The Publishing Industry from The Eyes of a Self-Published Author


Understanding where the publishing industry is in general is important so that I as a writer and self-publisher know where the publishing business is heading.
It Is not important just to locate information and apply it to my business plan. I must study the information about the publication business and about self-publishing. I need to analysis of overall business and how individual companies are faring both with print books and with e-books.The better handle I have on trends in the business, the better I am able to adjust my business model to accommodate this information.
Publishing Industry Specifics

There are approximately 1.5 million books in print at any given time.

It takes an average of 475 hours to write a novel. Fiction is considered successful if it sells 5,000 copies. Writing a nonfiction book requires about 725 hours. A nonfiction book is deemed successful when it reaches 7,500 copies sold.
The Big Five traditional publishers now account for only 16% of the e-books on Amazon’s bestseller lists. Nearly eighty percent of books published each year are self-published or published by small publishing companies. This does not necessarily mean that most of the books sold are published by self- or small press published companies. Between eight and eleven thousand publishers enter the field every year. The average number of copies sold per title of a POD company that printed 10 thousand different titles is 75 books per title.

The Author Earnings report takes its data from 7,000 top selling digital genre titles on Amazon’s category bestseller lists. It found that:

DRM (digital rights management) “harms e-book sales at any price point.”
Self-published books now represent 31% of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store.
Indie authors are earning nearly 40% of the e-book dollars going to authors.
Self-published authors are “dominating traditionally published authors” in sci-fi/fantasy, mystery/thriller, and romance genres but they are also taking “significant market share in all genres.”
Strong indie sales will continue to remain a significant and permanent part of the book publishing landscape.

Common Complaints about Self-Publishers

One complaint in the industry is that self-published books in general are poorly written, full of proofreading errors, and are poorly formatted for the e-book reader. This problem I have dealt with already. I have two excellent beta readers who read and edit my work before I print it and I have learned what it takes to format books for various e-book formats as well as for print. I need to find a creative way to get others to know that my first book When God Turned His Head (which has negative reviews regarding this problem) has been re-edited and formatted.
POD (pint on demand) books don’t sell is because authors do not know how much promotion is involved. Writing is the easy part. Promotion and selling requires time and work. Writers who by nature tend to want to work alone would rather sit in their ivory towers and right their tomes and hope that someday someone will discover their reams of literary gems sitting beside their mummified corpses. This information tells me that If I want to sell more of my books than the average writer, then I need to get out there and sell and promote more than the average writer does.
Dealing with the reality of these two problems that self-publishers face, I have an edge over many other self-publishers who are not willing to face these realities.

Evaluating what to Charge for My Books

When studying the book marketing industry, another area that knowing this information can help me as a self-published author is in knowing what to charge for my books. Here are some information that I found in that regards.
According to experts in the publishing industry, determining what you charge for a print book depends on the number of pages, trim size, color use, bleeds or no bleeds, as well as the printer you are using. As far as pricing…ideally your book is priced at 7 times the unit cost, so a book that costs $2 to print would price at $14. However, there are other factors to take into consideration as well, including what other books of a similar size and in the same genre are going for. It’s easy enough to get on Amazon and check out the competition. You don’t want to price too high or too low…there’s definitely a balance.
$2.99 and $3.99 are currently the pricing sweet spots for most e-book bestsellers. In general, authors who price their books modestly earn more than those whose average price is higher, 99 cents is “no longer the path to riches.”
Readers prefer longer e-books. In fact, bestselling books tend to be over one hundred thousand words. My novels tend to run around eighty thousand words a little less than the bestselling books.
Series books outsell standalone books — but series books under 50,000 words are at a sales disadvantage. My novels are over fifty thousand words and they are in a serial so this is to my advantage.
Free still works as a marketing tool, especially when an author offers the first book in a series for free, but it is much less effective than before — primarily because so many authors are taking advantage of it. I have tried this and it wasn’t very successful, but the book at the time needed work. Perhaps I will try this again, offering the first book free for a couple of days every six weeks or so.
Pre-orders give authors a sales advantage. According to Mark Coker, pre-orders are where free was a number of years ago.
Statistically, non-fiction earns more at higher prices. I have found this to be true of my gardening book. I have found that I can readily sell that short book and get what I want whereas the novels are in less of a demand and it is harder to get what I need from them. Because the novels are longer, I have considerably less profit per book because of the added cost per book because they have more pages. ”

Where to Sell Books

Fifty-two percent of all books sold are purchased outside of “brick and mortar bookstores. So most of the books sold are not sold in book stores however, this also means that 48% of the books still come from the book store so it would not be smart to discount bookstores as a sales option.
According to Self-Publishing Resources, The size of the small press movement is estimated to be $13 billion to $17 billion a year, as opposed to trade publishers who are responsible for bringing in $26 billion. 52 percent of all books are not sold in bookstores! They are merchandised via mail order, online, in discount or warehouse stores, through book clubs, in nontraditional retail outlets, etc. 64 percent of book buyers say a book’s being on a bestseller list is not important. Bookstores are famous for returning books to publishers. The industry return rate is typically 36 percent for hardcovers and 25 percent for soft covers.

E-book Sales Industry

Although I am having success selling paperbacks locally, I must not forget marketing online. Online purchases represented 28 percent of books bought.
Money is being made out of thin air in this strange new speculative meta-practice: there are seminars, conferences and courses springing up everywhere, even at the Society of Authors (a writers’ union which, until recently, was largely against e-publication). Television and radio programs are being made about self-e-publishing. Everyone can be a writer now. it only takes 10 minutes to upload your own e-book, and according to the New York Times “81% of people feel they have a book in them
An author self-selling his or her books can make a seventy percent commission on e-book sales whereas authors represented by publishing companies often receive as little as a 5 percent commission. E-book sales are up, but the sale of literary fiction remains fairly weak even in e-book sales. (Glad I don’t do literary fiction).
This review of course was written for my business in showing me the general trends and where I might change the way I run my business based on those trends. However, if I were to present them to someone else, I would slant the information toward my audience. If I were to present this to a loan officer, I would explain self-publishing to a loan officer in such a way that it would show that as a self-published author I can earn enough to pay back the loan.

IMG_8330 final copy

Donna Brown is an ordained minister. As Author Cygnet Brown, she  has recently published her first nonfiction book: Simply Vegetable Gardening: Simple Organic Gardening Tips for the Beginning Gardener

She is also the author of historical fiction series The Locket Saga. which includes When God Turned His Head and Soldiers Don’t Cry, the Locket Saga Continues, and most recently, A Coward’s Solace, Book III of the Locket Saga.For more information about Cygnet Brown and her book, check out her website at .

  1. Billybuc said:

    Great information, Donna! Thanks for sharing with us all.

  2. 1authorcygnetbrown said:

    There is so much to learn in our industry! Thanks for stopping by!

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