The Kindness of Strangers

Why it is so hard to self-publish and earn money on a book?  I’ve heard so many numbers, I’m not sure what to think.

Brave QuoteThis is one of the reader questions submitted for this month.  It seems like a simple question, because it seems to some it is hard making money self-publishing a book.

It’s not as easy to earn money if you aren’t willing to put in the time to make it worth a readers initial interest. Although this goes back a bit farther in time, (2012) the Guardian has made some interesting points about what works, and what doesn’t work for writers who intend to self-publish.  I agree with most of these numbers, but the one they don’t list is the non-fiction.  I would say that these would be much the same as the fiction book numbers.  

Some other articles have pointed to getting it done professionally, but not with any of the “in house” options offered by some self-publishing companies.  There are a lot of editors, interior graphic designers or cover artists out there who can do a good job, and who report directly to you.  It’s your choice.
Almost all of the articles I’ve read quote that you can expect to sell about 100-150 books of your newly published book.  They include the numbers “sold” to family and friends, and take care to point out that many authors will count free copies as a sold book in their minds.  I’ve had to work hard to promote my title to people, and usually I can expect about 10-15 books sold over a three hour timeframe.  With this in mind, I can say I have sold outside of my main network, about 100 copies, which for a niche market book is very good.

Quote About Writing
Franz Kafka said it best.

It’s because I have expanded my platform, and my comfort zone.  I’ve also learned to rely on one person- me.  I’ve handed out business cards and done the talking of my book to people I’m slowly beginning to see as my next level of networking.  They are the “kindness of strangers.”
It took nearly two years before there was steady author signings at any bookstore, and it took me a lot of time to get there.  I’ve had to learn a lot about marketing, and how to do this for free.  I believe that is the difference between sales or lack thereof.  It’s all fine that I have a Facebook page, or a Twitter account or just about anything, but I’m only writing to people I “know” many of my followers simply follow because they know me or they haven’t deleted me because they aren’t active anymore.  This makes it all the harder to ‘get’ people to come and read.

I’ve had a lot of success, and a lot of challenges, but some other authors have had a lot more success.  The numbers are there, and one of the most important is how this particular author has other books which were self-published.  They decided to go with KDP select and sold a lot more book- but, it was through the lending library, which for many authors doesn’t help their sales if it’s a brand new book.

I found that using both Kindle
and Kobo– this has given me a better chance for book sales, which I would not otherwise have received.  I’ve also spent a lot of time working with my local bookstores to get a placement of my books in the store.  Should you be in Canada, or more specifically the Waterloo area, you can find my book at the local Chapters.  This did take me nearly three years of hard work for this to happen, and I expect much the same for my next self-published book.

The numbers are really an average, and there are people who will sell more books as opposed to others who self-publish because they network, and have a platform and have a lot of luck getting it in their local bookstores.  The averages are based on millions of self-published books, and many of these authors no longer promote a particular book or had no intention of selling their books beyond a small network of family and friends.

To have real book sales, an author has to rely on the kindness of strangers.


  • Phyllis Klein

    Hi Rebecca, i have been reading your blog with interest. I love hearing about how you have developed as a writer and how much writing has helped your life in so many ways. I am publicizing a writing for healing group that I lead in Palo Alto, CA and would like to be able to quote your comments about living a life of writing. Thanks for your words on kindness.
    Best wishes, Phyllis Klein
    Certified Poetry Therapist