Book Publishing is About More than Just Money

Bryan Collins of Become a Writer Today recently included me (along with other big writers like K. M. Weiland, James Scott Bell, and Robert McKee) in an awesome infographic: 11 Top Writers on their Greatest Writing Challenges and How they Overcome their Demons.

In addition to being a “top writer”, I’m also a writing coach. I’ve worked with hundreds of aspiring authors one-on-one and through group coaching. Many of these aspiring authors have told me their goal is to publish a book, and, in doing so, generate enough income to quit their day job.

Unfortunately, this is not a realistic goal.

I’m not betting against aspiring authors when I say this. Their books very well might become smash hits. That said, it’s still not a realistic goal because, as I said in the infographic, books are just not a good business to get rich in – the profit margin is too thin.

Let’s do some rough math.

Say you’re selling a print-on-demand paperback book for $15 via Amazon CreateSpace. The book is going to cost about $5 in Createspace printing costs and Amazon is going to take another $5 as their cut of the book. That leaves you with about a $5 profit per book.

A $5 profit per book means, if you want to leave a $50,000 a year day job, you’re going to need to sell 10,000 paperback books. Making 10,000 book sales means your book is a hit. It’s extremely difficult to sell that many books, but it’s not impossible. You could totally do it.

The problem is you’re going to need to have another massive hit next year, and every single year after that until you retire. That’s a tall order for any author.

That’s why generating enough income via book sales alone to quit a day job just isn’t realistic for 99% of authors.

But here’s the thing… I still think you should write and publish books.

You absolutely should!

Publishing books has transformed my life and it will transform yours as well.

Becoming an author has enriched my existence in dozens of ways that have nothing to do with books sales, business, or money.

Here’s just one example:

Rocket Princess

Last year I published a children’s picture book, Rocket Princess vs. Snaggletooth the Dragon. I’ve sold very few copies of the book. In fact, I haven’t earned back the money I invested in commissioning the illustrations. Yet I consider the book one of my biggest successes as an author.

Why would I consider a book that has lost me money a success?

I consider it a success because, after publishing the book, I was invited to read Rocket Princess to my daughter Alyssa’s pre-school class, as well as my daughter Jillian’s kindergarten class.

Rocket Princess Reading

Reading ‘Rocket Princess vs. Snaggletooth the Dragon’ with my daughter at my side.

My daughters were so proud to see their dad in their classroom reading his book to their classmates. The kids in the room loved hearing the story read by the author. My wife even came and watched both times. Doing those two readings was personally rewarding in a way books sales or a check from Amazon will never be.

Writing a book, creating art of any kind, is about more than sales. It’s about more than money. It’s about connecting with readers. It’s about creating something new. It’s about spreading joy and entertaining an audience.

You aren’t going to get monetarily rich publishing a book, but you’ll live a richer life.

I promise you that.

grey backKevin T. Johns is an author, writing coach, and ghostwriter. He has helped hundreds of writers from around the world get ideas out of their heads, onto the page, and into readers' hands. Get your free copy of his short guide for authors below.


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