When you decide to begin a writing career, you have to decide how you want to be published. Your options are to go the traditional route or the self-publishing route. Years ago, a writer’s only option was to go with a traditional publisher, but that’s no longer the case now.
Self-publishing may be a scary or daunting thought, but there are many self-publishing success stories, probably more than what most people realize. Self-published books are gaining mainstream attention with the help of Amazon Kindle. Successful self-published authors are on the rise, and it’s no longer as difficult to have good book sales as a self-published author.
The Best Publishing Deal
More and more writers are turning away from traditional publishing in favor of self-publishing. Traditionally published books used to be the only ones that ever made the New York Times Bestseller List or the USA Today Bestseller Lists, but that’s no longer the case. Bestseller lists are now peppered with the names of independent authors who chose to be a self publisher over traditional publishing.
Understanding your own unique situation and doing your own research is the only way to make the right decision when it comes to publishing choice. One thing that new writers should keep in mind, though, is that if a book does well and takes off into the mainstream via self-publishing, it usually gets the attention of traditional publishers.
Self-Published Authors Often Have More Options
While many traditional publishers may be hesitant to sign or back a new author who has little or no publishing experience, once you have their attention because you’ve gained some success selling your book on your own, they tend to see you as more of a safe bet.
Once you start to get offers from publishers, you gain a little more bargaining power and can make more demands for control and rights to the content that you create.
Traditional Publishing Drawbacks
Literary agents can help you get into contact with the traditional publishing industry, but that can take a long time. The publishing world caters first to well-known authors, and if you are trying to get your first book published, you may have more publishing success self-publishing your own writing rather than waiting for a book deal for your debut novel.
Your first novel may be fantastic, but famous authors already signed with the traditional publishers are still going to get first priority. In contrast, you, an unknown author, have to wait for publishing. Most writers are now at least entertaining the thought of self-publication, especially after the first several rejection letters come in from trying the traditional route.
Not everyone can quit their day job, night job, or full-time job to work relentlessly scouting out agents hoping that a publisher will offer them a book or print deal. If you do manage to get a book deal, traditional publishers also limit your creative control over your own books, and there is very little you can do about it.
Self-Publishing Success Exists
You can have self-publishing success as long as you are disciplined and realize that self-published books have to be marketed heavily by the author because you don’t have an entire marketing team to help sell your books.
If you want to have success with your self-published book, you have to put in the work. That being said, you maintain creative control, can get on-demand paperback or digital prints of your book from the Kindle Store, and will have a hand in working the ebook market. Indie authors essentially are steering their own ship in the hopes of making that first book a success story.
Three Writers, Three Success Stories, Over 100 Million Copies Sold
The following are three self-published authors whose success stories should be enough to convince even the most stubborn and old-fashioned of writers that self-publishing success stories not only exist but aren’t all that uncommon.
James, Abbott, and Hocking were looking for ways to get their books noticed and purchased by their potential audiences and found more success than they’d thought was possible. It proved the point that other books, aside from traditionally published books, can gain success if the author is dedicated and if the content of the stories is good and well-liked.
None of the writers mentioned in this article expected to find themselves among the ranks of publishing success stories, but their writing, after self-publishing, catapulted them into a success that proves that self-publishing works.
Fifty Shades: A Self Publishing Success Story
EL James wrote fan fiction. She was a fan of Stephanie Meyer’s hit book series “Twilight” and wrote a spin-off fan fiction piece that was much more sexually charged than the paranormal fiction book series about vampires and werewolves.
After being kicked off the site she had posted her story on, James decided to try self-publishing. She had her book printed as an ebook and ordered on-demand paperback copies. Although she drew quite a bit of criticism for her racy content, her first book quickly became a self-publishing success story.
Indie publishing was what propelled James into the limelight, where she was promptly offered not only a deal with a traditional publisher but also movie deals, royalties, and overnight stardom. She’s sold over 100 million copies of her book “50 Shades of Grey”, and her book was the fastest-selling paperback of an adult novel.
What she initially may have seen as a walking disaster when her story was kicked off the fanfiction website she first posted it on turned into a beautiful disaster as she entered the competitive market of publishing as an indie author and then dominated it. She is known in many writing circles as the poster child for self-publishing success.
James faced a lot of adversity with her writing, but she didn’t give up. Often bullied for the sexually charged content of her books, she could have easily given up and decided that she wasn’t cut out for the role of being an author when she was kicked off fan fiction sites.
Now, after breaking records with her book series, having a movie series based on her books, as well as lingerie lines, couples’ games, and countless fan groups, she is no longer paying attention to those who bullied her and thought that she would never find success.
Rachel Abbott and Her Decision to Self Publish
Thriller author Rachel Abbott never considered publishing her crime novel. Having her books sold wasn’t something that was even on her radar. After her loved ones convinced her to publish her work, she decided to join the ranks of other self-published authors and see if success found her.
Abbott hit the number one spot on Amazon, making her a self-publishing success almost immediately. Her self-published book kept her at the top of the charts for four weeks straight, and at that point, she decided to make writing her full-time job.
Tens of thousands of sales quickly turned into millions, and to date, Abbot has sold over two million copies of her books. Abbott definitely joins several authors who are self-publishing success stories. She’s turned her hobby into a career.
It should be mentioned, in full transparency, that Abbott did employ the help of editors to get her books the way she wanted them before she published. This is something that any writer should look into upon the completion of writing, especially if you don’t have much experience with editing, proofreading, or formatting.
If the cost is an expense you can handle, there is nothing wrong with a self-published book that had help before it was sold. Any resource that you can afford and take advantage of to give you a leg up when it comes to book sales should be seriously considered.
Amanda Hocking: Self Publishing Success Story
Amanda Hocking decided to start writing because she needed a couple hundred dollars. She looked into publishing options and decided that when it comes to young adult fiction books, traditionally published ones take a long time to hit shelves and when they do, they’re not often marketed aggressively. So she decided to take a chance on publishing herself through Amazon.
Many writers have hopes of making a little money with their writing, but Hocking was shocked when her book took off on Amazon, and she became one of the self-publishing success stories she’d heard about but never thought she’d join the ranks of. She has now sold nearly two million copies of her books, and writing is now her career.
Hocking did not have the resources to hire editors or any outside help at all. She published on her own and started marketing her own works. She took a chance on herself, believed in herself even though the books she had written had been firmly rejected numerous times by numerous publishers. There were a lot of people along the way who didn’t think she could do it and thought that she was wasting her time, but she proved every one of them wrong.
Hocking shows that belief in yourself and in your skills as a writer can get further than you might think. Had she just believed that her work wasn’t good, as all of the rejection letters suggested, no one would ever have heard of her.
What Does it Take to Self Publish?
Self-publishing success stories don’t just happen to everyone. When you self-publish, you still have to put some effort into marketing your book via social media, your own author website, word of mouth, and every other marketing aspect you can think of.
Self-publishing success stories are all the products of authors who work diligently on their books and then promote them as much as possible after they self-publish.
To self publish, you must first choose which self-publishing service to use. Amazon and Barnes and Noble are the most well-known, but there are many others. Once you have made that decision, you have to decide if you want to self-publish your story exclusively as an ebook or if you want to have paperback copies made as well. You also have to design your cover art, fix any formatting issues, and edit your book.
How Much Does a First-Time Author Make?
Authors who are self-published earn royalties up to 70%, while traditionally published authors earn between 5% to 18% royalties after they have settled their advances. If an author is under a large publisher, a first-time author often receives $5,000 to $10,000 as their advance. In contrast, if the author has proceeded with a small publishing company, the author’s advance may be between $1,000 to $2,000.
Self-published authors do not have advances as they use their own money to fund the publishing and marketing of their books. While they need to shell out from their own pockets, their royalties are much larger than those received by traditionally published authors, should their books become a success.
How Much Do Authors Make for a Bestseller?
An author is considered a bestseller when they have sold 40,000 copies of a particular book. An author with a bestselling book may earn anywhere from $60,000 and $180,000 per year. If the book costs between $10 to $30 and at least 5,000 copies are sold each week, authors are able to quickly compensate for their advance and earn royalties afterward.
Some bestseller books are sometimes also converted into films, which creates an increase in earnings for their authors. For instance, J.K. Rowling was paid by Warner Bros $500,000 for each of the first four films of Harry Potter.
Becoming One of the Self Publishing Success Stories
Having support is monumental when it comes to success in self-publishing. Getting the word out that you have written a book and that you are selling it is key to making book sales. Having friends, family, coworkers, and social media friends and connections that can help you market your book and even become your customers can help you get your story noticed by other people.
Even if you are just finishing your first novel, creating an author website can also give you a leg up. Make sure that when you make a website, there is a space for potential readers to leave their contact information to be sent promotional news, book giveaway notices, and book launch dates.
Also, host book promotions and giveaways on your social media, and make people sharing your link and posts a requirement for being considered for the giveaway. With these strategies, it won’t be long until you are also a self-publishing success story.