The Cost of Self-publishing a Book: What Most Will Never Want You to Know.

It’s been seven years since I have been in the book publishing business. The learning curve has been a steep one.

Some of the things I wish I’d learned in self publishing has been costly. But in the name of learning I would say it has been worthwhile and I want to reveal these to you. You may be shocked at some of the truths about self publishing here but it is not my intention to discourage you from writing and publishing your first, or second, or even, third book. But only that you go in with your eyes open.

In all, I would summarize there are many benefits to writing a book,. Some of which include therapeutic reasons, a sense of accomplishment and achievement, not to mention recognition and respect, and leaving a legacy behind for your children and loved ones.

But I share my thoughts below because I have come across many authors who have been at the mercy of scammers and those wanting to make money from self-published authors, knowing full well most of their clients and customers will never see their investment returning in terms of monetary rewards, even after they make a best seller’s list, win awards, and reach 1000 subscribers on their email list.

I hope you find this article useful in your self-publishing projects.

truth about self publishing

With the rise of advertisers such as Bookbub, Instafreebie, etc (platforms that allow authors to advertise their free/99c books to a wide readership) most readers are used to books priced at 99c or below. Also, with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited  program even more readers are used to read on the cheap. Not to mention that millions of books are in the market now—with e-readers old books remain available forever, so to speak.

What does this mean for us authors?

It’s not a pretty picture. If we want to write just because we are called to that’s one thing—and could be a good thing. But it does mean that we cannot rely on being an author for a dependable source of income.

I have seen a trend—when I have advertised my book it will rise and I make some sale but when advertising stops or the book price go up–returning to normal, which is only $3.99,– sales drop off precipitously. Why?

  1. Because readers are not stupid. Unless we already have a following of committed fans why should they pay 4.99 (which is cheap by the old standards) for a book when they can read for free or at most 99c—which means you make about 75c.
  2. There are so many books on Amazon discoverability is near impossible. Also numerous books get published daily. (I couldn’t find the most recent numbers but got some from 2014 stats. I am sure the numbers have increased since.

Amazon currently lists 32.8 million books for sale comprising:

  • Paperbacks 22.9m
  • Hardcover 8.1M
  • Kindle 1.2m
  • Audio CD 351k
  • Board Books 138k
  • Audible Audio Books 42k

It’s not that you cannot get sales with FB ads (which can increase reader base if done correctly) but the question is—is it worth while?

For the effort put into writing and publishing the book, and then pouring more money in to advertise (and also learning how to do this correctly, and monitoring the ads with AB split testing and re-learning from the results) the number of hours and cash invested is not worth the amount you can reap from the sale of your book. (Just amortize the number of hours spent on each book and total up the hours spent in promoting and marketing, and divide the total amount you make with the number of hours spent, minus the upfront costs of publishing and advertising. My guess is that the profit made is less than minimum wage in China!)

This may not be the case for some genre—in particular romance. But if you write for most other types of genre, unless you already have a steady fan base it’s not worth the investment—unless you just want to write and don’t really care if there are people reading your books—which can be okay, too.

What about Amazon advertising? I recently invested in Derek Doepker’s program—I consider these “Investments” as my “university” courses, and needful for my research.

Sadly, I didn’t learn anything new with the program. Only that the author of this course must not be making enough which is why he has also resorted to selling courses. (More on that later.) I Intend to share with you what I have learned later. But essentially the key is doing the right keyword research BEFORE you write a word. Looking for what readers want to read is essential. And it can help in book sales. But I still stand with my thoughts that being an author in this day and age is like being an artist—you know the term, “starving artist”? There’s a reason why the word “starving in there.

Also, notice that there hadn’t been a mega seller like the Harry Potter series, or The Hunger Games series for quite some years. And Jerry Jenkins’ Blockbuster Left Behind series has never been repeated by any other Christian author.

More telling, do you realize that even bestselling authors –who presumably are making some killing on the publishing field have online programs and other sources of income. I even know of authors teaching others how to rank better on Amazon after they supposedly found a way to sell books by the truckload. The question is why are they bothering to go into teaching if they are already the next JK Rowling? Or Jerry Jenkin? 9I am not against author selling courses, only in that this shows that they are not making enough from their books.)

Does this mean we authors should all toss our pens into the trash? If you are really called to write , you’d probably say no. But I want you to just be sure you have your eyes open going in, or even as you wade the waters of publishing.


I made the mistake when I started seven years ago. I wish someone had come along and advised me to move slow. Test the waters before plunging in and spending untold amounts of money. Is there no money to be made if you are a nonfiction or fiction author? I won’t say that exactly. But only that the money is not going to commensurate with the effort you put in.

I recently invested in Digital Marketer and learn that a low ticket item is something that costs $7 and that it’s not worth while advertising if all you have is this $7 item. That you’d need a back end of products that sell for $299 (not $ 2.99c!) or more.

My new site will walk through all you need to know about self publishing and also book promotion and marketing. I will get videos ready—all in the making. All free. (That’s how fed up I am with people skiving off authors.) Down the road I have ideas for authors they can try out. But that’s all for the future.

Meanwhile check in with me. And also, it would be helpful if I knew also what authors want to learn as I do more research and sponge in all there is out there. I will regurgitate it out to you in bite sizes. I might even have a “who to avoid” list.


About The Author

emma right

Multiple award-winning author and copywriter. Children young adult fiction best sellers.

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