I had a few interesting conversations today with people who are deeply involved in the book publishing scene. Having recently published my own book, I’m always curious to chat with these folks, as I feel like a permanent outsider in those circles.
I’m not a very good writer, I have never really considered myself to be a writer, and until a few months ago the thought of making money by writing something had never really entered my mind.
But despite all of these would-be-fatal shortcomings, a few days ago I officially published a book I co-authored. An honest-to-goodness, 196-page, ISBN-number-and-everything book. Which is weird; I’m a startup guy (if that’s a thing), not a book writer. But the book was successful.
Pre-sales of the book pulled in just over $110,000 (straight into our pockets), and now that it’s published the book is pulling in around $1,000/day on average. By most measures that’s a pretty successful first attempt at writing a book, and it’s a pretty small percentage of authors that pull in that much.
But I don’t say these things to boast. I say this because when I ask the experts what we should do to have a successful book they give a laundry list of rules and best practices, and we broke every single one of them.
Where should you price a book? The sweet spot is between $7.99 and $9.99; maybe if you have a couple books under your belt go for $14.99.
We charge $40.
What colors should you use on your cover? Stick to the basic primary colors — red, yellow and blue, and make them subtly blend into their environment.
Our cover is a funny turquoise-blue, black and gaudy orange.
Most of the sales come from Amazon; it’s a quantity and distribution game
We’re not even selling on Amazon because we don’t want to pay their sky-high royalties.
The list goes on and on and on. Pricing, distribution, publishing, formats, etc. etc. etc. We didn’t do a single thing we were supposed to, and we can do whatever we want.
And as long as our customers like it, it doesn’t matter.
No one to answer to
Were we writing this book 20 years ago, the only way to get it out would have been to go to a publishing company, put our tail between our legs, and pitch our little hearts out. If we were successful, we’d get a standard book deal, a 15% royalty, and we’d pass off some text to the publishing company to take care of all of the marketing.
We would have to do things their way, play by their rules, and check all of the right boxes. We’d want to walk a certain way, talk a certain way, and do things according to the accepted principles and procedures.
Try telling my co-author to do things the way you’re supposed to:
He’s not even American
It’s an incredible time we live in.
You can go from zero to published, distribute, market, sell, do everything on your own, and you don’t have to have anyone’s permission.
You’re free. Do what compels you and makes sense to you, every minute of every day, and figure it out. Let anyone who says otherwise be wrong — in fact, I find it’s easier if you don’t ask them in the first place