taxes, her bottom line showed a loss of $400 to sell those books.

Should You Self Publish?

Consider these ideas before you decide to self-publish.

  1. Many companies that charge authors money for publishing take a large cut of the sell price of your book. There are no advances.
  2. Many print-on-demand companies are owned by one investment company called Bertram Capital. iUniverse, Xlibris, AuthorHouse,WordClay, Author Solutions. If they weren’t making a ton of money off authors, would they be doing this?
  3. The author usually has to pay for cover design. The author also pays for the cost of printing the book. That’s pricey, friends and it’s out of pocket, upfront.
  4. There is no marketing support at all. Once that book is contracted to be printed, you are the only person who cares if your book sells.
  5. Writers pay other fees for self publishing from less than $100 to low six figures. Read that again, and then read the fine print on a publishing contract.
  6. There are good and bad ways to self publish. Ebooks can be an awesome option.
  7. If you have a targeted audience for a specialized topic you may do well with self-publishing and you may make money. Do a market study.
  8. Not every book should be published and not every book has an audience.

Daily, authors ask me to read and review self-published books. Once a year or so, I find something well-written, well-proofed and edited. Worth reading. I review some. I politely tell other authors that I chose not to review.

You, the writer, must work at your personal best. Write as if it’s truly important work. It is. You can work for $1 per 100 words, if you feel you can make a living that way. But making your work stand out professionally puts you in the market place where grownups compete whether you sell your writing or self-publish what you write.

Self-Publishing Resources

There’s a primer on self-publishing at eHow and GoogleBooks has excerpts of  The Self Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter.  You’ll get some inside info on writing, producing and selling your book.

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2 Responses to “Do Writers Make Money If They Self Publish?”

  1. Publishing is a tough world – and anyone who loves to write knows that publishing isn’t why they write.

  2. Hi Dorothy
    I agree – many writers would do it whether or not they get paid. And lots of wrtiers do it for the same reasons all other workers work. Self-publishing is one tool. I truly appreciate your comment!