MONEY MONEY MONEY!
Your book is done and you've promoted it to death. Now all that's left is to sit back and watch the money come rolling in.
You might want to take a number and have a seat. I'm still waiting for it to come rolling in, too.
I guess I should have mentioned this in the beginning. If you wrote and self-published a book in hopes of getting rich, I could have saved you some time.
The good news is, for most low selling books, you'll make a lot more money self-publishing than you would with a normal book deal. To understand why, first you have to understand how the big book publishers work.
Traditional book publishing works like this. You pitch your book to an agent. The agent finds you a publisher and gets you a deal. You get paid an advance. The advance comes out of your future royalties. The agent keeps 15%.
There are various formulas used to get those numbers, but for simplicity's sake we're going to use some fictitious even ones. As a first time writer, let's say you pitch your idea to an agent who does a great job and gets you, a first time writer, an advance of $3,000. Additionally he gets you a sliding royalty rate; you get 10% of the first 10,000 copies sold, 12 1/2% for the next 5,000 copies, and 15% on all copies sold after that. (I got those numbers from a real publishing website.)
After two years, Commodork has sold right at 1,000 physical copies. With a $15 cover price and a 50% profit margin, that means in two years I've netted $7,500.
In our deal above, the $3,000 advance comes out of your royalties. With a 10% royalty rate, that means you're making $1.50 per book. You'll need to sell 2,000 books just to cover your advance, and another 3,000 books to make the additional $4,500. And don't forget about your agent's 15%! With our published book deal, you would have to sell 5,750 copies of your book to make the same amount that I made by self-publishing 1,000 copies. ($7,500 + 15% = $8,625.)
Obviously, book publishers and agents alike are betting on you. They hope you sell a million copies; more sales equals more money for them (and, by default, more money for you). Stephen King received a $2,500 advance for his first novel, Carrie. The paperback rights later sold for $400,000 (King received half of that). Peter Benchley received a $7,500 advance for his novel, "Jaws", which took him a year to write. The paperback rights sold for $575,000 -- again, Benchley got half of that. The film rights were sold for $150,000 (along with a percentage of the profits). Jaws (the book) eventually sold 20 million copies. Ten percent of those sales ain't bad!
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that those deals are the exception to the rule. They are more like lightning strikes than the norm. Yes, King and Benchley are good writers, but there a million good writers out there who never get rich writing. There are a lot of great writers who never make a penny from their work.
For first time writers and niche books, self-publishing is not a bad option.