A recent article on how an Amazon bestseller made nothing has me thinking about whether writing and self-publishing an e-book is a worthwhile pursuit. Almost everyone I know who considers themselves to be a competent or better practitioner of their craft thinks that they ought to write a book about their expertise. But for every Twyla Tharp (I recommend reading The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life) there are thousands of writers who sell fewer than 500 copies and make almost nothing from their labour.
Patrick Wensick’s story is important. Despite landing near the top of Amazon’s best seller list and outselling The Hunger Games for a while he made just $12000. That sounds good but it’s a pittance if you consider that’s a pre-tax number for work that took hundreds of hours to complete. Based on my system for setting a pay rate it’s not a good return on investment.
Like anything you do in your business, you need to consider whether the time you invest is going to deliver a worthwhile return. Writing a book is not a trivial exercise – I’m close to finishing a book and I’ve invested many hours that I could have spent doing any number of other things – so you need to do it for good reasons.
Expecting to publish and wait for someone to fill your money bath is not a good reason.
Allison Tait recently wrote about The Business of Writing: How to be an authorpreneur. Her advice is sensible. A well written and edited book can be an exceptionally powerful marketing and promotional tool. But you need to include it as part of a well thought out plan. It’s not like Field of Dreams where if you build it they will come.
Writing a book and becoming a published author is a great ego boost. But a big ego doesn’t pay the bills.
If you’re planning to write a book and get into self-publishing – be clear in your objectives and make sure they are realistic.