The Amazon Self-Publishing Myth

Updated: Aug 16, 2020

Note: This article also appears in Medium's publication: The Startup.

Can you make a decent living from self-publishing on Amazon? Thousands of authors have done it, so it’s possible, right? Hugh Howey did it without any additional marketing other than the episodic fiction he published on his own website. J.A. Konrath has published a zillion titles with everything from kid’s books to erotica and shows no sign of stopping. Meredith Wild built an entire publishing empire, complete with her own imprint, from the humble Kindle platform of 2011.

But what about you?

If you’re not already established, do the opportunities of 2010-2012 still exist for you? A lot of people will tell you that they do, especially if they’re trying to sell you on marketing services, but it’s a claim you need to weigh carefully before investing your time and money into self-publishing. The future of publishing itself—especially on Amazon—may not be what you think.

According to recent the study conducted by the Author’s Guild, all author incomes have declined by 42% in the last decade, with the average now standing at $6,080 dollars per year. Considering that, on average, self-published authors invest between $2000-$5000 on publishing and marketing even one title on Amazon, the math doesn’t exactly work in your favor.

There are, of course, many ways to interpret this data. Some of the author bloggers I follow have argued that this math doesn’t apply to them because they’re just too damn good, and the industry is filled with people who aren’t really writers, and can’t manage to write compelling sentences or write about anything that people care about. But that’s not really helpful, is it?