making money in self-publishing

J.A. Konrath Makes $100,000 in Six Weeks; Not Enough Minority in Gay YA

For some reason, this seems to be the week where authors are talking about how much money they’re making and J. A. Konrath is one of them. In a post titled “Exclusivity,” that talks more about KDP select than money (I’m *becoming* a huge fan of KDP Select), Konrath says this:

I just checked my 6 week KDP total, which updated yesterday, and I’ve made over $100,000.

Although I’ve never been fond of people who talk about how much money they make in public, whether it’s too much or not enough, $100,000 is an interesting figure. And as I said, I’m a fan of KDP Select in spite of the exclusivity and in this post Konrath explains why he does it.. You can read more here. If you are self-publishing, you should read it in full. It’s one exclusive I recommend.

But along with Konrath, this week I’ve seen other authors talking about how much money they made. One bought a six figure car. Another had a six figure advance and only sold something like 4,000 copies. But one in particular caught my eye. In this case, it’s how much money he didn’t make. I’ve seen this article all over social media since last weekend and it’s stirred up more than a few interesting debates.

It’s about a self-published author who thought he was going to be a millionaire, and then learned that just because an e-book is on an Amazon bestseller list it doesn’t necessarily mean the book’s making huge money. I’ve posted about this before myself. I can support his claims. I have had books published with e-presses that never made any bestseller lists on Amazon once and still made a lot more money than books I’ve had out that did make Amazon bestseller lists. So how these bestseller lists on Amazon work, I don’t have a clue. All I know is that if you see a book on any bestseller list on Amazon, don’t automatically believe it’s making the author six figures or more. And that’s not hearsay. However, while this author didn’t reach the pinnacle of six figures in six weeks like Konrath, he didn’t do too badly either.

I just started getting my royalty checks from July the other day (the publishing industry is slow like that). From what I can tell so far, I made about $12,000 from “Broken Piano” sales. That comes directly to me without all those pesky taxes taken out yet (the IRS is helpful like that).

Don’t get me wrong; as a guy with a couple of books out on an independent publisher I never thought I’d see that kind of money. Previously, my largest royalty check was about $153. I’m thrilled and very proud to say I earned any money as a writer. That’s a miracle. It’s just not the jewel-encrusted miracle most people think bestseller bank accounts are made from.

All I can add to this is that I’ve been in publishing for twenty years and I have over 100 published works out, with trad print publishers, small presses, e-presses, and those I’ve self-pubbed. I’ve even worked for magazines and newspapers. I’ve had advances from $200 to $5,000. And in all that time I’ve never seen a way that one author can be compared to another. In other words, the two examples above are both an indication of how different each experience is for each writer. Just speaking from my own books alone, I have never been able to find a set pattern when it comes to sales. One book I never expected to make much at all did extremely well (still on a bestseller list for three years running now), and then one I thought would do well did just okay. I’m talking Meh! And so far, I’m only publishing in a small sub-genre, which means my market is less than half of the two authors I mentioned above.

It’s always going to be different. So if you’re going into self-publishing, don’t be distracted by what another writer talks about with his or her own personal experience. Yours isn’t going to be the same. And if you can make something like $10,000 (ball park figure), and get on a few bestseller lists, you did something right. Most of us who stick around and write more than one book are in this because it’s a career. It’s not just a dream of becoming a .99 Amazon millionaire.

Not Enough Minority in Gay YA

In an article written by Malinda Lo, the fact that only white boys seem to dominate gay YA is discussed. It’s a complicated article that gets into other aspects as well, with big fifty cent words like “parenthetical,” and you can read it in full here.

 I totally get where you’re coming from, because I hate being a parenthetical, too. It fucking sucks. And as a writer who writes about people in the parentheses, it can be totally dispiriting to constantly (constantly!) see gay YA about white boys get the majority of the buzz in the industry.

Articles like this bother me sometimes because I don’t like to see us all (everyone in society) being so segregated all the time. In other words, I have several titles out with mixed race characters and I never…NEVER…exploited this fact while talking about them or promoting them. I do agree there isn’t a great balance right now, and maybe “white boys” are the majority of the buzz, but in the same respect one of my goals has always been to desegregate the characters in my books and not put them into categories at all. I don’t like labels of any kind.

The article also gets into other areas of LGBT YA:

I know that “gay” is totally non-inclusive, and I’m using it here for a reason, because non-”gay” folks often do not understand that there is a difference between L, G, B and T, not to mention Q, Q, or I. In this case, they see us all as one thing: not straight. There are certainly differences in how easily the other letters of the QUILTBAG alphabet can find success in the commercial book marketplace, and I don’t mean to minimize those differences. I’m just saying that a lot of the time, non-”gay” folks won’t get the differences. They lump us all together. That’s another reason why many folks celebrate “gay” YA without realizing it’s all about white gay boys.

I don’t totally disagree with this. However, I had an interesting discussion with another author this week in private about the “Q” word. I don’t embrace the “Q” word and never will. To me it’s as offensive as the “N” word. I pay my taxes, I am a home owner, I’m a landlord, I have excellent credit, and I live my life as a responsible citizen just like anyone else. And I don’t like being referred to as a Queer. My books may be on the fringes, but I’m not on the fringes. In fact, this is one label I think I probably find more offensive than any other out there because of all the negativity and hurt it carries.

I get it. I understand the reason why “they” want to use the “Q” word. They’re trying to remove the stigma. But last Sunday night on the TV show “Shameless” when something gay came up the word Queer was not used in a positive way. It was used the way it’s always been used, and the way it is still being used to promote hate.

Look at it this way, I’m not fond of the word “Retard.” I don’t use it, I find it offensive, and I’m glad it’s wrong to use it now. That’s how I feel about Queer. And I’m not the only one.

In any event, I would like to see more books out in general with more diverse characters from all races…but without making a big thing of it at the same time. After all, that’s how most of us are living our lives now. And the ultimate goal for me would be to live in a colorblind society. The only way to do that is to stop segregating everyone. Isn’t that what true equality is supposed to be all about?