Stop Telling Black People to Self Publish Part II: Real Numbers

So, last month I wrote about how it's a common refrain that whenever numbers about inequity in publishing come out folks want to offer up self-publishing as a solution.  And while I think self-publishing is a fine choice to make when you have a choice, I don't think it's a viable solution when talking about racial inequity, because building a new system doesn't mean the old system has been dismantled.

But, in the interest of science, let's also talk numbers.

I have published two books, and I've just recently gotten my royalty statement for each.  My numbers for my books are not great, but considering my first book wasn't in Barnes and Noble, they aren't completely abysmal, either.

Here are my numbers:

Vengeance Bound

  • Hardcover: 1096
  • Ebook: 335
  • Trade Paper: 511


Promise of Shadows

  • Hardcover: 2933
  • Ebook: 476
  • Trade Paper: 1055


Now, you can take away a couple of things from those numbers, mainly that Promise of Shadows was a better book than Vengeance Bound (it is). Also that PoS might be visually more appealing than VB (that, too).  But what I want to focus on is the fact that ebooks sell significantly less than either hardcover or paperback.

We can point to the fact that YA is aimed at teens and teens like to read physical books more than electronic books (maybe), but I think the biggest takeaway here is that shelf space increases a book's sales.  Sure, you could have a successful self-published book.  But that book's success will be compounded by having a physical presence in a bookstore.  The more people who lay eyes on your book, the better the chance for a sale.  This is the reason so many books in Target end up on the NYT: more foot traffic and more chance to get that sell.

If people, especially people of color, limit themselves to self publishing and a digital only chance for a sell, they're limiting their chance of success right out of the gate.  And in a system where the deck is already stacked against them, how viable of a solution is that really?