Self-Publishing By the Numbers

Hello lovely readers! Happy 2015! I've given up on apologizing for disappearing for weeks at a time, because the fact that I'm even still blogging during college is an accomplishment in itself.

So! Let's just jump into today's topic, yes? Self-publishing: the numbers!

When you discuss writing and publishing with the general public, there's a lot of strange ideas floating out there. You've got people who think every semi-successful writer is living off the paycheck of J.K. Rowling or Nicholas Sparks.

You've got people who think writing isn't a real job, no matter how much time and work and initial investment you pour into your work.

And then you've got people like a guy I heard about recently who is retiring his job this January to become a writer. He plans to marry his girlfriend, buy a house, and start a family on his writing income... and so far he's got exactly one chapter and a nightmare of a plot mess to go off.

C'mon, people. Let's be real.

I can't speak for traditional publishing, although there are several nice folks out there who already have. I can't speak for all self-publishers. But I can give you the straight, hard facts about my self-publishing experience so far and let the numbers speak for themselves. If you're trying to decide what writing route to take, make sure you're not letting romanticism and daydreams make that choice for you. Here are my facts.

My book Sixteen is 90 pages long. The published manuscript contains 17,133 words.

Costs, which I calculated last spring when I first published the book:


Editing: 30 pages in Microsoft Word at $1/page = $30
Cover: $40 premade cover + $30 for changes = $70
Formatting: $20 Kindle + Free Smashwords = $20

Ebook total: $120


Cover: $100 for all-new cover = $100
Formatting: $40 base price = $40
ISBN: $10 for custom ISBN = $10

Print total: $150

Total: $270

Ebook list price for 2014 was $0.99. (Ebook list price for 2015 is $2.99.) Print list price for that year was $6.99.

In 2014, I sold 239 ebook copies, not including returned and refunded sales. I also sold 24 paperback copies. Added up, that's 263 copies of Sixteen sold.

From ebook sales, I made $70.98. From paperback sales, I made $57.40. That's a total earnings of $128.38.

So, total cost of publishing Sixteen was $270 (incredibly low for a self-published book). Total earnings equaled $128.38. That adds up to a loss of $141.62.

I love self-publishing, and I don't plan on going traditional or hybrid anytime soon. It's definitely the best road for me. But let's be real: when you crunch the numbers, self-publishing is nobody's dream job. So writers, keep your feet on the ground and don't quit your day job.


  1. Thank you for the honesty in the post, Emily! It's so hard to find people who state cold hard numbers, dollars, and cents, and I appreciate you doing so.
    ~Sarah Faulkner



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