While my wife and I were in Miami for the Readers Favorite Awards, my father-in-law had to be hospitalized. After three days there, because he couldn’t stand and walk unaided, he was transferred to a nursing home for rehabilitation.
We rushed home to Michigan. At his age, scares like this are never good, and it’s been a rough time for all of us; my mother-in-law, my bride and her siblings in particular.
He’s doing better – thank goodness – and, with any luck at all, may soon be released back into his wife’s care.
But for the past week – after all the many chores involved in rounding up the things he needed had been done – there was little else to do while sitting for hours in that quiet room, watching while he slept, but pray and read.
In one of those moments, ever on the lookout for self-publishing comments, I came across a New York Times opinion piece by Gary Gutting, professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame:
“Even highly gifted and relatively successful writers, artists and musicians generally are not able (to) earn a living from their talents. The very few who become superstars are very well rewarded. But almost all the others – poets, novelists, actors, singers, artists – must have either a partner whose income supports them, or a “day job” to pay the bills. Even writers who are regularly published by major houses or win major prizes cannot always live on their earnings.”
Sadly, what he said is true, but not just for indie authors. Many “traditional” authors make very little money from their books. There are superstars, of course, and most people know their names; but most authors, the vast majority in fact, will sell less than 5,000 copies of any given book.
That statistic has become widely known, and it’s awakened a lot of writers and wannabes to the harsh realities of this line of work.
If you’re trying to make a living (fortunately, I don’t have to write to survive) as a novelist, a playwright, a poet, or any kind of writer whose work isn’t considered “essential,” you’ll do well not give up your day job, because you’re going to need it.
Of course, you can always “marry rich” – but that’s not all that easy to do either.
With all the new tools for self-publishing, indie writers can take a bigger role in their publishing careers than ever before, and the numbers support the boom. With growth of over 400% over the last five years and 58% in the past year, self-publishing isn’t going away any time soon.
Even among authors who’ve already been published by big traditional publishers you can see the excitement generated when this subject comes up. And why not?
It’s a chance to publish what you want, when you want to publish it, in the way you think best. It’s the return of power and influence to the actual creators of the content, and that’s exciting. Earning a massive percentage of net royalties doesn’t hurt either.
With traditional publishing, books have to fit on a particular shelf, cost a specific amount and appeal to a targeted audience. They also have to show a profit. But the business model of an indie is completely different from that of a large corporation.
And marketing your book is hard work.
The Power of Social Media
For indie publishers, it’s been a stroke of good fortune for social media and self-publishing initiatives to develop at the same time. As I’ve said before, the key is earned media.
Social media, including blogs like this one – and the many other social connections available on the Internet – can be a powerful tool. Combined with tools like keyword analysis, trending topics, and others, it allows us to gain insight into readers that’s nothing short of revolutionary.
Authors now have the ability to identify, locate, and engage with their readers, immediately and directly, for the first time in history. I’ve often said that for a solo writer, a blog – if properly used – is the most powerful marketing tool ever invented.
Today’s savvy authors understand that studying social media is, in its own way, just as important to their careers as their writing craft. The ability of an indie to learn to promote his/her books in social media levels the playing field in a very powerful way.
E-books and print-on-demand technologies allow us to escape the need for corporate-level financing, and social media gives us an inside edge in marketing our books. Every book you publish as an indie will create more points of engagement for your readers.
For many indie writers, self-publishing and social media marketing really are the change they’ve been waiting for … but for me it will forever come in a distant second behind the news my father-in-law is well enough to go home.