The jury is no longer out. I’m successful as a self-published author (Necromancer’s Gambit, etc), a mainstream Gollancz author (Empire of the Saviours, etc) and an indie author (The Book of Orm, etc). I’ve been working with e-publishing and all other types of publishing for 8 years. I’m very IT savvy. HERE’S THE BOTTOM LINE: sales of my e-books have rarely exceeded 10% of my total sales. Let me say that again: 10% In the scheme of things, it really isn’t worth the pretty large effort that I’ve put into it.
Because, to sell e-books, you have to format the thing, get it onto websites, market it, drive traffic, engage in forum discussion, get reviews, constantly monitor information flows, etc. Yes, it all sounds very similar to what you have to do with a regular hard copy book in the physical world… but the point is the hard copy book generates ten times the volume of return!
You might frown and think I’m doing something wrong. I ain’t. I know all about BookBub, NetGalley, Listmania, SEO and e-marketing (I have a qualification in it and have worked in it as a day job in the past). Another stat for you: the self-publishing market has only taken 14% of the traditional market from the mainstream publishers (and many industry watchers think that number is inflated). That stat is very similar to my own 10% experience too.
And sales of e-books are actually falling worldwide. Really not worth the effort then. When I put out a book in hard copy as well as e-copy, then I find that a book signing for the hard copy will often drive online sales and vice versa. The marketing in the physical world can help e-sales, and e-marketing can help physical sales. BUT, when I put out a book in e-copy only, you can count the volume of sales on one hand. On its own, then, e-publishing is a bit of a waste of time.
You will be frowning mightily by now. What about all those e-book millionaires you’ve heard about? Well, I’ve looked up most of those stories, and some were driven by Amazon itself, marketing the whole e-publishing industry back in the prospector-days. Some stories seem more legit, but there are precious few of them (just as precious few full-time authors make more than £11K/year right now). It seems, then, there is no gold in them there hills. Or if there ever was, the seams have now been mined out. Only fool’s gold remains.