Indie vs. Legacy Publishing: Running the Numbers

Let me be the first to say that I am all for indie publishing. I’m an indie publisher and I have no qualms with that whatsoever. I gladly took the plunge into indie publishing and I’m happy I did. No, I haven’t sold any books yet (primarily since I really haven’t come out with a Author-Earning-Infographicbook as of yet though I have three releases, all of which are free).

Wait…I take that back. I have sold some books. Not a lot but I have sold some copies of my projects and without any real marketing to speak of to be honest. Nothing that you can quit your day job for by far, but something is better than nothing. That does not discourage me. It encourages me because I’m just now implementing my plan of attack.

Why did I decide to go indie instead of legacy? Goodness…there are too many reasons to write about here. That would have to be a seprate post all by itself. But, suffice it to say that one of the two main reasons were control and potential earnings. Now, I say potential earnings because the fact of the matter is that many indie publishers/writers (a sizable chunk) don’t make more than $500 a year with their writing. Now, that can be discouraging. But methinks that the full story isn’t there. Most writers don’t have a plan, have unrealistic expectations, and aren’t committed for the long haul because on the average, you have to be if you want to be successful in…well…anything.

As discouraging as that reality may be, there is also an upside. put up and infographic of this upside which you see to the on the right. Obviously, the first thing that needs to be said is that you have to get 3,000 people to buy your book which is a task to say the least. You have to work VERY hard for those 3,000 buyers. Sheesh, it’s hard to get hundreds let alone thousands. as a matter of fact, this year’s Writer’s Digest and Digital Book World Author Survey found that of those that were surveyed, 71.8% sold less than 1,000 copies of their latest book. When you dig down deeper, 50.9% sold fewer than 500 copies. So selling 3,000 is a stretch. It’s doable but not the norm.

However, I like to look at the glass half full in this particular scenario. If 71.8% sold less than 1,000 copies, then almost 30% sold more. That is pretty decent actually, especially if they become regular fans of your work. Also, this is just one book. If you have multiple books selling, then the actual number of books sold will increase on any given day.

On top of that, the price tag on that book in the infographic is $15.00 for the indie and $20.00 for the legacy publisher. That price point for many, dare I say most, people is just not going to fly. Be nice if it did and some may be doing it but that is not the norm. The reality is that many books have an amalgam of income across platforms, paperback, digital, and audio. The frugal indie author prices their hard copies more than their digital ones. That makes calculating a hard number rather difficult if not impossible. Price points will vary and experimentation will yield the results of what a good price is for a particular book. So, though you normally will make less with a traditional publisher (and give up your rights, and lose control), it tends to be more than a large section of indie writers make by far. The sad thing about that is that it’s not that much and is just sad.

However, there is one thing that is spot on and and universal no matter if you’re indie published or legacy published. That is the top three things that sell books: cover, price, and description or blurb. Making sure that these three are where they need to be will increase your chances of selling more books. Hands down. You’d think that most authors would have gotten the gist on this but the covers I see on some books makes me want to scratch my eyeballs out. Saying they are horrid is a compliment.

This overview gives a bit of insight into the numbers monetarily as well as number of copies sold. A viable plan is to get as much material out there and watch the numbers grow across the board. This residual income is something that you can actually build your business on and the great thing about it is that they are evergreen. They’ll keep on selling until kingdom come. That, my fellow writer, is a good thing.

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