Self-publishing, a path to riches?

So, I completed Chandler Bolt’s video series, and it is a pitch for his class.  There was some okay content in the remaining videos, but probably not worth the 1+ hour I spent watching the series.  Video 2 dealt with mechanics of how to write the book.  Chandler emphasized doing pre-work- mindmapping, outlining, etc before starting to write.  I think this is really an excellent strategy, especially for non-fiction.  He then suggests such things as dictating your book into an app (working off your outline) and paying to have it transcribed and edited.  While I think may be a useful approach for some, and especially those with handicaps that might prevent typing, I think that there more iterations of editing/improvement beyond get it on paper and pay (a low cost bidder) to edit it.  For me, it further reinforced the vibe that this course is for people who don’t care about writing, and don’t care to hone their craft.  The last real video was about marketing your book and the mechanics of becoming a Amazon best-seller. How you orchestrate a launch, pricing strategies, how to get reviews, how you should categorize your book on Amazon. Chandler’s demeanor totally changed in this video; he became noticeably more passionate and engaged.   This is some of the stuff that I would be interested in learning, and I would even pay for a course.  Chandler might even be a great teacher, based on how engaged he became.

But, philosophically, I don’t agree that everyone should write a book.  I don’t believe that the actual _writing_ part should be considered the least important part of the process.  I strongly believe that the internet and self-publishing are revolutionary and this allows voices that would not be heard before to have a platform.  The “long tail” wasn’t served well before, and I am grateful that we live in an age where it is.  But a writer has to want to write.  A teacher has to want to teach.  An artist has to want to create.

To vomit out a book to make some passive income sounds horrible to me. From what I could tell, most of Bolt’s students didn’t do all that well on the passive income side.  Usually they made a few thousand total, with steep drops after the first few months.  Most of the figures about how much money they made included things like increased consulting gigs/ gaining new clients based on the credential of writing a book.

At first glance, that doesn’t sound too bad- assume you get $5,000 out of the book.   I have a feeling that is a wildly generous figure.  I did a quick search for how much the average ebook makes, and found that 60% of self-published authors make less than $5,000/year.   Are they really all failing because they didn’t take Chandler Bolt’s course?

Let’s run through the math.  The course itself costs $600 or $2000 depending on the tier.  You can argue that maybe this shouldn’t be included in the estimate, but it is a real cost.  There are other costs involved too. If you do his dictation to the phone method, then you can add a few hundred for the transcription.   Two others mentioned in the video were editors and a graphic designer for the cover.  (Technically a graphic designer wasn’t mentioned, but the cover was mentioned as a critical factor.)  I really have no idea how these might cost- $500?  I’m sure a high quality professional would cost dramatically more, but assume you can find someone acceptable on Elance or Fivver or whatever.  So far, you are still coming out ahead- most of us would probably spend ~$1000 for a $5000 return.    The common timeline mentioned in the video was 3 months from start to publication, if you worked for 30-60 minutes every day.  If you assume an hour a day for 90 days, then you have spent 90 hours to set up this source of passive income (that will probably only last for 3-6 months).   I’ll do the math all the way for you- assume that with your costs, you net $4,000.  This means you earned $44/hour for your 90 hours of writing time.  That sounds really good.

I’d like a passive income as much as the next person.  But courses on generating passive income are modern day snake oil.  If it were really that easy, wouldn’t we all be doing it? So, I’m going to research the economics of self-publishing a little bit more.  How much does the typical book make, and how long does it continue to generate reasonable passive income?  I’ll post my findings here when I have them.

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