Sunday, March 30, 2014

The self-publishing lottery

Digital Book World writer Jeremy Greenfield, who is also a Forbes contributor posted an interesting, and I think revealing list on Forbes.  DBW compiles weekly lists of ebook bestsellers, and Greenfield went back and compiled those lists into totals of bestsellers for last year.  Counting newly-merged Penguin and Random House as one entity, and all self-published authors as one entity, this is what he came up with:

1. Penguin Random House — 478 best-sellers
2. Hachette — 258 best-sellers
3. Self-published — 99 best-sellers
4. HarperCollins — 91 best-sellers
5. Simon & Schuster — 72 best-sellers
You might think this list reveals that self-publishing is going great guns, and I think it is. But what the list doesn't show is almost as important as what it does. It doesn't say how many books were published in total, by each publisher/entity. If a batter hits 100 home runs out of 10,000 times at bat, it's not that great a home run average. But if he hits 100 out of 1,000, he's doing a lot better, and 100 out of 500, he's probably in the majors. 

So, that's my point. The list looks great until you count the at-bats for self-published authors. I'm not pushing doom and gloom, mind you, just realism. Know the odds, but do it if you want it badly enough. My motto is, even a tiny chance is better than no chance. 


  1. Excellent point, Carmen! And (as I'm sure you're aware), making it into those ranks as a self-published author requires not only a terrific story but excellent writing; top-notch editing, copyediting, and proofreading; eye-catching cover design; and a good bit of marketing. Of course, making it into the best-seller ranks in traditional publishing requires much the same, but the publisher takes on some of those functions (though apparently less and less of the marketing.) Which is only to say that self-publishing requires a lot of commitment if an author is serious about selling their books. It's certainly a viable choice if one is willing to put in the effort, and one which may indeed lead to success.

    1. Glad you think so. Marketing is tough, either way. For one thing, you have to keep doing it.