The Constant Hustle of Publishing

There are two points of the year when authors sink into a funk, and that’s March and October when we’re paid. Did you know that writers receive approximately ten percent of the Recommended Retail Price of their book? After publishers take off the costs of production, printing, distribution and marketing and a bit of cream off the top, there’s sweet FA left. And that’s what the writer gets. Next time you’re holding a book in your hands, please feel the warmth of our love and gratitude, but also spare a thought for the future of writing and the literary arts if this carries on. It’s a constant hustle.

I never expected Apple Island Wife to be a best seller (just as well!). It was published with an independent in the UK, and I’ve had to work extremely hard to get copies distributed out here in Australia. Even now, it’s not working brilliantly. My distributors get it out to shops in Tasmania, but not the mainland. I’ve wondered whether to try for a partnership with a different distributor, but I think I’ve missed the boat on this book. My publisher, Unbound, offers a fifty percent share for the writer. They’re disruptors in the industry. But they don’t have the marketing capacity of the mainstream publishers.

That said, Apple Island Wife has found a modest readership and gets great reviews. With the word ‘Tasmania’ in the title, and sitting in the categories of books about Australia, it attracts the readers I thought it would – people curious about Tasmania or thinking of moving here. Twice yearly, the sales data is consolidated by the fairies and elves of the publishing world, and we writers get a statement. I’ve looked at mine and thought, well it’s not a salary, but it’s a small income stream. And it will remain in the market indefinitely. So I’ve been content.

The statement I’ve just received was not one to be content about. It was quite piddling, actually. But it’s been a funny year.

I’m halfway through writing the sequel. They say nothing sells your first book like your second one. I’ve got 107 thousand words at the minute. That’s far too long. It’s not quite War and Peace but it might be Anna Karenina. I’ve got lots of rewriting, adding and whittling to do.

This time round, I’m thinking of self-publishing. Self-published authors receive around 70% of the RRP of their book, I believe. They bear all the responsibility for getting it out into the market, but they retain complete ownership. That’s sounding increasingly attractive. Marketing Apple Island Wife was pretty much down to me. I figure I may as well do it all again this time round and not share the hard-won profits with anybody except my husband, over a nice lunch.

While I haven’t looked into the whole Print-on-demand and Kindle Publishing Direct game in great detail yet, I’ve seen enough to know it’s definitely worth considering.

If you’re a self-published author, an Unbound author like me, or an informed reader, I’d love to hear your view on this.

9 thoughts on “The Constant Hustle of Publishing

    1. My book is memoir, but it’s travel memoir. I’ve always thought that’s a huge bonus, because I sit in the categories of books about Australia, and there’s a lot of international attention on Tasmania as a travel destination. I’m pretty confident it has helped. As for marketing any other type of memoir, yeah, I reckon you’re up against it!


  1. Congrats on making the bestsellers list! Sounds like a crazy journey, and one that’s going to be crazier with the attempt at self-publishing. Wishing you the best no matter what you choose 🙂


  2. Indie author here and wouldn’t have it any other way. I like the control that I have over my own work. It’s been a steep learning curve but I welcomed the challenge and have no regrets. BTW 10% is a pretty generous estimate of how much the writer receives. Traditional publishers are limited in their distribution, will only give bestsellers top billing in bookstores and you still have to bust your gut in marketing.


  3. I’m an indie author and publisher, Fiona. I’ve published four books to date. I do struggle with marketing. However, the genre of the books published so far may have much to do with that, with the latest being a free verse poetry memoir (not a highly popular genre). I’m happy doing it this way. You seem to be really good at marketing, especially on instagram and with keeping your blog current, so I imagine you’ll do great!


    1. Hi Camilla! I think I might just be good at doing Instagram posts, I’m not sure whether it translates into marketing!! That said, I have sold a few books to people I’ve ‘met’ there. Since I will be officially out of work in about two weeks’ time, I’m thinking of offering some teeny, fun online classes in how to do Instagram if you’re an author or avid reader – bookstagram for beginners. We’ll see how that goes. It’s lovely to hear from you! Take care, and stay safe. Fiona x


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