Every year we assist over 3,000 new self-publishers and we periodically send out an online survey to them to gauge their experience and allow them to share ideas with new authors. We also use this tool to help refine our services to insure we continue to meet our clients’ needs.
One of the most important questions we ask every year is, are you happy that you self-published? Our publishing clients run range from casual hobbyists to serious successful authors. Typically, the average percent of “happy” self publishers is around 90%. However, this year the percent of self-publishers who indicated they were happy dropped to 67%. We found this answer somewhat alarming but thankfully the online survey tool we used allowed to us to deep dive into identifying which group of clients were “unhappy” with their choice to self-publish.
The options available today for new authors are overwhelming. For the technical savvy, there are marketplaces and resources which allow users to handle everything themselves. Alternatively, there seems to be a countless number of companies offering some type of publishing assistance and various packages. A few of the noted companies included; CreateSpace, Xlibris, Author Solutions, BookBaby, Ingram, Outskirts Press and Lulu. The cost for these packages range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the level of service. When authors, who indicated they used a 3rd party publishing company, were asked if they sold enough books to recoup their initial costs and make a profit, 75% responded “NO”. In fact, every single one of the 33% who said they were NOT happy self-publishing, was authors who used an outside party and lost money.
It is very common for a new author to be enticed by some of these packages without considering exactly how many books they will need to sell just to recoup the money they paid for the packages. The positive too many of these companies is global distribution. However, global distribution does not automatically equate to large volume orders and after the discount rate and printing costs, there is very little money left over for a profit. Although we have a few clients who have sold over 10,000 books, the vast majority have sold less than 125.
To insure a self-publishing venture is enjoyable, it is crucial for authors to realistically think about their goals and the market for their books. Unless an author is seriously committed to marketing and building a following, paying for expensive packages with various add-on services doesn’t make sense.