Self-Published Novelist

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Startup Costs: Under $2,000
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? Yes
Online Operation? No

THE BRIEF

So you wrote a novel. Congrats! Now what? You have two basic options: traditional publishing or self-publishing. While traditional publishing comes with more prestige and an average advance of $10,000, it has some clear disadvantages: 1. Getting an agent who gets your book sold is no easy task. 2. You give up a lot of creative control, from edits to book design to your baby's title. 3. It's an incredibly slow process. It could take years (yes, plural) from the time your book is accepted to the time it actually hits shelves.

Taking the self-publishing route alleviates many of these pain points, although it does create some new ones. But more and more, established writers are turning to self-publishing as a way to get their stuff out there exactly the way they want it. Sometimes the results are more than lucrative. Ever hear of 50 Shades of Grey? Author E.L. James started it as a self-published e-book and, as you likely know, it spawned a series that's sold over 125 million copies and movies that grossed more than $1 billion.

Now that is not any means typical. While you can make money publishing your own books, most people who do it stress that the real reward is writing and publishing what you love. But if you're good at it, and are up for the challenge of promoting it until your head hurts, you can make some nice extra money. Royalty rates vary from platform to platform, and also on your price point. According to The Creative Penn, if you price your e-book between $2.99 and $9.99 (on Amazon), you can get a 70% royalty rate. Selling print books usually puts you in the vicinity of a 25% royalty rate. Move enough copies, and you can get a nice revenue stream coming in.

ASK THE PROS

How much money can you make?

As described by Ink and Quills, the average self-published author isn't going to make a ton, especially when you factor in costs like hiring book jacket designers and copy editors. The average number of copies sold is not huge: 250. Doing the royalty math on 250 copies, Ink and Quills calculates: "That means your $12.99 paperback with its profit of $2.97 per copy would make you a grand total of $742.50." 

What kind of experience do you need to have?

"I don't think writing should be seen as mysterious and scary to those just starting out. I think you just have to put yourself out there. There are so many online platforms where you can find out what works and what doesn't work. If you have talent, no matter who you are, you could potentially be read by as many people who read a story in The New Yorker. It’s an amazing opportunity and it’s all possible. If you have talent -- no matter who are -- you can do it and I think that's a good thing to know."—Mike Sacks, comedy writer and author of Stinker Let's Loose!

What’s the most important thing to know about this business?

"Write your best book. There’s an entire world of badly-written, poorly-edited self-published work out there. Because the tools have become so easy to use, there’s a temptation to get anything out there, without going through the rigors of research and editing, in hopes of quick discovery and viral success. Don’t give in to that temptation. I spent over a year writing my first novel, and almost a year writing my second. If you don’t know someone who can competently edit your writing, hire someone. End readers will know the difference. Here’s a small example: I released the first two parts of my novel Where the Hell is Tesla? as serial stories, like Hugh Howey originally did with the Wool series. And though the feedback I got was largely positive, I got ripped for little editing errors. So I learned a huge lesson before selling even one copy of the full novel – the product has to be bulletproof. Editing, spell-checking, formatting, consistency, characters’ motivations, plot holes, everything. I don’t think all the marketing in the world will help a product that’s not ready to launch."—Rob Dircks, author of the Where the Hell is Tesla? trilogy 

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