Why to self-publish your book

(3 min read) How gaming YouTuber Andrew Givler, aka Sigils, ditched the traditional publishing route to become an indie author. Featuring Amazon KDP and Amazon ACX.

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The Gamer Self-Publishing Urban Fantasy Novels

There are a ton of independent authors generating six to seven figures a year off of Amazon selling books. 

Today we’re going to break down the business and stack of Creator self-publishing via Amazon through the lens of Andrew Givler, aka Sigils - a million-scale gaming YouTuber

Andrew realized his dream of becoming an urban fantasy author by writing and self-publishing his ongoing The Debt Collection series.

Let’s get into it!

The Business



By the numbers, there’s no question Andrew is a YouTuber. YouTube is where over 80% of his audience is, and where 85% of his revenue comes from.

Accordingly, he makes 90% of his revenue from YouTube AdSense and brand deals. 

That’s cool (and lucrative!) but what I’m much more interested in is how much effort he puts into something that yields a very low monetary ROI: his books. 

Andrew’s books return just 2% of his revenue, but he invests a ton of time in them, both because they are a passion of his, and because he self-publishes.

Why self-publish?

Urban Fantasy is considered to be dominated by the top authors, with no room for breakouts. 

That's why most agents weren't that interested in my book - so I just ran off and did it on my own.

While it’s frustrating that traditional publishing gatekeepers didn’t see the value in his followers, going the self-publishing route may have worked in Andrew’s favor. 

The economics of publisher deals are akin to label deals. Publishers pay advances - sometimes a little, sometimes a lot - and then recoup that advance before paying out a small royalty.

A traditional author is lucky to make $0.80 on a paperback sale that might be going for $18+. 

Like with a record label, it’s boom or bust. If you take off, the publisher pumps resources in and takes you to the moon.

If you're a New York Times bestseller and you're on every single Barnes & Noble front shelf when somebody walks in, then you’re going to crush.

Getting a publisher to give you that marketing, though, requires your own rocket fuel to get off the ground. 

Even with a million followers, that might not be enough - you need to sell 5,000-10,000 books in a single week to hit the New York Times bestseller list.

At $18 for a softcover, that’s $180,000 in sales in a single week - a high high bar.

As Andrew has found, self-publishing economics are much better for everyone except the very biggest authors. 

On Kindle, he can undercut publishers by selling books for $2.99 - enough to incentivize impulse purchases by fans and strangers alike - but print economics where self-publishing really shines.

I make 70% after the cost of the production. 

It costs around $21 to produce one of his beautifully-designed hardbacks. He sells them for $30.

That’s $9 in gross profit.

He then splits that 70/30 with the printer (Amazon or a 3rd party), keeping ~$6. 

If he was with a publisher, he’d keep ~$0.80.

That means he’d need to sell ~8x more books via a publisher in order to make the same amount of profit.

The Stack

So…how do you publish your own dream novel?

Through Amazon, of course!

EBooks - Amazon KDP

Amazon built this whole thing called KDP - Kindle Direct Publishing. They have a system in place for you to just upload a book and say “Go!” 

The way that most people are reading right now and discovering new authors is digital. You can write a Kindle book and sell it for $2.99, and for somebody who's never heard of you but likes the premise, that's a pretty low ask versus if they've never heard of you and it's $18.99 for a paperback….

By starting with digital, you set yourself up to convert as many of your fans as possible, while also attracting new readers who are exploring and impulse buying. You’ll make ~$2 from a $2.99 Kindle ebook, and sell lots of them.

Physical Books - Amazon KDP

I sell a lot of physical copies of my books because I have a lot of viewers who like to hold and actually appreciate the thing. They're maybe not really in the Kindle sphere, but they are willing to try a book I wrote because they like my sense of humor and my style. 

With Amazon’s print-to-order, I don't have any overhead going in. My costs are upfront, like the art, the book design, the formatting, the editing. 

True fans will spend more if you give them more to spend on. You can do that by offering higher-priced physical copies, but make sure to use Amazon’s print-on-demand capabilities so you don’t end up holding inventory. As described above, you’ll make ~$6 from a $30 hardback; even if you don’t sell as many, that’s a nice margin with zero risk!

Audiobooks - Amazon’s ACX 

You can go to ACX, and do a post like, “Here's the audiobook, the genre, a sample script. I want you to read this and do that.” You set your price range, and they even have a boilerplate contract. I got about 100 auditions, five were really solid reads, and I ended up working with Michael. He's been crushing it ever since. 

Amazon has made it easy for anyone to produce an audiobook. You don’t even need to call a friend or go to Fiverr to find a voice actor - they’re all in the ACX marketplace, so you can produce and distribute all in the same place. 

Convenience aside, this also contributes to one other big benefit of self-publishing: creative freedom.

A trad-published author doesn’t have much control, right? They don't get to direct their audiobooks. 

At the end of the day, I'm paying for it, so I'm the director of my audiobooks.

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Written by Avi Gandhi, edited by Melody Song,
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