book sales, self-publishing, Writers Co-op


Who makes money self-publishing? Probably, E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey sold the most copies. LJ Ross’ series about Detective Chief Inspector Ryan has a total of around 4.5 million copies. Rachel Abbott has sold over four million copies. Every one of her 11 crime novels hit six figure sales in its first year.

What genres dominate? Half of the e-book bestsellers in the romance, science fiction, and fantasy genres on Amazon are self-published!

Famous authors who self-published? E.L. James, of course. Margaret Atwood self-published her poems. Beatrix Potter first self-published 250 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. And, of course, successful authors from Mark Twain to Stephen King cut out the middle man.

Do many authors make money self-publishing? According to Amazon’s 2019 review of its Kindle sales, thousands of self-published authors earn over $50,000, while more than a thousand hit six-figure salaries from their book sales.
‘course, In 2020, there were over 44.2 thousand writers and authors working in the United States,
Best estimates suggest the “average” self-published, digital-only book sells about 250 copies in its lifetime. By comparison, the average traditionally published book sells 3,000 copies, but only about 250-300 of those sales happen in the first year.

So should we self-publish? Obviously, we don’t need a publisher to publish a book. To earn their cut, a publisher must promote your book or they ain’t worth feeling good about. And once you’re famous, you just don’t need them. Feel free to treat publishers the way they treat authors: make me money or go away.

DISCLAIMER: Just my opinion here, but obsessing about money misses the point that life’s memories are made from other stuff. For example: Unlike money, an author’s book is never spent.



  1. victoracquista says:

    Thanks for posting this GD and opening up a discussion. I have issues with some of the statistics that examine # of books sold and revenue associated with self-publishing in particular. The mean income #’s are skewed by a small number of highly successful authors and the sales numbers are deceptive. Many indie authors discount books to .99 and boost sales numbers but do not generate much revenue. Quite frankly, I’ve lost the ability to make sense of or feel I have a solid grasp of sales and revenue. Another aspect or variable in the equation relates to cost of marketing and promotion. If a self-published author sells $10,000. in book sales and spent $4000 in marketing to obtain those sales, then split the money earned with the distributor such as Amazon, their income might be in negative numbers from selling $10,000 worth of books. People are making money selling books but frequently it’s marketers, distributers, and publishers, not authors.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. So, few writers make money. I take a perverse satisfaction from knowing it’s always been so. Prolific author Harlan Ellison once noted that after spending the time to write a book, it is displayed at the front of other books on the shelf the week it comes out. The next week, it is covered by the new books that came out. “Get a day job, make your money from that,” he concluded, “And write to please yourself.”

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Perry Palin says:

    I know a couple of writers who started out in self-publishing, were picked up by major publishing houses, and now make good livings at writing. They still market their books relentlessly, in public appearances, readings, and signings, as well as in social media.

    I know a guy who did very well with a self-published children’s book, and spun off into a stuffed dog (the main character of the book) and a coloring book. But he had a ready-made market before the book release, and worked hard to sell the book. He didn’t make a living at it, but it was a good part time job.

    Another has self-published his first (and he says last) book this year, and will do okay on sales. He says he feels fortunate to get good reviews from regional influencers, and he spends every waking moment selling the book. He won’t make a lot of money at it, but he will do okay.

    These writers all did good work, identified a market, and found boots-on-the-ground ways to sell it.

    Unfortunately I know more who have self-published good books that were never discovered by readers.

    And I know too many others who have self-published poor work, never sold enough to break even, but created a sea of distraction for those who had good writing on the same shelves.

    I am more all the time glad that I had a day job that paid the bills, and was able to “write to please (my)self.”

    Liked by 3 people

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