So I thought I'd go back here to my blog and talk about it in graphics, since I can make a fool of myself on my own blog.
Now, this is my wholly-made-up-guesswork take on the success rate of people who query their completed fiction manuscript to the major publishers in New York.
Remember, most submitted manuscripts are just purely awful. Nobody who reads this blog falls into the perfectly dreadful manuscript group so you do not necessarily need to worry about the success rate in general.
This attractive graphic to the right is the getting-into-publication rate for those who decide to self- publish. You will note it has a tiny sliver of folks who attempt this and do not quite succeed. They are too gormless to use smashwords or the like.
I will just mention that I would fall into that select group were I to try to do this.
Now we hustle onward and come to some more sheer guesswork on my part. This is the earnings per book. The first brightly colored graphic attempts to convince you I know what novels earn in the first couple years after they're released by one of the major publishers.
Should mention that, when I say major publishers, I'm including not just the Big New York Six (soon to be Five), but about everybody who plays the print game and gets distributed by the big brick-and-mortar retailers. Tor. Kensington. Them folk.
The pinky-white slice is books that earn less than $1000.
Moving up in remuneration, and going counter-clockwise or the ill-fated widdershins direction, the red slice is books earning more than $1000, but less than $5000.
I've assigned green to the great majority of books and assigned a profit of between $5000 and $15,000.
The navy blue slice is books that bring in more than $15,000. It's not a negligible proportion, really.
I would not go to the barricades to defend the accuracy of this graph ... but it 'feels' about right. If anything, I think I'm underestimating the percentage of books that earn more than $15,000.
And, at last, we come to the profits on self-published books.
The info I'm presenting with that big sweep of beige is that most self-published books earn less than $1000.
Books that fall into that little sliver of higher profit tend to be erotica, or published by authors with a significant platform, or books by those also print published, or work from those who understand marketing and promote diligently.
Or, of course, all four.
There are mobs of prophets and orators out there who want to sell writers something -- whether it's a product or validation for their own choices.
What do you want out of publication?
If you need artistic freedom, if you hunger to put your work in front of readers, if you have something you must say, if you don't need or expect much money, if you know you can't be published by the Big Guys -- for whatever reason,
then self-publishing may be for you.
You're in good company. Generations of LitFic writers have felt exactly this way.
If you want to reach more readers and have a reasonable chance to make enough money to live on frugally, (well ... very frugally) try for traditional publication.