I have a year’s worth of sales data to assess the results of my self-publishing efforts. I thought it would be a fun exercise to compare my actual self-publishing revenue results with a hypothetical legacy publishing contract. That is, assume that I could have gotten an agent and publisher.
Let’s take a look at my full-length novel, Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance, because I have the most data on it.
Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance Actual Self-Publishing Results
I self-published Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance in November 2010.
I have spent $1,550 on editing, cover art, and advertising.
I’ve grossed about $5,347, for net royalties of $3,797.
Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance Hypothetical Legacy Publishing Results
Let’s say that I was incredibly lucky and got an agent and publisher back in November 2010. I don’t think that’s too likely, because I was an unknown, untested author with a cyberpunk novel, but let’s just say it happened.
Let’s also say I got an average $5,000 advance.
The publisher absorbs all the expenses, so my only expenses are my agent’s cut of $750.
That leaves me with $4,250.
So, if my hypothetical scenario actually happened, I’d be doing a bit better monetarily if I had gone with legacy publishing.
Of course, it’s possible my book wouldn’t even be for sale yet, since it can take 6 – 18 months for a publisher to get a novel on the shelves.
Knowing what I do now, would I go back in time and instead pursue an average publishing deal?
My hypothetical scenario makes a major assumption that I do not think is remotely likely.
The cyberpunk genre is not a popular one, and I don’t think most publishers would even give it a look. I expect that, had I struggled in the query letter carousel, I would not have found a publisher yet. Look at Joe Konrath. He had 500 rejections over many years before he found a publisher, and he was writing in a popular genre. I believe that I would still be searching for a publishing deal, and collecting a growing pile of rejection postcards.
In the far more likely hypothetical scenario, my legacy publishing career would still be spinning wheels with $0 in advances.
So, I’m still happy I self-published. As I publish more books, I think I’ll be even more happy.
Are you happy self-publishing?