One of the best things about being an indie author is the wealth of resources and inspiration available. As 2018 comes to a close, there are several authors reporting some impressive milestones in their journeys. Of particular interest is one of the self publishing world’s biggest and brightest gurus, Mark Dawson.
Recently, Dawson announced the rebranding of their Self Publishing Formula Podcast into simply The Self Publishing Show in order to focus the podcast and make it more visible.
The debut show from last week detailed not only the journey of the podcast since it began, but a particular milestone for Dawson as he hit $1 million in sales officially for 2018.
Think about that: an indie author sold $1 million dollars in books without the book having to be made into a movie or television series.
Yet, this isn’t such a rarity. In fact, there are a number of self published authors who have hit the $1 million mark before Dawson, and a few more after him, for their yearly totals (that’s not including prior years where they’ve made well into six figures).
Some may caution though that success like Dawson’s is rare. To hit over seven figures, yes, that is true. But there are plenty of authors who are doing well into the low to mid six figures, which in Western Culture is pretty high on the income scale. The numbers aren’t solid, but simply doing research on authors on Amazon and their estimated sales, there are at least a few hundred who are clearing $100k per year. And that’s just their Amazon sales, not including whatever they get from Audible, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Google Play, Smashwords, etc. or their other ventures such as podcasts, speaking engagements, and online courses and software.
They have thousands of fans, built up over a year or two, who act as the most powerful tool of advertising ever: word of mouth.
There are some misrepresentations in the indie space though. It should not be looked at as if anyone can be a seven-figure author by just following a course or making a bunch of ads on Facebook, BookBub, and/or Amazon. There’s a lot more that goes into it. Mainly, you’re building up a fanbase. That appears to be the bread-and-butter for most of the uber-successful indie authors.
They have thousands of fans, built up over a year or two, who act as the most powerful tool of advertising ever: word of mouth. They are the ones who give a new release from their favorite author hundreds of four and five star reviews. That makes any advertising they send out far more likely to succeed when someone goes to the sales page and sees 100+ reviews with high ratings instead of four or five.
Quality is another thing. While there are reportedly thousands upon thousands of books online considered “self published”, only a handful are of any quality. I know, judgment … but let’s talk reality and not PC here. Many of the books deemed “self published” do not go through professional editing, do not have professional covers, do not have professional marketing behind them, do not have professional formatting. Often, those outside the self publishing community think THOSE books are indicative of what self publishing is. It’s not hard to understand why. The handful who do put out professional products are the ones who also seem to be doing the best financially and critically. There are always exceptions of course, but they are not the rule.
Much like cable television was a disruptor for network television, self publishing is a disruptor for traditional publishing.
It’s a lesson I’ve learned over the past year and a half planning out my future career as an author. There’s not miracle formula to get everything right, and it can become tedious, expensive, and frustrating, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel, if you have the stamina to get through the rough patches.
2019 will likely see more changes in the self publishing space, and publishing in general (the term self publishing is likely to disappear in the next ten years as it’s nearly 50% of the book market now). Audio is growing, ebooks are become available to more and more people, paperback is having a comeback in the digital space, and hardcovers are not as unattainable for indies as they were a few years ago.
We’re just at the beginning, as Dawson and James Blatch point out on their SPS Podcast. The self publishing industry is only about 10-years-old (give or take a year). Think about where cable television was at that point with cable access shows and a few spotty channels, and look at where it is now with some of the most watched and acclaimed shows. Much like cable television was a disruptor for network television, self publishing is a disruptor for traditional publishing. In its first ten years, when people thought of shows on cable they mostly thought of cable access shows: low budget programming with questionable quality (remember Wayne’s World and how that was a representation of cable TV?). As time went on, shows like Oz, Sex in the City, The Sopranos, and others showed that there was quality in shows made for cable. Today, shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are at the top of the heap in ratings and fandom.
The milestones of authors like Mark Dawson, Shayne Silvers, Michael Anderle, and others are not a fluke, they’re not by luck, they’re not easy, and they’re not guaranteed. What they are is a sign that there’s more to come. This is only the beginning of the next phase.