This is a boring look at the “inside story” of publishing. I write this stuff for a small niche of Danger & Play readers and you likely won’t find it compelling. You’ve been warned!
Every author keeps their sales data secret because of an “embarrassing” reason.
Most authors simply don’t sell many books. People have it in their heads that their book is going to sell millions of copies. This is due to narcissism.
There are millions of book released each year. In our narcissistic world, we believe our books are special. Well it is special – to you. No one else cares, though, except for maybe your friends and family.
When they do a launch, they might sell a few hundred copies and feel like a failure. This is a negative mindset. If you sell a few hundred copies, you’ve done what you should have done. You’ve succeeded.
(Depressing? Well that’s the reality of publishing.)
If you sell 1,000 copies of a book you have done well. If you thought you’d sell 100,00 books, you feel like a failure.
- Reality check: Fewer than 100 books published in a given year will ever sell 100,000 copies.
After selling 1,000 copies of a book, write another book. When people find that new book, they’ll buy your old books.
As Sean Platt says, “Write. Publish. Repeat.”
If you don’t feel a burning desire inside your soul to write books, then publishing isn’t a good fit for you.
While it’s not my place to say how many copies he sells, you can learn how to read Amazon sales ranks to make a solid estimate. Based on publicly-available information, you can see he’s doing well as a writer and editor.
In fact, Amazon sales rank is the only way to tell how a book is selling. People pay for Amazon reviews or nag friends to write them. The sales rank tells you the truth. (You could game the sales rank, which would be expensive as you’d need shell buyers purchasing copies daily.)
If you don’t have traffic, you don’t make sense.
Why will people buy your book? “Because it’s the best!”
I’ll concede that for discussion’s sake.
How are they going to find your book?
How many people read your website every day? If it’s not thousands of people (or more), how are you going to find thousands (or more) people to buy your book?
If you don’t have a column in the NY Times like David Brooks or appear on TV like Ann Coulter, how will people learn about your book?
Build your website before you write your book.
Why am I a nut job about having a website?
It’s not because Victor gives me an affiliate commission for BADNET sign-ups. (He offered me one, actually. I declined, as he’s the guy who showed me how to make money online. We’re square.)
If you can’t build a large audience when writing for free, how can you sell books?
Think about that. People won’t read you for free, but they will pay you for a book? That doesn’t make sense.
This seems simple and yet when I tell people to focus on their websites before launching a book, they argue with me.
People with a website getting a few hundreds visits a day tell me their book will sell 100,000’s of copies. How?
(I no longer argue with anyone. “Sounds like you have things figured out,” is my go-to answer.)
How many “guaranteed” book sales do I have?
Based on my calculations, I can sell 5,000 copies of any original book.
There are 5,000 of you who will buy my books no matter what – unless I do something really stupid to betray your trust.
Danger & Play is a pretty big website. My Twitter gets 10-20 million impressions a month.
I’m looking at 5,00 book sales on my own.
Writing is a tough gig.
Go into it with realistic expectations.
Now don’t get me wrong. Five-thousand is my floor, not my ceiling. Gorilla Mindset is on pace to hit 25,000 its first year out. (As of today, six months after its release, Gorilla Mindset has sold 16,240 copies.)
You’ll get more sales as people see your nice Amazon page, read your reviews, and learn about Gorilla Mindset.
Write because you must, not because you think you should want to.
How much should you price your book?
I can only speak for non-fiction authors.
Amazon won’t allow independent authors to price our books above $9.99.
Amazon ran some data and concluded that you’ll earn 35% more by listing your books at $9.99 than at $10.99.
There’s something about that extra dollar that feels wrong.
I’ve priced Gorilla Mindset at between $7.99 and $9.99 and I sell the same amount of copies.
Essays on Masculinity sells the same amount of copies when priced between $5.99 and $7.99, but even a penny above that is too much.
- Bonus: As a self-published author you can change prices to find the sweet spot. With traditional publishers you’re at the mercy of what some Women’s Study major says you book must be listed at.
If you create a premium product, you can sell it at the top of the market.
Some will say you should give your book away or sell it at $2.99 to get a bunch of rating and reviews. In theory you can step up the price of your book as time goes on.
In reality, you need a website. Give content away for free on your website. Then sell a premium book for a premium price.
How much can a successful book launch earn?
You can self-publish a book through Amazon in three ways – Kindle, Paperback (via Createspace), and audio (via ACX).
A Kindle book earns roughly 70% after Amazon’s take. A $9.99 Kindle book has a $6.90 royalty.
A paperback book pays out around 40% of list price, although this varies based on the number of pages you book contains and whether you have color images in your book. Createspace has a royalty calculator where you plug in the relevant information.
- For reference: Gorilla Mindset (paperback) earns $6.20 per copy.
An audiobook published through ACX earns 20-40% of list price. You also receive a $50 bonus when your book is the first book purchased on Audible.
- For reference: Gorilla Mindset (audio) earns an average of $3.65 per unit and I’ve had 81 sign-up bonuses. With the bonuses factored in, Gorilla Mindset earns $4.80 per copy.
Gorilla Mindset will net me in profit of around $100,000 for 2015.
That’s not a bad living, although there are far better ways to get rich and my way is not the best way for most to make money.
(My friends at Wall Street Playboys would even call me insane!)
How do authors make “real money”?
The big money is in indirect sales.
When you write a great book, people pay you to give key note speeches and to conduct corporate training.
Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert, earns six figures to give a one-hour talk. He’s at the top of the market, but many decent non-fiction authors are getting low five-figures to hold corporate retreats.
A killer book will also get you on the Board of start-ups.
You’ll earn far more money by using your book to establish expertise than you will through book royalties.
If I were a feminist, I would receive anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 a day to give mindset training and speeches to corporate types.
Now I’m not a corporate man, and my choices were made voluntarily.
I never wanted to be a Tony Robbins or an Oprah. Hiding my views and helping myself while the world falls apart and people are suffering does not work for me.
I have a higher calling to help Americans. I can’t not fight for free speech and push back against SJWs and radical feminists.
Yet there’s no question I’ve left millions on the table by choosing to be a freedom fighter.
Before joining the fight, recognize what you might be giving up.
I believe in your book.
If you have a message to share, write your book.
Forget about the business of it.
Start a website. Write every day. Launch your book.
If you “think” you “have a book in you,” then now is not the time to write.
Being a writer is not a choice.
Writing is a mental illness.
Do you wake up with something to say?
Do you feel a compulsion to speak up, even when it might cause some problems or drama for you?
In that case, you should write.
Don’t write to make millions.
Write because you have to.
Today was supposed to be a day of R&R for me. I only have a few hours in Chicago and am going to hit the museums.
But I had to write this post.
If you feel that way, get started. Ignore the haters. But don’t quit your day job at first.
You will succeed.
Now…It’s time for me to go relax!
(If you’re new here, yes, you can learn more about me. I have three books out. Buy them here)