Audrey Owen talks about self-publishers’ ideas of success

Audrey Owen

Today I have something a little special for you. Instead of just listening to me, I’ve managed to convince Audrey Owen of to share some of her experiences with us.  Today, she talks about the results of a survey of self-published authors she conducted at a writers festival.

When I conducted a survey of self-publishing writers, most of my questions related to the money end of the process. But one of my questions, the one that asked how the self-publishers define success, allowed the writers to focus on other aspects of the self-publishing process. There is a great deal to be said for the non-tangible rewards of being a self publishing writer. But this article will deal with the finances involved.

The Self-Publishers’ Survey results showed that there was a wide range in how well the writers understood the costs and profits involved in self-publishing even after they were actually selling their books.

Just over half (53%) of the authors surveyed started to think about marketing immediately on having the idea for the book. Disturbingly, 18% hadn’t thought about marketing even while they were selling their books at a table during a writers’ festival. Some writers thanked me for the questions because those questions brought up topics the writers hadn’t thought of before.

So what should a writer be thinking about along side of the writing?

  1. Who is the target market? You’ll want to know that as early as possible. Related to that question are two others: Where will I find this market? How can reach this market?
  2. What will this book cost to produce? Most self-publishing writers do not count the time spent writing, but if it’s important for you to pay yourself for those hours, begin there. Add to that all related costs like computer upgrades, research costs, paper, and telephone expenses. (Do keep receipts for these and use them for income tax purposes whether you count them into your production costs or not.) Which other professionals will you have to pay? These might be editors, designers or artists, printers,and distributors. Many writers are better motivated to cut passages or whole chapters when faced with the sticker shock of printing.
  3. What will you have to charge for your book in order to break even? How many books must you sell and how quickly do you plan to make those sales? Forty-one per cent of the authors I interviewed for the survey sold 100 or fewer books in their first year. For most, this came as a surprise.

Wherever you are on the understanding continuum, looking at the results of the Self-Publishers’ Survey might open other topics for you to consider, topics that could not only keep you out of the poor house, but may even put a few shekels in your pocket.

©2011 Audrey Owen Used by permission

Audrey Owen, is the author of, “Get Your Writing Fighting Fit.”

As a lifelong lover of words, Audrey Owen edits primarily for self-publishing writers to whom she offers a full range of services. In the educative edit, which she created, she works intensively with writers to correct troublesome writing habits. She also reaches out to those who want more information about the art and business of writing from her Web site,, and through her newsletter, Editor’s Notes.

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