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Can you make Money from Self-Publishing?

Updated: Feb 8

There is little doubt that the world of self-publication has become bigger and bigger over the last decade or so. I have even recently met successful published authors who feel very disappointed in their publishing company and want to leave their agents, as they don’t feel that adequate effort has been put into marketing the books.

I would imagine a lot of people from the traditional world of publishing feel it is quite arrogant for anyone to believe that they can write, publish, and then make a living from self-publishing. However, it has already been done many times over, and although there are bound to be books out there barely worth reading, there is absolutely no doubt that there are many, many publications competing with bestselling authors and several self-published writers are best sellers themselves.

It's not just about prestige either, and let’s be honest there is a stigma still attached to self-publishing. It’s about what you are taking on, what you are willing to take on. So if you wish to find an agent, you will need to be very patient and abide by their rules for submissions, and then you are at the mercy of the editors, proofreaders and the priorities of the publishing company.

On the other hand, if you self-publish, you have complete autonomy and freedom, but you must learn how to do everything from writing to creating (or find someone who will make) your book cover, formatting, editing, proofreading, and then working out how you correctly, publish your book on self-publishing platforms, and then successfully market it.

The simple answer to the question ‘Can you make money from self-publishing’ is yes. There are many successful self-published authors and, as with any other field of enterprise, there are those who don’t make any money at all. And the latter isn’t necessarily associated with competence, ability, or the quality of the book. It may just be that person does not know how to get the message out and market the work.

ASPA was set up with this in mind, a community specifically for self-published authors offering advice and support all in one place that can help you get over what can sometimes be very scary obstacles.

Before we look at any statistics, let’s have a look at ways in which you can monetise your work:

How to monetise your writing

  • Sales of e-books, audiobooks, and paperbacks through self-publishing platforms, where you can earn up to 70% of the royalties.

  • Schemes like Amazon's KDP select where you will get paid for every page that anyone has read.

  • Sales through your own website.

  • Sales online elsewhere (I had a successful Etsy account where I sold signed copies of books).

  • Live events: brief performances, readings from your novel, book signings, and stalls.

  • Vlogs and YouTube videos.

  • Sales through sites like MTA as well as profits form live book signings.

But you won’t get any upfront payment like someone who has just been given a publishing deal. With a publishing deal, there are certain securities, especially if the publisher likes your book and wants more, this type of success can keep you going for many years.

The writer’s union says this:

‘According to recent statistics, there are more than 750,000 self-published books in the UK and the last five years saw a 68% growth in self-published e-books.

While this offers unparalleled opportunities for authors, there are also many pitfalls along the way when it comes to writers protecting their intellectual property rights and potential revenues. According to the recent 'Is it a steal?' report from WGGB and the Society of Authors, which examined the practices of hybrid/vanity publishers, 94% of writers who had paid to have their book published lost money, typically in the thousands, with many authors experiencing aggressive marketing tactics, manipulative sales approaches, unclear contracts and publishing processes and services that fell far short of expectations and value’.

In terms of earnings, there is a wide spectrum.

Some facts (thanks to ‘Wordsrated’).

Self-published Books & Authors Sales Statistics [2023]

  • 30-34% of all e-books sold are self-published.

  • 300 million self-published books are sold each year.

  • $1.25 billion worth of self-published books are sold each year.

  • Amazon pays $520 million in royalties to self-published authors each year.

  • Only 1% of audiobooks on Audible are self-published.

  • The global publishing market is expected to grow at 1% CAGR per year, whereas the self-publishing market is expected to grow at 17%.

  • The number of self-published books has increased by 264% in the last five years.

If you believe that the self-publishing path is for you then you should go for it either with little or no expectation or.... instead embark upon planning that will guarantee at least some return for your efforts. But please ensure that you enlist some support at each level to keep your costs down and ensure that your book is best presented to the audience you wish to reach.

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