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Will I ever get published and become a successful author or am I a deluded fool?

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
That advantage has some modulation to it. If I'm with a traditional publisher, then in my ad I get to say I've been published by Orbit or Tor. That's going to make that ad more effective than a similar one from a self-pub. In addition, the publisher themselves are doing at least a modicum of promotion. If nothing else, my book appears on their company site. So there are more points of marketing contact than I have if I'm self-pubbed.

So any of the traditional big publishers can be expected to do two things to promote a book: Send it to a list of reviewers, and spend 30 seconds pitching it to the buyers at bookstores. They will give a handful of top sellers a promotional tour. The only way they spend on ads is if your book ends up in like Target or Walmart, which is mostly top selling romance and thrillers.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
This is the first I've seen somebody suggest this.... and it should be true. :) Since your royalties are higher with self-publishing, the beak-even point on Facebook or Amazon ads is a lot fewer sales.
Is it? Or does that depend on how much you have to discount the book to get sales moving?

I understand from my publishers that most newbie authors in the US (please note, the US) who get a "traditional" publishing deal receive an advance of $5000. And the publisher pays all the production costs (editing, formatting, proof reading, cover, marketing etc). As compared to an indie author paying $1500-$2000 just to get the book into shape before publishing it and then trying to market it using ads. This is before the indie author starts to work out the cost of the time they spent doing all that work - and that time is not negligable if you hope to make a living from your writing.

I suspect that in reality when all the true costs are taken into account the break-even point on the number of sales for an indie author is similar to the number of sales needed for a traditionally published author to earn out.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
Is it? Or does that depend on how much you have to discount the book to get sales moving?

As I understand it, people who have put $1-1.5k into publishing and editing a quality book find that they get the more sales with a more traditional higher price point.

People do struggle, cut the price by a lot, and then run to ads though. That is definitely a thing.

As I mentioned, a publisher sends your book to reviewers. An indie author has to do that themselves. But a lot of people skip that part, thinking they can jump straight to ads, which is a big mistake.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
I just give the numbers as I come across them, I don't make them up.

It worries me that so many people don't bother to check the "facts" they read on the internet before spreading them even further. And it doesn't take much effort to check the numbers you quoted - certainly less effort than trying to work out how effective your Amazon ads are.

Though your numbers don't change the fact that it's a very sobering number. Even 14.7% of books selling fewer than 12 copies is a lot. I would think that an author could sell that many to friends and family. And to me 87% selling fewer than 5000 copies is still a shocking number.

As Kristen McClean makes clear, that is the number of sales over a 12 month period. And it isn't all sales, nor does it tell you how many copies any book sells over a period of several years. So I'd be vary wary of drawing too many conclusions from those figures. I certainly wouldn't use them to claim or imply that self-publishing is the best option.

My main point was that authoring is a tough business. And even getting a publishing deal from a dream publisher would not guarantee succes as an author.

No, a traditional publishing deal does not guarantee success. It never has.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
So any of the traditional big publishers can be expected to do two things to promote a book: Send it to a list of reviewers, and spend 30 seconds pitching it to the buyers at bookstores. They will give a handful of top sellers a promotional tour. The only way they spend on ads is if your book ends up in like Target or Walmart, which is mostly top selling romance and thrillers.
They do a bit more than that with the advertising. One of the advantages they have is that their marketing operation is rather more sophisticated than that produced by the average indie author. It starts with the reviewers and it goes from there. There might be an ad in the same periodical as the review, especially if the review is positive. And the book gets a lot more than a 30 second sales pitch at the book store - my publishers target those book stores which they know sell lots of books similar to mine. They work out which on-line sites sell most books like mine and start targeting those sites too. There's no way I could ever do that on my own - so I've won on my publishing deal.
 
There's a lot to go into here, and indeed there's more components than just money.

It helps to get 4 times the money. I think standard ebooks royalties are 25% of net, which is 25% of the 70% the publisher gets. On the other hand, trad books tend to be more expensive, which somewhat compensates for that. And trad books might sell better or maybe do better with ads. No idea, I don't have any data on that.

One interesting thing with both the advance and the cost of putting out an indie book, is that those are sunk costs / incomes. They happen once and have no relation to the selling of the book. Once you've made them (or received them), that's it, they don't factor into the ongoing cost of the book. All that matters is what does an ad cost and what does it earn you. If the ad costs more than it earns you, then you will run out of money eventually, no matter the size of your advance. If it's the other way around, then it doesn't matter how much you spent on publishing the book, it will make you money in the long run, because each sale is making you money. Therefore you can keep selling books. So making more per book or per sale is the important part when running ads.

I actually think that there are two other big factors that impact ads performance for the author which are often forgotten. The first is real-time data, the second the power of series.

As for real time data, publishers probably have this, but authors don't. And you really need this to make ads work, or any kind of marketing for that matter. If you want to know if your TikTok videos have an effect, you need to see on a day to day basis how your sales go. And then getting quarterly data from the publisher doesn't help.

As for the power of series. As an indie author you can keep publishing novels that don't do well. If the first two books of a series don't do well the publisher probably won't publish the third. As an indie author you can do this (though it means you are deeper in the red with each book put out). And the longer your series, the easier ads are. Simply put, if you have a trilogy, with 50%, 100% readthrough (from 1-2 and 2-3), then you have a lot more money to play with for ads as opposed to when you only have 2 books and the third never gets published.

I don't believe all trad-books get a decent marketing budget. Definitely not the 0-12 books total category, but I doubt the 12-1000 category is getting much either. If as a professional you're marketing a book with any kind of money and you're selling fewer than 12 copies in a year you should be fired from your job. My worst ad (and I'm terrible at ads and make it up as I go along without any marketing experience), gave me a sale for every $9 spend (30ct per click, 30 clicks per sale). Which means that a $1.000 budget gets you over 100 sales. Any professional should be able to do better than that, and that's counting without getting regular sales. Once you go above the 1.000 sales figure, then I'm sure there will be some money for marketing. But that means that anything between 15% and 65% of trad books have little to no marketing budget.

Backlists are interesting (where backlist = published more than a year ago). Publishers are discovering there is money in them. However, I doubt any novels selling 12 novels or less are seeing any sales after the initial launch. There are just too many books published for people to randomly stumble across a book that isn't selling anything. The same is likely true in the selling 12 - 1.000 novels in the first year category. Almost all books sell most during launch, so with 1.000 novels it's most likely not 80 per month, but rather 300 in the first month, 200 in the second, and so on until it's selling peanuts in month 12 and after. There's no reason for a publisher to push those works. The costs have already been made, it's shown it's hard to sell, they're better off spending money on the next new book, instead of trying to revive an old one. It's different for popular authors, who sell a lot. Then, when you put out a new book, you get plenty of readers, some of which will go to the old books.

In regards the cost of my time, that's free. Simply put, for me writing and publishing is a hobby. That time doesn't have to earn me anything. I have a day job for that. I pay $10 to go climbing once a week (for about 2 hours), which I consider a fair amount for a hobby. No one worries that those 2 hours are actually costing me $50 because I need to factor in two hours of wages since I could be earning money. What's more, using that as a baseline then means that any hour I spend on a hobby is worth $5 to me. So an hour spend fiddling with ads, earns me $5. It's also time which is otherwise non-productive. If I don't spend that hour writing / marketing, then I would spend it watching netflix or playing a computer game. It's time I can't earn any other money in, therefore, there's no cost attached to it. It would change if I was a fulltime author, but I'm not, so it's a free hour.
 
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