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Fantasy Faction Writers => Writers' Corner => Topic started by: Raptori on June 03, 2016, 04:24:50 PM

Title: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Raptori on June 03, 2016, 04:24:50 PM
They've used some new techniques to gather data on over a million books this time, so the statistics are doubly interesting to look at. You can read it here: authorearnings.com/report/may-2016-report (http://authorearnings.com/report/may-2016-report/)

From a writer's perspective, all the charts like this one are pretty compelling:

(http://authorearnings.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/10k-tax-bracket.png)

In short, if you want to earn money from your writing, it's an increasibly bad idea to go the traditional publishing route. That holds true across the higher income groups too - even the $1,000,000 per year threshhold.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: zmunkz on June 03, 2016, 05:18:09 PM
Wow that is interesting... so indie is statistically the way to go these days looks like.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: m3mnoch on June 03, 2016, 05:35:14 PM
like most things, however, just because you go indie doesn't mean you'll instantly make money.

quality still matters.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Raptori on June 03, 2016, 05:52:16 PM
Yeah of course, that goes without saying.  :)
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: zmunkz on June 03, 2016, 09:06:16 PM
Upon reading this more carefully, I think there is something to note...

First, they do mention how brick-and-mortar sales in traditional publishing is as-much-as 50% of the sales an author will get. They handicap the results later on by basically doubling the revenue numbers of traditional publishing to account for this, at which point indie and traditional are more comparable ... but most of the graphs do not include this correction.

What they don't do at all, which seems necessary, is compensate for the difference in volume of the samples.  If you look at the first appendix, they show that of the 1M titles they sampled, 13% are Big-5, and 31% are indie.  This is important. They have twice as many samples of indie work, and yet all these graphs are only looking at total number of authors from a given category to make a certain amount of money. Of course there are more indie authors IN TOTAL making more money... there are more indie authors period!

The question is not about total number, it is about proportional number... in other words, does one publishing route give you a better overall chance of making money (for whatever complicated reasons).  In order to answer this, we need to normalize the data set.

An easy way to do this is just to double the big-5 bars on the charts. 13% is about half of 31%, so really we want to know what we'd see in our totals if we had another 18% on our big-5 sample set. If we had twice as many big-5 titles as the data set currently has, we could expect twice as many authors in a particular category than we are counting currently.

Then you need to (slightly-less-than-)double the big-5 bars again to include the brick-and-mortar sales.  Once you do double the bar twice over, it is no longer clear that indie publishing gives you any statistical advantage of making more money when compared to traditional publishing. It seems like your odds of being a major hit in either group are about the same, and maybe slightly less in indie. This also explains why traditional publishing is not out of business, which is a question I was curious about after reading the article the first time.

So I guess the moral of the story is, worry about writing a really good book instead of which method of publication to pursue ;-)

In any case, thanks again for sharing, this was a very interesting article.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Raptori on June 03, 2016, 09:27:07 PM
Yeah that's a good point, might be worth asking what the ratios are!

However, what that argument doesn't take into account is that a larger proportion of the indie stuff will have noticeable flaws which put off readers. From what I've understood, their analysis is not saying that anyone who indie publishes whatever they've written has a higher chance of earning money than anyone who publishes traditionally, it's saying that given a book of a certain quality (i.e. good ) you'll make more money from it if you publish indie.

I'll comment now and ask...
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: zmunkz on June 03, 2016, 09:31:38 PM
Hmm, yeah that would be a good point to clarify. I guess the real-real question should be, given a specific new book, are you more likely to make more by publishing indie or traditional.

To an extent I think we can go by proportions to answer that, although as you point out, maybe not. You might have a higher proportional success rate in traditional because they are more exclusive and do good editing... whereas indie is "watered down" so to speak.  But for an author who can write to the caliber that would get acceptance traditionally, do THEY stand to make more by going indie.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Raptori on June 03, 2016, 09:37:31 PM
Yep exactly, and since that's such a subjective thing it's hard to see how they could pull that kind of information just from sales data. I'm too tired to actually think it through right now though...  :P
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: cupiscent on June 04, 2016, 01:39:45 AM
Unfortunately I don't have time to read through the whole article, but what I'm not seeing in that graph or the quick skim I did of the article is what percentage of all published authors those numbers represent - i.e. sure, that many indie-published authors earn 10k+ a year, but how many indie/self-published authors earn almost nothing?

Because that's the thing that bothers me so much about the idea of going it alone. I could spend heaps of my own money and my own time (arguably much more valuable than my money, because I could be spending time on my writing or my family instead, whereas money just spends on things) producing a quality product and trying to bring that product to the attention of readers... and still not earn very much.

And sure, with traditional publishing, I also may not earn very much, but I haven't laid out money, I've laid out less time (though obviously I will still need to spend time to supplement the marketing and distribution efforts of the publisher), and at a base minimum I have my advance earnings. Plus there's just something reassuring about not being the only person taking a risk on this book.

But hey, I'm a nervous bunny. More power to those who find all of that invigorating and energising. :)
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: zmunkz on June 04, 2016, 02:12:03 AM
Unfortunately I don't have time to read through the whole article, but what I'm not seeing in that graph or the quick skim I did of the article is what percentage of all published authors those numbers represent - i.e. sure, that many indie-published authors earn 10k+ a year, but how many indie/self-published authors earn almost nothing?

Because that's the thing that bothers me so much about the idea of going it alone. I could spend heaps of my own money and my own time (arguably much more valuable than my money, because I could be spending time on my writing or my family instead, whereas money just spends on things) producing a quality product and trying to bring that product to the attention of readers... and still not earn very much.

And sure, with traditional publishing, I also may not earn very much, but I haven't laid out money, I've laid out less time (though obviously I will still need to spend time to supplement the marketing and distribution efforts of the publisher), and at a base minimum I have my advance earnings. Plus there's just something reassuring about not being the only person taking a risk on this book.

But hey, I'm a nervous bunny. More power to those who find all of that invigorating and energising. :)

All good points. The article estimates they've captured the top 85% of Amazon's sellers, but as you point out, there are TONS of indie authors that post stories that don't sell at all, ever.  None of these would be factored in, making the indie playing field potentially huge. I think the premise needs to be, assuming you could get published traditionally, what is your best option.

Also, as you point out, going traditional is really a whole different animal, and there are other reasons people might like that route aside from strict revenue potential.  Not worrying about copyediting, or cover design, getting an advance, being able to focus on actually writing... these are all other factors to consider that these charts don't touch upon.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: tebakutis on June 04, 2016, 03:16:20 AM
It's absolutely an interesting chart, and it makes sense ... for the few indies who do WELL, they're going to blow the traditional authors out of the water. It's the same in gaming ... Notch made Minecraft as an indie, with no publisher, and then sold it to Microsoft for like a billion dollars. If you compare the money Notch has made to the average indie game developer, it's like 10000% more. But success like Notch's is rare.

So, I think this chart is deceptive. All other things being equal, if a book does well and takes off, an indie author is always going to outperform a traditional published author - they're taking home waaaay more money per sale. But the chances of breaking out as an indie are very low.

In addition, the average traditionally published author is still doing waaay better than the average indie author. They may not be making enough to quit their day job, but they're definitely making more than the vast majority of folks who indie pub and sell a few books a day a week, at $0.99.

So my take remains - exhaust every traditional publishing avenue out there and then, and only then (if you're still confident in your book, and have the money to pay for a copyeditor and cover) go the self-pub route. And remember what a huge amount of work your self-publishing is going to be.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Raptori on June 04, 2016, 09:10:09 AM
Relevant comment from Data Guy:

Quote
Roughly half of the sub-$10,000 earners were indie. The other half were traditionally published (including nearly 100,000 Big Five authors earning less than $10,000 a year).

But even that’s a false equivalence, no more meaningful than comparing the average incomes of all lottery ticket-buyers in one lottery (the indie one) against the average incomes of only the lottery winners in another lottery (the traditional one). After all, every one of those sub-$10,000 traditionally-published authors beat long odds to land an agent and secure a publishing deal. For each one of them, there are dozens of other traditionally-aspiring authors who are still querying unsuccessfully, and earning $0 from their work.

A fair comparison would include in traditional publishing’s tally every single one of those zero-income aspiring authors still stuck in the slush pile.

The reality of authorship is, and always has been, this: only a tiny fraction of those who want to earn a living doing this ever will. It’s still a single-digit percentage at best. But today, given the superior author-economics of indie publishing, the number of authors who can earn a living from their writing — while still tiny — has grown severalfold.

All my best,
Data Guy

Still feel like it deserves a bit of a closer look, will have to come back to it later.  :-\
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: JMack on June 04, 2016, 11:19:05 AM
I wonder if there is an underlying increase in book consumption involved as well. If there's been a several fold increase in those who can earn a living, are they a reduction in the big 5ers who were making too little, or a part of an overall increase in sales?
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: m3mnoch on June 04, 2016, 03:20:48 PM
But for an author who can write to the caliber that would get acceptance traditionally, do THEY stand to make more by going indie.

this is undoubtably what is showing up in that chart.  traditionally published, midlist authors are leaving publishing houses in droves led by folks like joe konrath and barry eisler.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/03/backlist-then-and-now.html
http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/03/ebooks-and-self-publishing-dialog.html


I wonder if there is an underlying increase in book consumption involved as well. If there's been a several fold increase in those who can earn a living, are they a reduction in the big 5ers who were making too little, or a part of an overall increase in sales?

i can't find a chart with unit sales.  granted, i didn't look *really* hard.

this one has sales revenue:
https://www.statista.com/chart/1159/ebook-sales-to-surpass-printed-book-sales-in-2017/

it says revenue is slightly down overall.  however:
1) ebooks account for half the revenue
2) ebooks are substantially cheaper
3) most (probably?) ebook authors are earning 75% instead of 15%

so, i would imagine, yeah, unit sales are up, dollars-to-publishers are way down, and dollars-to-authors is way up.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: cupiscent on June 05, 2016, 01:53:16 AM
My understanding is definitely that established-midlist is a much greener field in indie than in trad. Rachel Aaron showcased some examples on this on her blog last year (http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com.au/2015/08/lets-talk-someone-elses-numbers-is.html).

Data Guy's comment is definitely relevant and a great way of looking at things - however, I would point out that being a querying author cost me zero dollars and no work on producing a book-as-product (design, cover, professional copyedit, etc). Sure, I wasn't earning anything, but I also wasn't spending anything.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: SarahW on June 11, 2016, 05:01:58 AM
So apparently one shouldn't self-publish because they get better sales as a trade press?

Glad to know sales are the only reason to publish.:/ Apparently author content integrity (being able to draw your own covers or pages) doesn't matter.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: zmunkz on June 11, 2016, 05:10:52 AM
Glad to know sales are the only reason to publish.:/ Apparently author content integrity (being able to draw your own covers or pages) doesn't matter.

Hmm, I think that might be overly simplified to the point of condescending. I wish I had the home environment that I could write without worrying about bills, but it's not the case. My only option for doing this long term is to make money doing it. I would hope that doesn't indict me of lacking integrity.

There are plenty of good reasons to self publish, and having full control of the process is certainly one of them. Being the driver on the business side of your brand is another. Controlling the release schedule and price point is another.

But for me it really will come down to if I can make a living doing it or not... and if not, it is a far too time consuming hobby to expect to maintain (what with my first child on the way). The question of how to get more sales is pretty essential...
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: J.R. Darewood on June 11, 2016, 06:14:40 AM
I'm wondering what percent of the indie authors were fetish romance.

(aka Chuck Tingle's 38-page "Space Raptor Butt Invasion"  or Anita Blackmann's 34-page "Riding the D Train" with the list of fetishes she's catering to included in parentheses after the title)...

I have a disturbing feeling they sell more than Edgar Allen Poe.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: SarahW on June 11, 2016, 07:13:59 AM
I'm being condescending apparently, even though I'm not assuming home environment. Okie doke. Just you know, I'm on food stamps and have a 1,000 dollar rent.

It also wasn't directed at you, but apparently things apparently condescending enough seem that way.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: zmunkz on June 11, 2016, 07:21:25 AM
I'm being condescending apparently, even though I'm not assuming home environment. Okie doke. Just you know, I'm on food stamps and have a 1,000 dollar rent.

It also wasn't directed at you, but apparently things apparently condescending enough seem that way.

I'm not trying to get into an argument or compare personal circumstances. You suggested worrying about sales means one is lacking in artistic integrity, and I just take issue with that simplification. Wasn't trying to say anything more than that, least of all a comment about your own home situation.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Raptori on June 11, 2016, 12:20:49 PM
So apparently one shouldn't self-publish because they get better sales as a trade press?

Glad to know sales are the only reason to publish.:/ Apparently author content integrity (being able to draw your own covers or pages) doesn't matter.
Huh? Where did anyone say that? I must have missed that...

I'm pretty sure that even the trad-pubbed authors acknowledge that self-publishing is far superior in a lot of ways - content integrity being one of the most important - but there has always been an assumption that trad-pubbed authors earn more than self-pubbed authors. The AE reports are an attempt to find out whether that's true; the discussion here is about whether their conclusions are valid, or whether the way they're looking at the data is flawed. At no point, as far as I'm aware, did anyone say that sales are the only reason do go either way.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: cupiscent on June 11, 2016, 12:57:49 PM
I'm wondering what percent of the indie authors were fetish romance.

(aka Chuck Tingle's 38-page "Space Raptor Butt Invasion"  or Anita Blackmann's 34-page "Riding the D Train" with the list of fetishes she's catering to included in parentheses after the title)...

I have a disturbing feeling they sell more than Edgar Allen Poe.

Not sure why that should disturb you. An argument could be had as to which is the more indulgent. ;) (There's no argument who's having more fun, but that's because there's obviously no one in the world ever who had more fun than Chuck Tingle is having.)

At no point, as far as I'm aware, did anyone say that sales are the only reason do go either way.

I may have implied that, but for me, if we're looking at "publishing" in the traditional sense as shared by both self- and trad-publishing (i.e. here is a book-product, please buy it from me) then I see sales as a large part of the definition. If all I wanted as an author was for people to read my work, I'd be on Wattpad, Tumblr, out (t)here on the internet giving away my work for free and participating in the resulting community. Isn't the point of publishing-as-a-thing to monetise the hobby? (That's not a rhetorical question, but perhaps one for a thread of its own.)
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: m3mnoch on June 11, 2016, 06:06:45 PM
I'm wondering what percent of the indie authors were fetish romance.

(aka Chuck Tingle's 38-page "Space Raptor Butt Invasion"  or Anita Blackmann's 34-page "Riding the D Train" with the list of fetishes she's catering to included in parentheses after the title)...

I have a disturbing feeling they sell more than Edgar Allen Poe.

Not sure why that should disturb you. An argument could be had as to which is the more indulgent. ;) (There's no argument who's having more fun, but that's because there's obviously no one in the world ever who had more fun than Chuck Tingle is having.)

omg yes!  that's totally a great way to look at it.

---

okay -- so on raw earnings.  here's the qualifier for the rest of what i'm going to say: we're all assuming a "quality book" here, so that's what i'm going to qualify all of these wild and crazy statements with.

based on the charts from the other page, earning more as an indie doesn't matter if it's the $10k category or $1m per year category (and, i'd assume, it still counts in the $500 a year category, probably more since the big 5 won't keep you around at all if your sales are that low) -- you don't count as an "average author" unless you can regularly get someone to pay you for your writing.

because, if your writing is garbage, there's absolutely no possibility of you getting a traditional contract, much less making any money from it.  and, since this is along the lines of "which is better, indie or traditional", earning potential is what we're talking about, a book having earning potential is the minimum bar.

so, i'm basically disqualifying the lower two-thirds of indie publishing as garbage-filled noise.  it doesn't matter if there's 2 million of them -- they don't count.

with "average author" now defined...

i'm not sure about the "of course the indie segment makes more money because there are more indie authors" statements above.  going by the title marketshare charts at the bottom of the article, the ratio of indie-to-traditional authors is approximately 2.4:1.  (for non-math nerds, that means for every two and a half indie authors, there's one traditionally published author)

so, if the chart pillar of indie money is more than two-and-a-half times the height of the pillar of traditional money, indies, per writer, earn more than traditionally published folks.

even further, since those pillars are 4x the height, that means indie authors earning at least $10k per year each earn 80% more than they would in traditional publishing.

ergo, for a publishable, average author, indie publishing is absolutely more lucrative.

sliced a different way:
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/are-book-publishers-blockbustering-themselves-into-oblivion/article21834263/

Quote
The publishers admit that they are making less money from their mid-list (the unpromoted space where challenging literary novels tend to find themselves) and from their back-list (the books from previous seasons that are still in print). So, instead of trying to promote those books, they are abandoning them. It’s an all-the-eggs-in-one-basket strategy. They guess at which handful of books are going to be blockbusters and blow their yearly acquisition budgets on a couple of them.

in traditional publishing, you're either a blockbuster, or just a bust.

in self-publishing, there are far fewer blockbusters, but the average indie author can probably fund his hobby.

so, given the number of authors earning at least $10k per year, you now have this mega-pool of "i can earn money" authors comprising of both indie and traditional markets.

if we take our mega-pool of authors and send them all through the traditional publishing funnel, their median (not average) income would be $0.  because more than half of those authors would not get a contract at all.  but, the top 1% earnings would probably be really, really high (http://www.forbes.com/pictures/fgdi45elfke/the-worlds-top-earning/).

if we take those same authors and send them all through indie publishing, the median income would certainly be something greater than $10k.  but, again talking about the top 1%, i suspect they would probably earn something less than the traditional publishing top 1%.

where does that leave a brother/sister on deciding where to publish?  writing a quality book and self-publishing is obviously the path to take if you want the best chance to make a living writing books.

however!

how the hell do you know if you've written a quality book?  getting a traditional publishing contract seems like a pretty solid way of validating that.

cart, meet horse.  horse, this is cart.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: tebakutis on June 11, 2016, 06:53:32 PM
however!

how the hell do you know if you've written a quality book?  getting a traditional publishing contract seems like a pretty solid way of validating that.

cart, meet horse.  horse, this is cart.

Having an agent or editor pick up your book is probably a good sign it is publishable, but not always, and that is not the only way. Trying to figure out if your book is publishable is the one step a lot of self-pub folks skip, but it's by no means impossible. You just have to do the job that the big presses do, on your own.

Basically, the route to determining if your book is publishable is this:

Advance Readers!
You need them. Five is good. Ten is better. Twenty is great, and if some are authors as well, all the better.

These advance readers need to be people who read your genre (fantasy, sci-fi, or whatever) and they need to be people who will give you an honest review and tell you what sucks in your book. Most of the time, this excludes family, though one author friend of mine has a wife who reads in his genre and critiques his stuff mercilessly (and his work comes out the better for it).

Take the feedback you get and look for trends. If 1 of 10 people didn't like something, but the other 9 did, you're fine. If 8 of 10 people disliked something, fix that ****. And if 5, 10, 15 people who read in your genre say "Wow, that book was good! I really enjoyed it!" you've managed to write a quality book.

Get that sort of feedback, and you're ready to self-publish if you can't land it traditionally (after Step 2, below). You should *always* try traditional first, but the market is so saturated that good books get skipped all the time. So if all traditional publishing routes dry up, don't throw away your work. Publish it yourself.

Examples: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and The Martian both got skipped by all major publishing houses, and their authors had to self-publish them before they hit big. That's right, the big houses which are supposed to be the "arbiters of quality" passed on both books, saying they wouldn't sell. Of course, after they sold like crazy, they came back and acted like it was their idea all along. :)

There are dozens of stories like that, so don't ever let yourself believe that the traditional houses are the only arbiters of quality. They publish great books, but they miss great books also, and sometimes they publish really bad books. Honestly, feedback from advance readers of your genre is the best yardstick you can have that a book is good or needs work.

You Need to Pay an Editor
Hire a professional editor with experience (other published books), and LISTEN to where they point out that your book needs work. Then make their changes. An average editor charges $0.02 cents per word, so if your book is 90,000 words, that's $1800. Plan and budget accordingly.

This is another step that too many self-published authors skip, because they balk at the cost. Cost is the #1 factor people avoid ... they want to be able to publish themselves, but refuse to pay the money involved to give their readers a quality book. That's a mistake, and that's the rub.

If you want to self-publish, you can, but you're paying for it or you're publishing sub-quality work and screwing your readers. You have to *become* a publisher, which means taking on the costs associated with that. Sorry to be blunt, but if you aren't willing to pay for an editor, you shouldn't self-pub.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Russ on July 05, 2016, 10:25:41 PM
So I have had an interest in this field and have been tracking it for a number of years.

There are flaws and gaps in the Author Earnings Report and they are by no means an unbiased study group.  They have a worldview and they do seek to promote it.  There is lots of information they don't get access to or don't seem to even try to.

Their conclusions and data don't match many other established groups when it comes to author income.  The Author's Guild in the UK and US disagree, Forbes, Codex and other significant industry tracking groups come to different conclusions and different numbers.  You should really look at some other significant data sets and studies if you want to understand the industry and how best to make an income from it.  You also have to know yourself because one size does not fit all.

Studies of author goals and desires and attitudes tell us different things as well.  Even amongst indy authors some studies show that if they had the choice a strong majority of them would like their next book to be traditionally published.  Income wise it looks like hybrid authors on average do the best.  No surprise there.

IIRC Mr. Eisler who left traditional publishing to quite a fanfare a few years ago has now returned by signing a contract with Thomas and Mercer.

So if you are going to make a significant career or business decision, and you want to be income/data driven in doing so you would be well advised to look more widely than just the Author Earnings Report.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: J.R. Darewood on July 13, 2016, 04:22:08 AM
There are flaws and gaps in the Author Earnings Report and they are by no means an unbiased study group.  They have a worldview and they do seek to promote it.  There is lots of information they don't get access to or don't seem to even try to. Their conclusions and data don't match many other established groups when it comes to author income.  The Author's Guild in the UK and US disagree, Forbes, Codex and other significant industry tracking groups come to different conclusions and different numbers.

Could you unpack that please. How are their figures different and how does that play into their worldview?
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Russ on July 15, 2016, 08:21:54 PM

Could you unpack that please. How are their figures different and how does that play into their worldview?

Sorry it took so long to respond, but I was in NYC for Thrillerfest last week, and then in Sudbury this week for work.  So now that I have unpacked, I guess I can unpack a little bit for you.

I don't know how closely follow the issue of publishing sales etc data or Author Earnings history so bear with me if I go too light or too in depth.  I could write about it for pages and pages but time is limited.

So Author Earnings got started a few years ago when DBW did a study about authors, their earnings and what traditional publishing could do better for authors.  Hugh Howey didn't like the outcome (I think that study was fine but Hugh is Hugh...) and decided he wanted to get some numbers to prove it wrong.  So he got an anonymous guy they called "Data Guy" (who is still more or less anonymous) and they went out to gather some data to present Hugh's case. 

That is the first problem.  Their approach from day one has been results driven.  Hugh had a worldview and was seeking ways to confirm it.

So the first iteration took some data from a small period of time on Amazon and a limited number of books on Amazon and then did a whole bunch of projections on it.  They needed a Rosetta Stone to Amazon rank vs. sales numbers etc and IIRC they started off with a small group of indy authors (I think less than ten at that point) sharing some royalty numbers with them.  So there earliest work was based on a tiny slice of Amazon only data, from a snap shot of time and titles, interpreted through the window of a small group of authors to make gigantic projections and then (more or less) start making insulting statements about the traditional industry and saying (simplified here) it was a doomed dinosaur. 

Later iterations got a little better.  So they started covering more titles and sites, and I think now get royalty numbers from a couple of dozen writers, but there are still significant gaps in the way they approach the data and what they do with it.  They simply don't have access to much of the data they need to draw the conclusions that they draw, and they ignored that problem in all of the work up to their more recent and still came up with strongly held and controversial conclusions based on very inadequate data and a results driven approach.

Their results and conclusions often were strikingly different from groups that seemed to have access to much more accurate data and were less results driven and followed more conventional data gathering and interpretation approaches.  Without going back and checking the data from DBW studies, Neilson, Gallup, Codex, Authors Guild, Forbes and other groups (there are a number more) was different and their conclusions were different as well especially in the area of how much authors were earning in various formats.

Now Hugh Howey has (more or less) sailed his way out of this project and left it to poor old Data Guy to carry on by himself.  He recently did a presentation at the DBW gathering and his tone (and many of his conclusions) has greatly changed to a much more moderate, less hostile approach to traditional publishing. Although I don't profess to read his mind he now is sounding much more like a guy looking for a job in traditional publishing than someone forecasting it's doom.

He has also fessed up to many of the problems in his work's previous iterations:

Quote
In the afternoon session, Data Guy spoke frankly about how Author Earnings is a series now of some 11 or 12 analyses of scraped data, and of how the snapshot approach can, of course, never be as effective as a more consistent, frequent, scanning pattern would be. He also said that in hindsight (and with more royalty-statement sales input from what he described as “dozens” of authors), it’s possible to tell now that the ranking-to-sales curve in the original doing of this data dance was even farther off than the 18 percent he reported in the last quarterly article.

So last week I had dinner with one of the top guys in the field of tracking publishing data who sells his work to major publishers and authors, but is not employed in traditional publishing.  I was talking to him about Author Earnings and he suggested that they do some aggressive calculations and projections based on a tiny sample size and a significant degree of guesswork which has led them to some inaccurate conclusions.  Nobody in the industry takes the time to refute DG, because nobody cares.

But some people outside the industry treat AE as gold and say things like:

I
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In short, if you want to earn money from your writing, it's an increasibly bad idea to go the traditional publishing route. That holds true across the higher income groups too - even the $1,000,000 per year threshhold.

That is just not so.  What the data tells us is that on average hybrid authors have the highest income, strict traditional second, and self published last. DBW's survey also told us that a large plurality of working authors hoped that their next book would be published by a traditional publisher.

There is a lot of really interesting information out there on how to make money as a writer.  IF you really want to have a career in writing you should know it well.  Unfortunately the most controversial positions get more air play then they might deserve.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: tebakutis on July 15, 2016, 10:15:32 PM
That is just not so.  What the data tells us is that on average hybrid authors have the highest income, strict traditional second, and self published last. DBW's survey also told us that a large plurality of working authors hoped that their next book would be published by a traditional publisher.

There is a lot of really interesting information out there on how to make money as a writer.  IF you really want to have a career in writing you should know it well.  Unfortunately the most controversial positions get more air play then they might deserve.

Excellent breakdown. This matches up with my (granted, personal) experience, having gotten to know authors with different revenue models and whether they can support themselves by writing full time.

People seem to think self-publishing is a goldmine, when in fact only a tiny, tiny percentage of the total self-pub market ever makes it big, and a slightly larger group break even. Traditional pub is always the way to start if you can manage it, because even a poor selling traditional press book from a new author typically sells a huge number more copies than an average self-pub from a new author.

Once you've been traditionally pubbed, and you've built a significant audience, that's when you can really make a killing with indie pub (hybrid), assuming you were saavy enough not to get contractually forbidden from doing so. Publishers are acutely aware of how well traditional pub authors who gain an audience can do self-pubbing their stuff on the side, which is why many contracts for new traditional press authors specifically disallow any self-pubbing, or have "non-compete" clauses where you can't release any other books (by any method) for a set period of time after they publish your book.

Indie gaming has the same model. For every Minecraft (Notch sells his game for a couple of billion, retires, and buys a mansion) there are 10,000 tiny indie games that never even recoup their dev costs. Yet there are so many young indie devs who get into debt because they think their game is going to hit big.

I think the appeal of self-publishing (of any stripe) for many folks is our general tendency to be overly optimistic about own chances of hitting the jackpot, as opposed to taking an unbiased look at what the data out there shows. That's why, though I have self-pubbed several books (eyes open) I still tell everyone to exhaust all traditional pub options first (which is exactly what I'm currently doing with my latest book).
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: J.R. Darewood on July 18, 2016, 11:19:44 AM
Thanks!!  I know nothing about this stuff.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: m3mnoch on July 18, 2016, 03:16:24 PM
just to poke my head in here (being as i'm a konrath/eisler fan) i figured i'd post even more data to consume.

this is an interview with eisler earlier this year:
https://janefriedman.com/5-barry-eisler/

there's lots of great information from him on the lottery called publishing strategy.  he basically lays out all the pros/cons for publishing your novel.  heh -- and, of course, there're lots of contextual links pointing off to about 200 hours of more reading material.

also pertinent to the conversation is what he says on the author earnings report:
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And to get the most accurate idea possible of where the most money is being made by new authors, you have to follow Author Earnings—the most transparent and comprehensive analysis (and clear presentation) I know of about what’s really going on in the book business.

personally, i believe the the key word in that quote is new authors.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Russ on July 18, 2016, 04:45:23 PM

Clearly an unbiased observer:

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Beyond which, self-publishing and Amazon Publishing have introduced the first real competition the New York Big Five has ever seen. This moribund, hidebound, incestuous industry badly needed a shakeup, and the good news is, it’s getting one! Compared to all that, I doubt any imprint of mine would add very much.

At least his tune is not as obnoxious as it was before he left self-publishing to sign with Thomas and Mercer.  Perhaps a divorce from Konrath is pending... :)

Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: m3mnoch on July 18, 2016, 07:47:16 PM
didn't he sign with thomas and mercer back in 2011?
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Russ on July 18, 2016, 09:42:57 PM

The Eisler saga is a fascinating one, and I would be happy to tell more details in a bar some time.

However he left ST. Martin's and claimed that he and Joe were going to change the world as self-pubbers and said things like he could not imagine anything taking him back to legacy publishing.  Then he signed with Thomas and Mercer which is...legacy publishing.

The motives for all those things happening, on both Eisler, Amazon's and other's parts are actually interesting and complex, but effectively Eisler is back with a legacy publisher or very close to it.

Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: m3mnoch on July 18, 2016, 09:54:29 PM
The Eisler saga is a fascinating one, and I would be happy to tell more details in a bar some time.

deal!

you in town for comic-con this week?
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Russ on July 18, 2016, 10:37:32 PM

Unfortunately not, but I will be at the World Fantasy Convention this year.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: J.R. Darewood on July 19, 2016, 10:57:11 AM
The Eisler saga is a fascinating one, and I would be happy to tell more details in a bar some time.

deal!

you in town for comic-con this week?

Oh sh**t am I missing comicon?? I don't get back from France until tomorrow
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: m3mnoch on July 19, 2016, 06:21:29 PM
The Eisler saga is a fascinating one, and I would be happy to tell more details in a bar some time.

deal!

you in town for comic-con this week?

Oh sh**t am I missing comicon?? I don't get back from France until tomorrow

nah.  you've got all weekend, man.  you're good.
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Raptori on July 24, 2016, 09:29:20 PM
@Russ (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=41394) could you link to some of the studies you mention?


I've had a look and can't find anything with similar transparency and scale to the Author Earnings reports. For example, anything published by Nielsen completely ignores indie titles, which means that the conclusions it's drawing ignore a huge segment of the market. I'd expect the truth to be somewhere between the two positions, but AE seem to be the only ones backing up their arguments to a reasonable degree.  :-\
Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: Russ on July 25, 2016, 09:56:41 PM
@Russ (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=41394) could you link to some of the studies you mention?


I've had a look and can't find anything with similar transparency and scale to the Author Earnings reports. For example, anything published by Nielsen completely ignores indie titles, which means that the conclusions it's drawing ignore a huge segment of the market. I'd expect the truth to be somewhere between the two positions, but AE seem to be the only ones backing up their arguments to a reasonable degree.  :-\


I would love to link you to the 50+ plus articles I have read on the subject, but I don't have quite that much free time.   ;D

But I don't think it is fair to leave you entirely handing.

The study that pissed off HH and got him to recruit data guy was this one:

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/self-publishing-debate-part3/

The follow up study which they also didn't like is:

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/lessons-and-expectations-as-the-digital-book-world-and-writers-digest-author-survey-evolves/

And yes the results were analyzed explained by a author with an appropriate Phd from Harvard.  The 2015 study also had some really interesting data.

You can also get data from a number of the other sources I mentioned.  Forbes, Author's Guild, Codex, Neilson, Pub Perspectives and so on.  There are also proprietary studies that you can get your hands on by either buying them or joining the appropriate professional association.

I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of Author Earnings debate, but they really are not that transparent and they have plenty of flaws in the methodology and how they talk about the meaning of their data. They have an agenda and it has driven them, though as noted above DG is starting to soften  One simply cannot say that indie publishing is the best way to make money as an author based on the quality information that is out there.

Title: Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 01, 2016, 05:38:58 AM
 Figures don't lie, they say, but liars can figure  8)
I don't accuse anyone of misleading anyone, but it's economics, and so very, very overdetermined. Unlike some fields that are impacted by social media and technology indirectly (like accounting, for example), our industry is impacted directly along multiple fronts, and it's volatile with change. And the rate of that change is accelerating, and the rate of that acceleration is itself accelerating.

This is disconcerting but there's the solace of knowing that even painstaking analysis is ... very limited in value. Next year, when the X-Phone-Tablet Mark V comes out, the whole world's going to do things differently, and you can use that 24lb analytical report as a splendid paperweight ;)