Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Making Money as a Self-Published Author

A report came out last week based on a survey of self-published authors. The Guardian composed an article based on the results, stating the following:

“But a survey of 1,007 self-published writers – one of the most comprehensive insights into the growing market to date – found that while a small percentage of authors were bringing in sums of $100,000-plus in 2011, average earnings were just $10,000 a year. This amount, however, is significantly skewed by the top earners, with less than 10% of self-publishing authors earning about 75% of the reported revenue and half of writers earning less than $500.”

The Digital Reader responded to that article, noting that it focused only on certain aspects. In response to half of the authors earning less than $500, they offered this thought:

“The thing is, no matter how little those authors made while self-publishing their ebooks, on average they are almost certainly better off than if they did not have the option of self-publishing.”

Of course, investment in a good editor and book cover artist more or less eats that $500. However, it gets the author’s work out into the marketplace, and as they continue to write and publish books, their total sales per year will grow.

Another interesting factor in sales was the writer’s original publishing path. Authors who were traditionally published first made more money than those who tried the traditional publishing route and were rejected. Authors who never pursued traditional publishing also made more.

What do you think of this survey and its findings?

28 comments:

Jennifer Shirk said...

I see a lot of traditonally pubbed authors doing really well with their self-pubbed titles but I also know of at least 3 authors personally who were rejected by agents and publishers only to make a complete killing on self-pubbing. You never know.

Kyra Lennon said...

I thought this survey was super interesting! I really like the findings that people who never pursued traditional publishing made more than those who had. I can't see myself making thousands of pounds self-publishing, but I love that I have the option to do things this way.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Five hundred isn't a lot but it is better than nothing.

Hart Johnson said...

Through the Amazon contest I've met a ton of people who choose self-publishing and I think the primary problem with those low earners is rushing--and that is NOT to say rushing because the book isn't good enough--most people in that contest GET that the book needs to be good. But they don't have a platform yet--a term which annoys me, but honestly, they haven't put in their social networking time to get their name out there.

i ALSO think a comprehensive PLAN helps. The magic number I've heard is 6. When you have 6 books out there, you can really start making money--you need a SHELF. So it is wisest to not self-publish at ALL until you have about 3 ready to go, then put them out maybe three months apart (while finishing books 4 and 5).... see how this is going? Then you can offer one FREE once in a while. Free is nearly ALWAYS followed by sales bumps, but it is ALSO accompanied by them buying the OTHER books you have up there.

That said, I am committed to traditional for my Cozies and YA. I may self publish my adult suspense, as that is a lot trickier market to break into (though I will offer it to my agent to see)

KarenG said...

Very interesting statistics. I also wonder sometimes about the self-published authors who post and tweet about their sales numbers. Not that they're fudging exactly, but one or two good months doesn't mean you can multiply that by 12 and get your predicted yearly income. Like any kind of sales/commission job, it has highs and lows.

Anna Smith said...

I just self published my A to Z poems, I was thinking a few hundred quid would be awesome, but 10k, wow, how do I get that much hehe! The reason I chose to self pub is I'm skint, so it was a good option for me.
I like that there is a cheap option out there for people who like to write but maybe don't have the experience or the money to do it the traditional way.

Stephen Tremp said...

Its feast and famine. Some months sales are excellent while other months they are flat. Many writers have to look at it as supplemental income and be thankful for that.

Tracy Jo said...

Very interesting and love all the comments too. Great information as I continue down my own writing path and the different choices out there. Thank you!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Jennifer, you don't know, which is all the more reason to try.

Kyra, I found that really interesting, too.

Hart, you said it! Most do rush the process. You need editing, cover art, formatting, time to promote... And multiple books is how John Locke made so much money.

Stephen, yes they do.

Kittie Howard said...

Quite honestly, I prefer an e-book's longevity as it's always out there to market again to soothe the coffers.

Jai Joshi said...

It sounds about right. People don't self publish to make money although if it happens then that's brilliant.

Jai

DL Hammons said...

That corresponds to a statistic I heard at the DFW conference, that 99.3% of self-published books sell less than 200 copies. People read about the exceptions in the news and get excited, but those REALLY ARE THE EXCEPTION.

Gossip_Grl said...

Very interesting post and numbers per the survey. I had actually never heard of self publishing until a couple months ago and have been checking out a few links. Enjoyed reading this.

Ciara said...

Extremely interesting since I'm starting a self-publishing journey. I've been with small press, but wanted to try to control more of my career. I guess I'll see what category I fall under, I'd prefer it wasn't the half that made $500 a year. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Kittie, that is very true.

Jai, it's a bonus.

DL, just like there are exceptions on both sides of the equation.

Ciara, I hope you're not.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I have self published two books and have not made a fortune. I published them so that my friends and family have something I have achieved.....my own poems in a book.

Yvonne.

Misha Gericke said...

Interesting stats. I just don't know what to think any more.

Jemi Fraser said...

I know a few folks who have self pubbed. Most aren't making 100k, but they're making more than $500. These people are authors who've worked hard to publish a quality book.

I wonder if the numbers are a bit skewed as well by those who write a 1st draft, throw it up online and no one buys it.

Arlee Bird said...

The stats of the survey sound credible and the same conclusions could have probably been reached with similar accuracy by anyone who keeps an eye on the industry. Self-pubbing provides options to those who would otherwise never see publication. As long as realistic expectations are kept, those authors should be happy to have a book accessible to the public.


Lee
An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

Donna Hole said...

Its good to know some authors are making some money on self publishing. I hear a lot of complaints around the blogs about low or no sales. But I think if you rely only on the blogs to sell your novels, you won't do as well.

I haven't ventured in self publishing. Marketing is a foreign territory to me :)

........dhole

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I tend to make more money with my self-pubbed titles, it's true. I'll echo Hart's comment on having 6 titles self-pubbed being a good place to be. I'm working on it!

Clarissa Draper said...

I think it depends a lot on the quality of the book and how much you work you put into the editing and publicity. I don't think most self-published authors make enough to live on unless they write multiple books per year.

Susan Roebuck said...

Amazing how people's perspectives on self-publishing have changed over the past couple of years. Well done to all self-published authors who I bet are earning more than I am!!! (a small publisher pubbed-author). Time for me to do a re-think :-)

Talli Roland said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Talli Roland said...

I took part in that survey - the results are very interesting indeed! Not really surprising, in my opinion.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Money is money I say.
- Maurice Mitchell
The Geek Twins | Film Sketchr
@thegeektwins | @mauricem1972

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Jemi, I think they are more skewed by those who made a lot of money.

Elizabeth, more titles makes a big difference.

Talli, that adds a level of credibility I say!

Shelley Harper said...

I think there are at least two paths to self-publishing, just like the survey the states. In my research for my client, a newly launched e-publishing service, I've found there are traditionally published authors who have a back catalogs they can now self-publish or have new work their trad houses won't buy, then there are those indie authors who have not gone the traditional route at all. I think much of the success still depends, as it always has, on the quality of the material itself. The quality, along with a motivated author who works diligently to brand and market themselves, should then be able to enjoy success. The brilliant thing about e-publishing is that so much more of a book's profits go to each author AND authors see results quickly, instead of waiting 6 months or more to get a royalty statement from the previous year. Would you agree that those are two of the most relevant factors in self-publishing, the money and the shortened time frame? Or do you think it's the overall control to publish when and what you want? Our strategy at Booktango is based on all of these, but I'm interested to know what pushes author to do and what makes them hesitate?