A recent survey of a mix of self-published authors, reported by Dana Beth Weinberg, suggests the extent to which individual authors are outsourcing some of the tasks that in the good ol’ days, were done by their publisher. There’s a range of those tasks, and some authors do a few of them on their own, and some authors engage several people to accomplish the whole shebang. Recently, some formal book-publishing “teams” have been developed, and they can be expensive and low-performing (see the recent update on the class action lawsuit against Penguin-Random House’s company, “Author Solutions, Inc.,” a costly team service many authors complain under-performs.)
The 2014 survey was conducted by Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest and received information from almost 2,200 self-published and hybrid (both self- and traditionally-published) authors about their most recent self-publishing experience. Just under half of these authors obtained outside help. Apparently believing you can judge a book by its cover, most often they hired a cover artist (35% percent); and 20-25% obtained help with formatting, print on demand, and copy editing. Amazingly, since book sales is the biggest problem for self-published authors, only 11% got help with marketing and promotion!
Only 112 of the 1,900 authors who reported their earnings (net or gross? article doesn’t say) made $10,000 or more from this recent book, and there is a definite trend line between spending more on services and higher earnings. However, most of the authors had a median expense of $0, and earned less than $1,000 on their book. Even among the highest-earning group, only 20 percent of authors spent on marketing and promotion. Something wrong here. And it may be in part that authors feel competent to look at a book cover and say whether they think it’s good or not, but not to assess a marketing campaign that isn’t working.