I find this question difficult to answer. There are a lot of people who are publishing books. Roughly 3000 books are uploaded to Amazon per day around the world. That’s a lot of books!
There are huge success stories. The most recent success story would be EL James. This is the lady who self-published a book called 50 Shades of Grey. You may not know her name, but I’m sure you’ve heard of the book. She sold over 100,000 units of her book. And she was self-published. So yes, there are people who can have a lot of success with self-publishing. But that’s not the norm.
First of all, how do you define success? First of all, from a money point of view, what is successful to one person isn’t successful for somebody else. For some people, making £10,000, or $10,000, from a book is a huge success. To others, they would need to hit six figures before they saw it as a huge success. How much money is successful for you?
The second aspect is even more important than the first. What does success look like to you? The book business is split into two very distinct camps. You have the first camp where the book itself is the business. The book is the moneymaker. In that type of business, you’re trying to sell as many units of your book as possible. That’s how you make money. The more books you sell, the more money you make.
Then you have the second camp. In this camp, the book is a clever sales and marketing tool. The book itself is not the moneymaker. What the book is doing is selling your products and services for you. It’s building your authority so you can charge more for your products and services. It could allow you to make secondary and even tertiary income streams. Examples are getting paid for speaking engagements, getting paid for collaborations with other businesses, becoming a spokesperson for another business, and so many other ways that you can make money.
With the second type of book business, you’re not thinking about making money from the book itself. It’s the moneymaking opportunities that the book opens up for you.
So you need to define which type of book business you want to get into. If you’re writing a novel, memoir, some kind of fiction, poetry, children’s books, etc, then you are in the first type of book business. You want to make money from selling the book itself.
Now, here’s a sobering thought. The vast majority of people who self-publish will very rarely make their money back. It costs money to publish your book professionally. Yes, there are people out there who literally just put a book together, and they publish it themselves on somewhere like Amazon. But these books look terrible, and they don’t do anything for someone’s reputation.
If you want your fiction book to be at a professional standard, there are costs that you will incur. You will have to pay for a great editor, interior designer, typesetter, cover designer… And these professional people need paying. So the sad truth is that you’d struggle to make the money back that you paid to all these professionals. I don’t want to put you off though. Look what happened to El James. If you’re prepared to market the hell out of your book and mention it everywhere you go, then there is a chance that you will have success.
If you’re writing a nonfiction business book, then I would say you fall into the second camp, which is the book itself isn’t the moneymaker. The book is a clever sales and marketing tool. From that point of view, nearly everybody I know who has self-published has been a huge success. Because they’re not thinking about book sales. They’re thinking about the money that’s made around the book sales.
If you’re looking to publish fiction, then if there is a reputable traditional publisher who wants to publish your book, I would be hard-pressed to say no to them. So long as the contract is good, then I would sign the contract. Because self-publishing is a tough old road. Unless you have a load of fans who you can count on to buy your book, then you’re going to find it tough as a self-published author. With a traditional publisher, because they need to recoup the investment they made in you, they must have a plan. They must have some sort of marketing plan for you. Otherwise, there’s no way they’ll be offering you a contract in the first place.
However, if you’re writing a nonfiction business book, if you’re an entrepreneur, then it’s a completely different story. Let me give you my story of what happened with my book, The Freedom Master Plan. Before it was published, I made my book available to around 20 people. I called them my advanced readers. I wanted them to read my book first before it became available to the public so I can get their ideas, feedback, etc. One of those people was a potential client of mine. He was thinking of writing a book, but he wasn’t sure if 2021 was the year he was going to do it. So I sent him an advanced copy of my book. He read my book. He loved it. Within a week, he contacted me to say he wants to work with me and paid several thousands of dollars.
This is what I mean by you need to define what is successful. If you define it as in return on investment through business revenue, before my book was even published I was able to generate a client who paid several thousands of dollars to work with me. He’s paid me more than what it cost for me to publish my book.
If you define success as being able to build your business, charge more for your services or products, get the best clients… if this is how you define success, then self-publishing can be hugely successful. I know several hundred business authors who have self-published a business book. And they have made more than enough money back to pay for the investment that they originally made.
If you’re interested in writing a business book that will generate leads and sales for your business, get a copy of The Freedom Master Plan that will explain everything you need to know about writing and marketing business books.
You can also download a sample chapter here