Self Publishing Success – Numbers and Thoughts
The Guardian recently published some sobering numbers for self publishing earnings revealing less than half of self published authors earned more than $500. For a lot of people this isn’t going to be a surprise though I imagine for a lot of others who have the success stories of Amanda Hocking and El James echoing in their dreams, this may come as a real shock.
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.
For the genre writers, it seems romance is the most profitable, the speculative fictions not doing too badly, but the literary types coming in bottom rung.
Those who want to do best at self-publishing, they found, would be well advised to focus on romantic fiction. Romance authors earned 170% more than their peers, while authors in other genres fared much worse: science-fiction writers earned 38% of the $10,000 average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20% of the $10,000 average.
These cold, hard numbers come in the wake of recent discussions of whether or not the whole digital self publishing phenomenon is in fact a market bubble.
This from Ewan Morrison (also from The Guardian)
Like the dotcom bubble, the commercial real estate bubble, the subprime mortgage bubble, the credit bubble and the derivative trading bubble before it, the DIY epublishing bubble is inflating around us. Each of those other bubbles also saw, in their earliest stages, a great deal of fuss made over a “new” phenomenon, which was then over-hyped and over-leveraged. But speculation, as we’ve learned at our peril, is a very dangerous foundation for any business. And when the epub bubble bursts, as all previous bubbles have done, the fall-out for publishing and writing may be even harder to repair than it is proving to be in the fields of mortgages, derivatives and personal debt. Because this bubble is based on cultural, not purely economic, grounds.
A quick glance through my Twitter feed where a lot of self published authors tweet hourly of their awesome new books (and I’m not saying they’re not awesome), will support Morrison’s claims of the hype and excitement of e-publishing overshadowing the grim realities of the financial realities of the industry. The realities for the authors, that is. The publishers – or publishing aids rather, are doing quite well indeed.
The thing that’s most interesting about these stats, because let’s face it they’re not exactly surprising, is this -
But money isn’t always the primary goal for self-published writers, they discovered, with only 5% considering themselves “unsuccessful”. The respondents were also still keen to continue self-publishing: nearly half plan to release more titles this year than they did last, and 24% have a whopping five or more works due for publication this year. This means, said Cornford and Lewis, that the 695 respondents who told them about their future publishing plans will be releasing about 48 new books between them for each week in 2012.
Just goes to show that there’s something more valuable to be earned from this writing game than money. Self publishing gives people all sorts of new opportunities to release their efforts onto the world, for all sorts of reasons, a lot of them having nothing at all to do with the publishing industry. Success is in the eye of the succeeder.