In reply to the recent very negative Guardian piece about self-publishing by Ros Barber, herself not self-published, British self-published thriller writer Rachel Abbott has shared her own experiences of self-publishing. And they’re quite positive – two million copies positive.
“Last week I looked at the complex set of spreadsheets I use to track my ebook sales and gave a whoop of delight: I had just sold my two-millionth book,” the article begins. “The vast majority of those sales were achieved through self-publishing.”
But as Rachel Abbott says, “it takes a lot of work to make those sales: when I started to follow my marketing plan for Only the Innocent, I was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. For three months, not a word of a novel was written.” Fortunately, she claims “I love the variety and the challenge.” And she does have “a brilliant agent, Lizzy Kremer.” All the same, it’s clear that those sales are the outcome of a proportionate amount of serious effort.
Is it worth it, though? Rachel Abbott doesn’t quote actual income figures. But the article quotes a price of £3.68 ($5.30) for her latest ebook. Assuming that she is earning KDP’s lower royalty rate of 35 percent, Rachel Abbott could have made some $3.71 million from those two million copies. At the higher rate of 70 percent, she could have made up to $7.42 million.
Of course, print sales, foreign sales, and other factors will have affected the actual level. All the same, Rachel Abbott’s self-publishing choice is suddenly looking a lot more sensible than Ros Barber’s traditional publishing option. She only secured an advance of “£5,000 [$7189] for two years’ work” on her latest novel, or less than one thousandth of Rachel Abbott’s higher self-publishing total. The doubts she raises about self-publishing in her own piece don’t exactly stack up well against that comparison.
Still, Ros Barber does get compensation in one other form – the snob value that Rachel Abbott objects to. “Some festival organisers still believe I don’t have as much to say about writing and selling books as a traditionally published author, regardless of their popularity,” she complains. With these kind of income levels, though, she can literally afford to live with their snobbery.