Why Am I Writing and Publishing Books?


Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Hi, SE’ers. John here on this last Friday of May. (The time flies cliche works beautifully here)

I have been reading a lot lately where authors lament the lack of book sales and question why they continue to write and publish books that don’t sell.

This preponderance of recent author concentration on book sales incentivized me to ask myself why I also continue to do it. So with some deep introspection, I came up with an answer. Before I provide some insight into why I publish books, I want to talk a little about the what of publishing books. Here are some facts about the self-published industry.

There are more than 1.7 million self-published books launched every year. This data is from Bowker in 2022.

From WordsRated, here are the following statistics for 2023.

  • 30-34% of all ebooks sold are self-published.
  • 300 million self-published books are sold each year.
  • $1.25 billion worth of self-published books are sold each year.
  • Amazon pays $520 million in royalties to self-published authors each year.
  • Only 1% of audiobooks on Audible are self-published.
  • 67% of top-rated, self-published books are written by women, compared to just 39% of traditionally published books.
  • The global publishing market is expected to grow at 1% CAGR per year, whereas the self-publishing market is expected to grow at 17%.
  • The number of self-published books has increased by 264% in the last five years.
  • 33% of self-published authors make less than $500 per year.
  • 90% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies.
  • 20% of self-published authors report making no income from their books.
  • More than 1,000 self-published authors made $100,000 last year from Amazon.
  • 30-34% of all ebooks sold are self-published
  • 85% of Kindle Unlimited books are self-published.
  • Self-published books account for 31% of Amazon’s ebook sales.

So to summarize.

The self-published industry is big and growing faster than traditionally published books. There are opportunities to make big money in self-publishing. Unfortunately, there is also an opportunity to make very little. A large share (90%) of all self-published books sell less than 100 copies. A small percentage (20%)  of self-published authors report no income. This leads me to believe all those folks who continue to concentrate on book sales certainly have a vast area in which to succeed but also can join those who are less successful in selling books.

I do think it is safe to say book sales will not just come to those who simply publish. The data suggests that if an author wants sales, the author will have to work for them. Nothing comes to those who wait. An important point to remember is self-published book sales are growing, not declining.

If books are not selling to the author’s satisfaction, then the author will have to do the hard work to figure out how to reach their reading public. It may mean spending more money to find and reach them. Of all the material I read, there is no magic way to do this. What may work for one book may not work for another.

So the walkway from this information is if you read negative opinions about book sales, it is not the market. It is a matter that the author is not reaching those who are most likely to buy the books.

So why am I continuing to write and self-publish books? First of all, I love to write them. Secondly, I really am not concerned about book sales. Yes, I continue to try new things to achieve more sales, but in the end, I realize I don’t have a silver bullet solution. However, that will not stop me from writing and publishing.

How about you? Have you found a surefire way to sell your books? If not, do you care if your books sell?


116 thoughts on “Why Am I Writing and Publishing Books?

  1. The thought of my work not being read by anyone is what discourages me from completing my writing, but I know I should change my mindset and I’m slowly getting to that. I hope to be able to complete a book/novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe this will help. Write your book for you and pretend no one else in the world is going to read it. If it gives you pleasure then that is all that counts. Who knows it may sell a million but while writing try not to think about who is going to read your book.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi John, like you, I write because I like writing. If I get some sales and reviews, I am delighted. Sure I would like to sell more of my books, but that isn’t my primary motivation so less sales doesn’t depress me. Children’s books are particularly hard to market on-line but I have been fortunate enough to get some reasonable sales to our local Department of Education. That really delights me as my books are going into schools and encouraging children to read. That is why I write.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, John. The statistics regarding the growth in self-publishing are exciting. But you’re so right that sales depend on relentless marketing. I’ve been at this for 13 years and still don’t have the silver bullet. Thank goodness writing is so much fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ll admit this data discourages my trying, but I haven’t even completed something ready for publishing!

    Maybe you’ve already written a post like this, but a follow-up could be good motivators for writing -or, the steps one takes to publish.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You hit the nail on the head John. We write because we love to tell stories. It’s great when we don’t have to rely on book sales to survive. But still, we want people to appreciate our work so we have to find ways to get it out into the world. Most of us writers don’t like marketing. Lol 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I plan to continue. I often fantasized about traditional publishing, even recently I had high hopes of getting a traditional publisher’s attention. I realized as well that my reasons are for the exposure rather than monetary gain. And I wonder now if I can simply put forth more effort and attainable plans to do so myself while continuing to self publish. I really believe that I can!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, John 🙂 Something I give deep thought to often… the why and how. I think the challenge of figuring out how to sell them is intriguing and not completely impossible. Since I enjoy creating stories, I will do it whether I get the big sales or not. There is strength in our increasing numbers amd hopefully that will be our key.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This has been such a comforting post! When I self-published my first book I thought that people would buy it if it was any good. Then I started looking at statistics and realised that such a scenario was very unlikely to happen. However, some of the reviews I received were so moving and encouraging it was all I needed to continue. Mae’s comment made me smile because I’d experienced the same epiphany! Trying to brag about my work and spending money hoping to promote it made me miserable. I will always write and I’m so fortunate that I belong to this community who are so supportive and make it worthwhile. Story Empire and Sally Cronin keep me buoyant and happy – and I’m so very grateful to all of you for sharing your wisdom and support. A great post, John, and I’m sorry to be so late coming to it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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  10. Thank you for this, John. I’ve been asking myself those questions too.
    I’m surprised to see traditionally published books are by such a low percentage of women authors. I shouldn’t be, but I am.
    I wonder how the sales and income figures compare (percentage wise) to traditionally published authors… Something tells me that the figures might not be significantly different.

    Liked by 3 people

    • There are average numbers but they are misleading in that the top one percent of traditional authors earn about 60 % of the money. I’ll see if I can find more information. The women author situation in traditional is why a lot came over to indie. It is a surprise since there are a ton of women editors in traditional. Thanks, Teagan.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting facts you’ve shared, John. I would love to sell a million books–or even a few hundred thousand. But that’s not why I write. I don’t worry about sales. My hope is my stories will outlive me by decades–or maybe even centuries. Maybe a few readers from a generation not yet here will discover my stories and find them entertaining. But if that doesn’t happen either, who cares. I have published stuff I’ve enjoyed writing. I’m with you, John. I love to write them.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. The pertinent question for me isn’t why do I write. I write because it’s who I am. I went to college and grad school to learn the craft of writing fiction because I wanted to dedicate my life to it. The pertinent question for me is why do I publish with so few sales. (I find the statistics you included in this post reassuring. Lack of sales doesn’t reflect badly on my writing; it reflects badly on my marketing.) I have found a small audience who is appreciative of my work, and that’s enough to keep me publishing.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. A very tiny percentage of people make substantial money doing this, but I think most of us (myself included) are not if it for the small amount of sales. It’s about getting to the end of the line and producing something to be proud of. If my future grandchild eventually holds my book in their hands, that’s good enough for me.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Those statistics are very interesting, John. Like most authors, I write because I love to create characters and stories. I’ll never stop doing that.
    Up until this year, I put a lot of effort into marketing, chasing sales, and agents–then I had an epiphany. I’m done seeking the brass ring, and am content to have a small audience. If I stumble over a larger one, that would be fabulous, but I no longer feel the need to chase numbers like I did before. I’m happy just to write and share my stories. It’s wonderful to have found such a sense of peace about that.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Like so many have commented, I write because I love to write! I’m not looking to get rich (though I am open to that abundance coming my way). 😉 I have stories and characters in my head, and I want to see them come alive on the screen/page. That is why I write! Excellent post, John! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. John, this is a great article and I love the statistics. It is truly the marketing that boggles the minds of all authors, I think. If we can reach our audience… that says so much. I think a good blurb is what attracts me to read a book. That, and a well designed book cover that doesn’t look like every fantasy or paranormal cover out there.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. I have to write, and I hate it when my health prevents that. So, as long as I can, I’ll keep writing, whether that be novels, novellas, short fiction, or poetry.

    I guess, over the last ten years of self publishing, I’ve been conditioned not to expect many sales at all 😂

    I’d love the money but wouldn’t care so much for any fame … I wonder how many of us feel that way?

    Basically, if my writing helps or inspires even one person, then I’m so happy!

    Great post, John, and interesting statistics. Thanks for sharing 💕🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Those are some interesting statistics, John. I feel a lot of people self-publish after they’ve schlepped their books from one publisher to another in vain. Not everyone has the energy (desire) to receive 100 rejection letters and keep on trying! I think it’s wonderful to have this option. It costs little to put it out there and if willing to put in the work, the chances of sales increase.
    However, bottom line, if writing brings the writer joy, then just that is worth it. Good stuff, John!

    Liked by 5 people

  19. Excellent post, John, and the statistics you shared are extremely interesting. I wrote my first book as a bucket list thing, and never expected to sell a large number of copies. When it did better than I’d ever imagined and I started getting some five-star reviews, I decided to keep going, mostly because I LOVE knowing that some readers out there enjoy my stories.

    I’ve worked hard on improving my writing with each book, and while I’m certainly not earning a living, I’m still amazed at the total number of books I’ve managed to sell … with ZERO marketing at all, except through my friendships with other bloggers. (What a great, supportive group our fellow writers are!)

    Now that Mark has retired, I’d like to increase sales at least a bit, so I’m finally working on some marketing ideas. But increased sales or no increased sales, I’m still hoping to finish a few more books before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Why? Because just like others have said above, I love writing. End of story.

    Again, great post, John. Thanks so much for sharing your research with us, and here’s to increased sales all the way around. That would be a fun and useful bonus, right?😊

    Liked by 4 people

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  21. Thanks for carrying this subject over from my last Friday’s blog. Those statistics are interesting, to say the least. Marketing is every author’s dilemma. I agree with you that if we want to sell our books, we have to do some hard work. And I have definitely not found the magic bullet. Not sure it’s out there. If so, it’s very elusive. I think the most important thing for us is to write the most polished and compelling stories we possibly can and market them wherever our budgets allow. Great post, John!

    Liked by 4 people

  22. Thank you, John, for this analysis. Like many, I write because I love to do so and hope someone finds the story or poem meaningful or heartwarming, or interesting. And often, I pursue that which I’m trying to understand. With each of my books, I’ve learned immensely. Maybe that’s another reason for writing. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Those stats shouldn’t have surprised me, but they did. That tells me many authors (the vast majority of indies, anyway) write because they love to, not because they’re making a living at it. Wouldn’t it be great if it could be both? Thanks, John.

    Liked by 6 people

    • To put out a quality book, it is expensive. There are some who do not invest in good editing, art, and formatting and their product shows it. So the number of indies does not necessarily equate to the true costs. Thanks, GP. A good point you raise.

      Liked by 2 people

  24. I like the idea of sales and reviews, pages read, too. I don’t have any answers, and this decade seems determined to keep me from spending on promotion. I do love to write and share my stories, so I keep doing it despite sales.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. I too write because I enjoy it. I wouldn’t stop if my only reader was my husband – he likes my thrillers.
    Occasionally, I get depressed by no sales and pay to have the first of a series in a newsletter; it usually results in a sales flurry of the rest. Moral, if there is one, write long series. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  26. You’ve raised an interesting question, John.

    On balance, like others, I appreciate book purchases, but I did not include “sales” in my writing goal to entertain, inform, and inspire. Here’s why.

    Books have the power to influence choices made at life’s crossroads.

    Top-quality fiction entertains, informs, and inspires. Through stories, readers learn the likely results of their choices. Those informed choices can help them transform their lives and avoid negative consequences.

    The stories we write have the power to shape the lives of young and old, and readers reward writers who fulfill their expectations.

    Liked by 6 people

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  28. I don’t write in order to sell, but it is satisfying when someone buys one of my books, and especially when they post a review somewhere. It doesn’t take a lot of sales to keep me happy. Which is good, because working at marketing isn’t something I want to do.

    Liked by 10 people

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