Despite the hype and gold-rush mentality in the self-publishing industry, your chances of financial success -- of making a financial killing -- are not great. Half of self-published e-authors made less than $500 in 2011. Ten percent of authors earn 75% of the revenue, on average about $10,000. Only a fraction make a fulltime living. The survey of 1,007 self-published authors was conducted by blog.taleist.com, "helping writers become published authors."
And there are self-publishing tactics of questionable ethics. John Locke was the first self-published author to sell one million ebooks on Amazon.com for his Donovan Creed spy thrillers. In 2011, he signed a contract with Simon & Schuster. But in 2012, he and other authors were taken to task by The New York Times for purchasing reviews -- generally favorable if not rave reviews -- to create buzz for their books on Amazon.
The Times article noted that given the enormous growth of self-publishing -- from 51,237 (mostly print-on-paper books) in 2006 to 300,000 mostly ebooks in 2011 to a projected 600,000 ebooks in 2015 -- authors have to find ways to stand out from the hoards. But readers should be wary that one-third or more of online reviews are either paid for or fake.
If authors and readers can't depend on the veracity of online reviews, how do they get noticed? A plethora of online consultancies suggest authors should invest in social media -- Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.com videos -- and traditional public relations pitches to newspapers, magazines and television shows. But Ewan Morrison in The Guaridan is highly skeptical. Efforts to monetise social media are bound to fail, he says, and authors should view come-ons to "invest" in social media as promises unlikely to be fulfilled. Why Social Media Isn't the Magic Bullet for Self-Published Authors
Morrison argues that the rise of ebooks will destroy the ability of many writers to make a living. Instead of publishing houses discerning quality, betting on authors, assuming some risk, and giving significant advances to write books, authors will instead be encouraged to take all the financial risks themselves and self-publish. Morrison fears many authors will live on their credit cards while they write books they believe in. In the off-chance that a book is a success in the self-published market, traditional publishers will then offer deals to authors who've already proved themselves, having shared none of the risk.
"Forecasts predict that within 10 to 15 years the largest "publishers" in the world will be Google, Amazon and Apple..." Morrison predicts a "race to the bottom," in which "competing corporations cut their prices in the bid to put all other competitors out of business."
Just as piracy has nearly destroyed the music industry, making it nearly impossible for midlevel musicians to make a living from their music, Morrison fears the same thing will happen to books and their authors.