Seven Important Things I’ve Learned About Self-Publishing

November 2003
by Joseph Jenkins

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1. People may actually read your book.

Don’t laugh–my first book, The Humanure Handbook, is on such an off-the-wall topic (composting human manure) that I was sure no one would read it. I predicted a lifetime sales total of 250 copies (roughly one in a million U.S. residents), and I wasn’t too concerned about the off-color jokes and execrable humor because no one was going to read it anyway. That was eight years and 20,000 copies ago. I have shipped this book to at least 52 countries around the world. Always write your book as if everyone is going to read it! You just never know . . ..

2. If you think you’re going to get rich by being an author, play the lottery instead–you’ll have a better chance.

In the past eight years of self-publishing three titles, I have sold approximately $750,000 worth of books, retail value. My gross return, on average, is about one-third of the cover price for each book sold; so, in eight years, I have grossed about $240,000 in book sales, or $30,000 per year. By the time I deduct printing costs, advertising, artwork, promotion, office expenses, research, travel, and whatever else I have to spend money on in order to produce books, I have made about a dollar an hour for my time. So that brings us to #3.

3. Have a day job if you want to survive.


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