A common question asked by those who want to be authors concerns how much their potential books will earn. No one can estimate (or “guesstimate”) that.

Publishing is a business. That’s why so few (less than 2%) of unsolicited manuscripts are accepted by literary agents and traditional publishers. They will only invest their time and effort into those books they believe they can sell in quantitities sufficient to generate a profit. This helps to explain why ideas are worthless and execution matters.

Traditional publishing companies no longer underwrite book marketing like they used to. In a deeply competitive market, they throw their limited marketing budgets where that money will have the greatest return on investment, which means they are more likely to fund their bestselling authors whose work will almost certainly generate profits than they will fund a new author who doesn’t have a ready-made platform or audience itching to buy their book. Publishers prefer investing in a sure thing, because they’re running a business.

It’s a harsh lesson to learn. This is not Field of Dreams, because if you build it (i.e., publish it), it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will come (i.e., readers will buy your book).

Writers who believe they have good stories that deserve to be seen by the reading public have the option to self-publish. An author with a robust social media following likely has a better chance than one who doesn’t to experience the joys of commercial success.

The advice to avoid vanity presses–never pay a publisher—has somehow become confused to mean that publishing a book should cost nothing. That’s far from the truth. Self-publishing means that author assumes and undertakes on his or her own behalf all the responsibilities of a traditional publisher. Those responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the work that goes into producing a quality product. A quality product meets industry standards for professionalism.

Traditional publishers employ teams of professionals for editing, cover design, book formatting, and marketing. Writing a book may be a solitary endeavor, but producing a good one involves a team. Most writers are not skilled or professionally competent at all the work that goes into producing a quality book: writing, editing, cover design, page formatting. Sure, an author can learn all those skills, but mastery to the level of professional competence takes a lot of time and practice.

The best option for authors who don’t want to spend years learning those skills and do want to produce quality books is to hire professionals who do have those skills. That, of course, costs money, sometimes lots of money. Professionals don’t work for free.

This means the self-published book enters the world with a financial deficit. If an e-book is priced at $1.00 and the publishing platform pays a 35% royalty, then a book which may have cost thousands of dollars to produce may have to sell tens of thousands of copies to break even.

Quality enhances a book’s chances for commercial success. The reading public expects and deserves books that meet or exceed industry standards for quality and professionalism.  Quality itself cannot guarantee commercial success, so savvy authors turn to marketing.

Marketing further enhances a book’s chances for commercial success. Marketing may entail rewriting cover descriptions (back cover blurb), advertisements on social media platforms, book tours, blog hops, and more. All require an investment in time and many require a financial investment, too. Marketing works best when the author has a carefully developed and actionable strategic marketing plan and executes it. Marketing builds brand awareness, brand name recognition, and product awareness and recognition. It doesn’t necessarily create demand, but it manipulates demand and stimulates interest. When marketing converts viewers into purchasers, it works as the author desires.

Marketing is a task occupying whole departments of people in many companies. The solitary author must choose which marketing activities he or she will do and try not to let the work of marketing turn into a full-time occupation, because the author will likely feel the obligation to write another book. Or the author may decide to hire a marketing team to assist. Once again, that costs money.

By the way, marketing is no guarantee of commercial success either.

Combined, top-notch quality and strategic marketing offer any author his or her best chance for commercial success and profit. Just be aware there’s no guarantee.

Hen House Publishing assists authors in improving the quality of the books they wish to publish. Our services include ghostwriting, editing, proofreading, and book formatting.

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