There’s a popular statistic making its way around the Internet these days: 81 percent of Americans think they have a book in them. I don’t know how accurate it is—it was first mentioned in a 2002 op-ed piece in the New York Times that advocated against every Tom, Dick and Harry writing a book.
But there must be some truth to it; in 2017, the number of self-published books exploded to more than 1,000,000!! That’s a 38 percent increase from 2016, and that number doesn’t include Kindle e-books.
Before you run off and join the Million Authors Club, here are some realities to keep your wild writing fantasies in check.
1. You will not be able to retire to a yacht on your royalties.
Recently I read an article that quoted a New York Times piece which claimed only 40 self-published Kindle authors “make money.” That’s 40—not 40 percent. In this context, “making money” means selling more than one million copies of their e-book in five years.
The reality is, even big-time writers can struggle to pay the bills. Author Cheryl Strayed often talks openly about being deep in debt when Wild was published.
In other words, don’t quit your day job thinking that publishing your book will sustain you. Besides, your book has a lot more income-producing potential in terms of opening the doors to promotional and speaking opportunities.
2. Self-publishing your book is not free.
There are a lot of publishing types and even authors out there saying that publishing your own book costs nothing. While it’s true that the days of being required to purchase 1,000 or more copies of your own book to get it printed are over, publishing your book does cost a little something.
Here are a few of the bigger expenses you can expect:
- Cover design $395-$895
- Proofreading $500 & up
- ISBN/bar code $225 & up
I do recommend having a pro design your cover—unless you’re an actual graphic designer—and proof your book. This is true even if you’re only planning a Kindle edition! We’re always too close to our own work. (Uploading your book to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing is probably the only free service in self-publishing, by the way.)
If you’re planning a paperback version, you’ll need an ISBN number. Most print on demand houses (like Ingram Spark) charge a small setup fee (as of this writing, it’s around $49), and then of course there’s the cost to print and ship any copies you’d like to have on hand.
There will also be fees for purchasing your book title’s domain name(s) and any website design and hosting fees, if you plan to have a landing page for your book.
The barriers to publishing your own book are quite low, and it’s a very affordable way to go. Just be aware that it’s not “free” and plan your budget accordingly.
3. It will take a lot longer than you think to write it.
In 1955, The Economist published a humorous essay by a British historian based on his time as civil servant. His name was Parkinson, and the first line of his essay became known as Parkinson’s law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Great observation, huh? I don’t know about you but that seems true for me. That’s why I’m a big fan of batching and using the Pomodoro method; otherwise I can dither away an entire afternoon on one simple task.
Your book will take as much time as you give it. If you really want to publish it, give yourself a deadline and work towards it.
When setting your deadline, be wary of “planning fallacy”—our natural tendency to be overly optimistic about how long something will take. Give yourself time to get your book done, realizing that life happens and that two hours of writing time a night might not be realistic.
4. Writing it is the easy part.
I’ve had the privilege of working as the marketing director for a #1 New York Times bestselling author for several years. I’ll never forget a piece advice she gave me during the first launch I worked with her. She’d spent months and months in seclusion writing this book, and then months more working through the editing and design process with her publishing company.
A few days before the publication date, she said, “You know, writing the book is the easy part. Now comes the hard part—selling it!”
Or, as my brother said when I called him after gleefully opening the first carton of my first book, “Congratulations, you now have 1,000 doorstops.”
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “If I write it, they will come.” Write your book. Finish your book. And then come up with a strategic plan to launch, market and leverage your book.
5. It will not be perfect.
In the last three weeks I’ve listened to the book Finish twice. In it, author Jon Acuff dissects and dismantles the insidious parasite that is perfection.
I love this book and how it’s challenging me to re-think my notions of getting it (whatever “it” is) right and “as perfect as possible.” It is serious food for thought … and action! (I love it so much I’m giving a copy of it to everyone who signs up for my Book Brilliance course.)
This is a tough one. We want our book to be perfect in every way. I think we’re all guilty of perfectionism in some aspect and at some point in life. Working with new authors as I do, I see it time and again—wanting to change just this one little thing, doing just a bit more research, wondering if they conveyed a thought just right. When we’re on a deadline, I have to be tough and say “no more!” I tell them to keep it for the next book, or put it in a blog post.
As long as we tell ourselves our book has to be perfect to be worthy of us, to be published with our name on it … well, it will never leave the confines of your computer!
At a certain point, your book has to be done if you want to get it published. Done is better than perfect. Your book will not be perfect. There will be mistakes, there will be things you wish you’d said differently. It’s all okay. Launch it anyway! Produce something you can be proud of, and let it go.
I’m all for everyone who wants to write book writing their dang book. In fact, I think every entrepreneur must write a book—it’s a great marketing tool for your business. Hopefully this reality check has not deterred you but rather inspired you to get your book finished and out into the world!
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or a topic you’d like me to cover, please leave a comment. And, if you enjoyed this content, you can enter your details below so you’ll never miss a post!