March 23, 2019, 01:01:40 PM

Author Topic: May 2016 Author Earnings Report  (Read 3443 times)

Offline SarahW

Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #15 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.

Offline zmunkz

Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #16 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...
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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #17 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.

Offline SarahW

Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #18 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.

Offline zmunkz

Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #19 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.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #20 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.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #21 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.)

Offline m3mnoch

Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #22 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.

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.

Offline tebakutis

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Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #23 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.

Offline Russ

Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #24 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.

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #25 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?

Offline Russ

Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #26 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
Quote
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.

Offline tebakutis

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Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #27 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).

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #28 on: July 18, 2016, 11:19:44 AM »
Thanks!!  I know nothing about this stuff.

Offline m3mnoch

Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
« Reply #29 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:
Quote
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.