Finding Self Publishing Success

Steve Brown gives readers hints on how to increase direct sales and find self publishing success.

| March/April 1976

OK, self-publishing sounds like a meaningful and satisfying career, especially for someone who likes to write anyway  but is it profitable? Can a person really eke out a living in the small-book business? Is it possible to find self publishing success?

Well, considering the fact that you'd have to sell eight hundred thirty-three one-buck booklets a month just to gross $10,000 a year — and the fact that nobody has that many friends and relatives — the prospects, at first, don't look all that encouraging.

Remember, however, that Random House wasn't built in a day. Nor was Little Brown House. Steve Brown started with a single book four years ago but it wasn't until recently that he had enough titles — and enough sales — to warrant entering the business on a full-time basis.

"You have to realize," explains Steve, who now publishes 12 new books annually, "that at first, when you have only one or two titles to market, you can't expect to make tremendous amounts of money. In fact, you probably won't make more than $100 or $150 a month. That is considerable, though, for someone who must work full time at another job. It obviously makes a great second income."

As an example of the kind of financial return that can come from the writing, producing, and selling of small books, Steve Brown's Harpers Ferry guide — which is now in its second edition — cost 50 cents a copy to print and in one six-month period sold 2,000 copies at $2.50 each. In addition, The Little Brown Cookbook cost 29.5 cents apiece to produce, sells for up to $1.75 a copy, and has gone through three printings in as many years. With a little arithmetic it's plain to see that yes, by golly, a guy could make a living in this business.

Of course, Steve doesn't actually pocket $1.75 or even $1.45 on every copy of the Brown family cookbook that's sold, because the books are "wholesaled out" to dealers for $1.00 a copy. Nonetheless, direct sales to customers do account for a healthy chunk of Steve's overall business.

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