Individual author earnings tracked across 7 quarters, Feb. 2014 – Sept. 2015

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Seven quarters.

Seven Author Earnings reports.

Seven times we unleashed our software spider and took a detailed X-Ray of the majority of the US ebook market. Each time, we captured between 35% and 50% of all ebook sales in the US that day.

Over 200,000 authors, and close to a million different books.

Title-level data spanning half a billion ebook purchases, nearly $3 billion in consumer ebook spending, and a billion dollars in author earnings.

Quarter after quarter, we’ve tracked the fastest-growing and most volatile sector of the US publishing industry, and watched how it has shifted. And seen how the different sectors of the industry — from the Big Five traditional publishers and their smaller traditional-publishing peers to Amazon publishing imprints and self-published indie authors — have competitively fared.

But each of our quarterly snapshots, no matter how comprehensive, is only an X-Ray of the US ebook market at that exact moment. It’s what’s called a cross-sectional study. Like a freeze frame photo, it can only tell us how the ebook market is faring as a whole, rather than predicting the future prospects of any particular author along any particular publishing path. Because although every AE snapshot captures the sales of tens of thousands of authors — even hundreds of thousands of authors — each data set can only tell us how each individual author’s books happen to be selling at that precise instant in time.

The picture painted by each quarterly report, taken on its own, is thus necessarily incomplete.

They tell us nothing about the consistency of those individual authors’ earnings over time.

And if I’m an author deciding which publishing route to pursue, isn’t that what I’m really most interested in? Rather than broad comparisons of each publishing path’s total collective “market share”?

Publishing professionally, after all, is about building a readership and a long-term, decent-paying writing career. As an individual author, that’s really all I care about, regardless of which publication method I choose.

And that’s why single-quarter snapshots of the market, no matter how comprehensive, don’t tell me what I need to know.

Let’s say you’re a writer holding a completed manuscript, on the fence about which publishing path to pursue. The traditional path is undoubtedly the slower one — countless authors end up querying and submitting their work for decades, without ever landing a publishing contract. But for the relative few traditional aspirants who do, does that patience get rewarded with higher long-term stability than indie publishers see? And greater long-term income?

Does slow and steady actually win the race?

What if, for example, it turns out that traditionally published authors — as a result of their publishers’ superior marketing muscle — end up being steadier, more consistent earners quarter after quarter, just like the proverbial tortoise? And what if their bestselling indie peers are by contrast more like the proverbial hare, each of them briefly surging up the charts to be captured by our spider during their single fleeting moment of glory, only to be churned under once again and languish in non-selling obscurity thereafter, overwhelmed by the sheer teeming numbers of other indie hopefuls? What if each indie you see on the best seller charts is only king or queen for a day, or even a month or two, before their brief place in the sun is taken from them by the next lucky — and equally short-lived — indie contender?

Imagine that I’m an author deciding which way to publish my first book… or even my tenth book.

I’d kind of want to know that, right? And so, most likely, would you.

The thing we’d both really like to see is called a longitudinal study of author earnings, rather than a cross-sectional one. A study that tracks the earnings of those same individual authors over a longer period of time. And we’d especially like to see such a study done with a statistically well-defined and economically representative sample of authors — such as all authors whose books appeared on any Amazon best seller list over a seven-quarter period — rather than done based upon the self-selected responses of a handful of narrow-demographic, association-dues-paying survey participants.

Eighteen months ago, back in early 2014, at Author Earnings we took our first stab at tracking same-author earnings over time. With only two quarterly cross-sectional snapshots available to compare, the results were suggestive, but hardly conclusive.

We simply didn’t have enough data to work with, back then.

We do now.

A Longitudinal Study of Individual Author Earnings Over a 7-Quarter Period, from Feb. 2014 – Sept. 2015

By matching up author names across all seven of our quarterly snapshots, we were able to create a single, merged data set. It included over 200,000 authors and their cumulative seven-quarter sales and author earnings from the subset of their Kindle books which appeared on any Amazon best seller list or sub-list during any of our snapshots. It also included their Kindle best-seller sales and earnings broken down by each individual quarter.

Next, because we were only interested in comparing longer-term performance, we excluded “one-hit wonders” — i.e. authors whose author earnings from Amazon-bestseller-listed Kindle ebooks were not above a $10,000/year run rate in at least 2 different quarterly snapshots out of our 7. Perhaps some of these single-snapshot earners were indies that just happened to have their books captured on “Bookbub day”, or maybe some of them were traditionally-published authors whom Amazon happened to be deeply discounting for a few days, giving them a brief pop in sales. Either way, it means that we caught those authors on a particularly good day in one of our snapshots, which was not representative of their longer-term earnings.

That left us:

5,643 authors in our longitudinal data set — or roughly 2.8% of the original 200,000 — whose Kindle best-selling ebooks appearing on Amazon best seller lists were consistently earning them $10K/year or better.

Lest anyone get discouraged by that 5,643 number, keep in mind that it is only the visible tip of the iceberg: there are many, many other strong-selling authors and books that never appear on any of the Amazon Kindle best-seller lists. Those other writers don’t appear on Amazon’s best seller lists — and thus don’t appear in our data sets — because they happen to write in highly competitive genres where even dozens of sales per day are insufficient to allow a book to reach position #100 on any sub-genre best seller list. Thus those other books and authors are invisible to our spider. (Anecdotally, we’ve spoken to many of these “non-best-selling” mostly-indie authors who are earning five-figure incomes — sometimes six-figure incomes — from ebooks that never appeared on any Amazon best seller lists.)

And even for those 5,643 authors whose visible earnings from Kindle best sellers in our data sets exceeded $10K/year, many of them also had other Kindle books, too, which were NOT visible on the best seller lists. And thus their true overall Kindle ebook author earnings were higher than we show… to say nothing of their additional earnings from ebook sales at other retailers, audiobook sales (10% of the audiobooks on Amazon’s best seller lists are indie), and print sales (offset or POD).

But even so, it’s a meaningfully large and statistically representative sample, so without further ado, let’s jump in and take a look at the (best-selling) Kindle mid list.

The Kindle Mid-List

10k-earners

We’ll start with the steady $10K-or-better earners. Again, keep in mind that this is by no means all authors who are earning more than $10K+/year, nor even all authors earning that much just from their US ebooks, nor yet even all authors earning that much from only their Kindle ebooks. These are authors earning $10K+/year consistently from only that subset of their Kindle books that appear on the Amazon best seller lists.

For now, we’ll focus only on the leftmost set of bars, which include all authors regardless of how long they’ve been publishing.

The first thing that stands out from the chart is that there are many thousands of such consistent five-figure-earning “Kindle Midlisters” visible in the data — both traditionally published (purple) and indie published (blue). And as we’ll see in the charts that follow, almost half of these 5,600 authors — over 2,200 of them — are consistently making $25K/year or more on their Kindle bestsellers, and more than a fifth of them — over 1,200 authors in the data set — are making $50K/year or more on their Kindle best sellers alone.

Once earnings from their other non-bestselling Kindle books, other ebook retailers, and other formats such as audio and print are factored in, it’s safe to say that most of these 5,600 writers in our longitudinal data set are making a living wage from their writing.

The two bar charts below tally up the numbers of authors making $25K/year or more, and those making $50K/year or more, from best-seller-listed Kindle ebooks alone. At each of these higher income levels, we applied ever-more-stringent requirements for consistency in observable earnings. To be included in the charts below, each of these authors not only had to have total 7-quarter earnings at the specified ($25K or $50K) yearly level or above, their earnings each quarter also had to exceed that of the previous level ($10K or $25K) in at least 4 of our 7 quarterly snapshots.

Let’s take a look:

25k-earners 50k-earners

The leftmost set of bars in every chart includes all authors earning at or above a given level, regardless of their earliest publication date. The left-most purple bar is thus where we’ll find traditional publishing’s longest-tenured and highest-selling authors: names like James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, and Stephen King.

The left-most blue bar is also worth a mention. Prior to 2009 indie authors were a niche phenomenon, with very limited access to mainstream readers. Six short years later, there are more than half as many indie authors earning steady midlist-or-better incomes from their Kindle ebook bestsellers as there are among ALL traditionally-published authors — even with all of those perennial traditional-publishing name-brand heavyweights, who spent decades atop the old-media best seller lists, also tipping the ebook scales.

So let’s take a look at the other sets of bars, moving across the charts from left to right, because that’s where things start to get really interesting.

When you look only at authors who started publishing less than a decade ago — in 2005 or later — the gap between the numbers of indie and traditionally published authors earning midlist-or-better incomes nearly disappears. Fast work, considering that none of those indies had widespread access to readers until 2010, giving their traditionally-published cohort-mates a five-year head start.

In fact, if we look at only authors who debuted in the “ebook era” — i.e. in 2010 or after — we see a reversal. At each annual earnings level, we find far more indies than traditionally-published authors who debuted in the last 5 years and are now earning that much or more.

If we look at the most recent debuts — authors whose first Kindle book was published in the last three years or so — the disparity grows:

There are fewer than half as many traditionally published authors as indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years and are now earning consistently at the $25K/year level or $50K/year level from Kindle ebooks.

This, then, is the world that all new entrants — whether traditionally published or indie — face in 2015. If you’re a debut author in 2015 with a manuscript in hand, or even an experienced author regaining the rights to your backlist or starting out with a fresh pen name, when choosing your publishing route it’s that right-most set of bars in every one of these charts that is today most relevant to you.

But what if you are destined to be more than a mid-lister? You don’t want to sell your work short. Isn’t it still worth being patient and pursuing the traditional route, to have a better shot at truly stellar earnings?

Surprisingly, as we move into six-figure-earning territory and beyond, the contrast between indie ebook earnings and traditionally-published ebook earnings becomes even more stark. Let’s look at:

Six-Figure-A-Year Kindle Best Sellers

100k-earners 250k-earners500k-earners

In just our 7-quarter longitudinal data set, we are able to find:

Far more indies earning a consistent six figures a year or more from just their Kindle best sellers than traditionally published authors who debuted anytime in the past decade and are able to do the same.

240+ indie authors who are consistently earning $100,000/year or more from just their Kindle best sellers.

85+ indie authors who are consistently earning $250,000/year or more from just their Kindle best sellers.

40+ indie authors who are consistently earning $500,000/year or more from just their Kindle best sellers.

And finally, let’s take a look at:

Seven-Figure-A-Year Kindle Best Sellers

1M-earners

Even at the very highest levels of ebook author earnings, the pattern remains the same.

13 out of the 20 authors who debuted in the last five years, and 8 of the 10 authors who debuted in the last 3 years, and who are now consistently earning $1,000,000+/year from just their Kindle ebook best sellers are indie authors.

In closing, while these trends in our changing industry are exciting, it’s also worth reminding ourselves that the odds against an author being able to make a full-time, high-paying career out of writing are long indeed. They always have been. There are many hundreds of thousands of US authors publishing books each year, both traditionally published and indie. Only a few fortunate thousand from among them will end up earning a living solely from their art, no matter which publishing path they take.

The choice of how to publish is never an easy one. It’s also worth reminding ourselves that what works best for one author may not be what works best for another. All paths have their merits and downsides, and neither can guarantee anyone success. But today, our chances of achieving that success as writers are better, and there are more ways we can make it happen, than at any previous time in history.

And that’s a wonderful thing.

Download the raw data this report is based on (.xslx)

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52 Responses to “Individual author earnings tracked across 7 quarters, Feb. 2014 – Sept. 2015”

  1. Brian Meeks says:

    Hugh,

    Like all of your reports before, this one continues to shine a light on the current state of the publishing world.

    I’ve never questioned my decision to be an Indie author and even if the numbers showed that Traditional was the way to go, the freedom and control is what I like most about being an author/publisher.

    That being said, this is the first year I’ll crack the 25K mark (possibly the 50K mark, but that depends on how the last quarter goes. Last year I hit 10K and the year before 5K. The big difference each year as been the number of titles I have available.

    This business has changed my life and I’m very appreciative of all that you do for our community. Reading these sorts of reports always makes my day.

    Thanks,

    Brian D. Meeks
    (Sometimes Arthur Byrne)

  2. PG says:

    KILLER, KILLER, KILLER report, Hugh and Data Guy!

    Great work!

  3. Morris says:

    Fascinating, and, to me, very surprising. I’d have expected traditionally-published authors to have a big leg up at the highest levels. Definitely something to consider, should I ever get this novel finished. (75%!)

  4. Matthew Nuzum says:

    I’d love to know who it is that is making this much money as an indie author. I would find this inspiring and it would also help to validate the data.

    • Aubrey says:

      Just keep an eye at the bestseller lists on Amazon, it’s really that easy.

      • Data Guy says:

        … and on the bestseller lists at barnesandnoble.com and Apple iBooks, too.

        • Hi Matt, you wanted to know of indies earning well to confirm this. I’m one of the indie authors earning over $15k, mostly on the back of a single novella called To Murder a Saint. I found most of my marketing info from Hugh’s site and J.A. konrath’s blog. All the info needed to be a successful Indie is already out there. I have been as high as the number 45 on the Amazon best-seller list overall and number one mystery sub category many times over. You can do it!

    • Brian Meeks says:

      Matthew,

      There are several podcast you might find enjoyable and would help you learn about the authors making five figures per month. My favorite is the Self-Publishing Podcast with Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright.

      They have interviewed plenty of people who are doing well.

      I also like Rocking Self-Publishing. JoAnna Penn has a good one, too.

      Good luck with your own writing/publishing.

      Brian

    • Try reading HM Ward’s blogs. She turned down a million dollar trad deal. http://blog.demonkissed.com/?p=1537

  5. Lisa Grace says:

    Thanks for the information. I can’t wait to tweet it out.
    What a great time to be an indie author. To all authors: “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
    Quote from “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

  6. Thanks, Hugh and Data Guy, for your ambitious reporting on this! One thing that shouldn’t go unnoticed is that you are funding this research out of your own pocket(s), and it’s providing lots of information to the whole book-writing and reading world.

    I suspect my books are not on those charts even though I’m in the right earnings range, because I use a publishing company name that is different from my own. As you indicate, I’m sure the stats are actually underreporting those making significant money via self-published books, because many have various pen names as well as company names.

    It is a wonderful time to be a writer!

    Wishing you continued smooth sailing, both literally and figuratively.

    Patrice

  7. Great information. I wonder if Amazon’s Author Ranking is an accurate representation of where an author stands among his/her peers.

  8. P L says:

    I may have missed it, but this is based on gross earnings per book? Not net income/royalties? Do I have that right? So, for example, an indie is getting 70% of the royalties whereas a trad author anywhere around 25% of royalties. So this isn’t as much about author earnings as publisher earnings? (Indies being their own publisher) Apologies if I’ve missed where it says how the ‘income’ is extrapolated.

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, P L,

      The charts in this report are all based on net author earnings, as what we get paid is the part that actually matters to us authors.

      For traditionally published authors whose publishers are setting their own prices under agency: those authors are earning 25% of publisher net (which is 70% of the consumer purchase price). Thus those authors are effectively earning 17.5% of consumer purchase price.

      For indie authors, net earnings are 70% of consumer purchase price on titles priced $2.99-$9.99, and 35% on books priced outside of that range. For books in KU, their earnings from borrows (and now pages-read) are calculated based on the per-borrow and per-page author payouts for those months and quarters.

      For Amazon-imprint published authors, net earnings are 35% of consumer purchase price for all sales, including KU downloads of those titles.

      Here’s more information on how we calculate indie KU earnings:

      http://authorearnings.com/calculating-indie-author-earnings-under-ku-2-0/

      • Brian Meeks says:

        Data Guy,

        I have a question about “Publisher Net”. Are we certain that it is 25% of the 70% or is it 25% of the net profits for the publisher after they have allocated costs across their books?

        I’ve wondered about this, as I’ve always assumed that it would be the latter because the use of activity based costing would then, in effect, transfer all of the expenses associated with NY rent, labor, advertising, to the books and thus lower the net (and the amount needed to be paid).

        I have not seen a Traditional contract, so that’s why I ask.

        Brian

      • Hugh and Data Guy
        I’ve been a traditionally pubbed author for 35 years. I started out at 2% of cover price in 1980. (not net) Gradually, made it to 6% of the cover price. I’m now at 8%. (not net) Only the 1% of trad authors or high mid-list authors, get 10% or more. These are standards in the traditionally pubbed industry that I am aware of. I wonder if your calculation are correct based upon my contracts? MOST of the authors I know who enter trad pub in romance it is a 6% of cover price (not net). And there are trad pubs who make it net, which is really not good for the author. I’m not a math specialist, so I leave it to you two to figure this all out. And the caveat that, of course, different writers entering the trad pub, could get more or less than 6%, too. I wonder if you asked the trad authors you worked with for this study, gave you such information? Thanks for all the great work you do…it’s much appreciated.

  9. This information is extremely important for writers today. I am grateful to you for getting this out to those of us who are really trying to figure this out and find the best path to sharing our work and surviving a tough marketplace for creative people. There may be nothing new in that but lots new in publishing today. Thank your for your work!

  10. Re the question about who the top-selling indie authors are to validate the data, I’ve read discussions on loops and a number of authors, including some I know personally, have volunteered that they are earning these mega-bucks. Most write romance (not necessarily erotica, but I’m sure there’s some of that). Mysteries are also represented.

    I’m a traditionally published author who’s reissued some of my backlist–as much as I could get the rights to–and plans to self-publish a mystery series. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

    • Data Guy says:

      A good number of the top indie earners write Science Fiction, and there are some Thriller authors in there, too… Right now, I’m looking at the full, non-anonymized list of authors, rank-ordered by their total Kindle earnings. It’s pretty fascinating to see.

      Out of the Top 54 Kindle-earning authors — those making over seven figures a year from their Kindle best sellers — 13 of them are indies: #7, #11, #12, #17, #28, #29, #33, #42, #43, #45, #49, #50, and #53.

      As in our other reports, we release the raw data as an accompanying spreadsheet, but author names are anonymized for privacy reasons before release.

  11. Joseph Flynn says:

    Hugh, thank you and all involved for your hard work. Regarding Matthew Nuzum’s request: I’m one of the authors earning six figures a year and living off my writing. I’ve done so in the past when I was traditionally published, but this will be the first time I’ve done so in three consecutive years, publishing as an indie under the imprint my wife and I started, Stray Dog Press, Inc. For me, indie publishing is much more fun and an avenue to be far more productive. I have 28 titles on Amazon. I have to admit, though, that keeping up with the changing business environment is my biggest challenge. I started writing professionally at a number of big ad agencies, and there are times I wish I had my own account exec to handle the business end of things, but I’m not making quite that much money. I once suggested to Hugh that Amazon should offer a consulting service to indie writers to offer on an individual basis advice on how they can maximize their sales/page reads/revenue. They could call it Amazon Max.

  12. John Brown says:

    As always, thanks Hugh and Data Guy!

  13. John Brown says:

    Is there any way to see genre percentages? I know there are all sorts of sub sub genres, but even a higher level would be interesting.

    • Alyssa Sinh says:

      I would also love a more detailed breakdown of which genres are most popular/profitable. I write under a variety of pen-names and genres (there are several different genres that I absolutely love). Would like to know if I’m investing my writing time in the best area.

      • Spend a little time looking at the Amazon Top 100 Kindle Bestsellers. Then look at the subgenres you’re interested in writing in and check out the ranks of the top sellers in those genres to get a feel for how competitive the field is and how well that subgenre overall seems to be going.

  14. I downloaded the raw data. Thanks for providing it. I hoped to easily identify a trend regarding the number of books an author published and their income, but it wasn’t immediately obvious. I can see that the ones lower down on the list tended to have fewer books, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Is this data only from genre-fiction authors? Have you noticed a difference in the novel vs novella vs short story in terms of author financial success?

    Thanks so very much for providing your reports. They’re fabulous, and I appreciate you taking the time away from writing to share them with us.

  15. This is cool to see! I actually would have guessed there would be more six-figure+ indie authors, but I imagine there are when other stores and non-Top-100 books are taken into consideration.

    I also think it would be cool to see things broken down by genre, if that’s ever possible. I know people assume that it’s all romance authors, but that’s certainly not true. 😀

  16. Wow, more great stuff.

    Those graphs showing how the newer an author is, the more indie gives them a chance of success over tradpub, are particularly compelling. Some of the normal counter-arguments to Author Earnings reports no longer carry any weight. You’ve greatly reduced the “Bookbub argument.” – I say reduced rather than eliminated because some might say that the most successful indie authors over time are regularly spending promotional dollars. And the most compelling prior argument I’ve heard from tradpub types is that all the audio and paper sales outside Amazon are not being accounted for and the snapshot is too limited.

    But with this data, that argument starts to fall flat as far as new authors go. It’s not hard to believe that the big bestsellers or top midlisters who’ve been going ten years plus and have a lot of titles do in fact make a decent percentage of their money outside of Amazon ebooks. We know they’re only making between 70 cents and $4 a pop on each unit. For tradpub to really be compelling to new authors we not only have to believe that there are many thousands of authors who have started in the past five years who are all selling many thousands of units a year outside of Amazon – questionable, but possible – but we’d also have to believe that despite their success outside of Amazon, they have failed to make a dent on the largest book retailer in the U.S. That is now into the realm of improbable.

    Amazon controls somewhere between 15 and 25% of the paper book market, depending on who you ask. In the future I don’t know if it would be possible to develop a sales to rank chart like we have for ebooks and run a spider against paper books. Even without it, a quick scan of bestseller lists for large genres like Suspense Thriller and Romance suggests that the top end of the paperback market is majority non-big 5 books also.

    So paper may not be the savior tradpub says it is, either. Unless we have thousands of new authors a year making many thousands of hardcover fiction sales (still clearly dominated by the big 5) each year, the choice for a new author seems clear.

    The one thing these numbers don’t tell us is where someone who started 5 years ago will be relative to tradpub in another 5-10 years. Maybe (not likely but we don’t have the data either way), tradpub authors who stick it out for a decade will start to have the greater success we’re seeing on the left side of the graphs. Even if they did, it would be an open question as to how long it would then take for them to make back what they lost in their first ten years by going tradpub.

  17. Gary McLaren says:

    It’s always great to see these reports so my hat’s off to those of you sifting through this data and bringing us the gems of truth. It’s great to see so many authors bringing in an income even if it’s not always six-figures. We know that on top of these authors there are others who didn’t make the Top 100 in their categories, plus authors who (i) sell a lot of books through other stores, (ii) sell ebooks, especially non-fiction, through their own web sites (often at a higher price per book than at Amazon) and (iii) have other sources of writing income outside of books. It is a great time to be an author!

  18. Peter Grant says:

    Once again, thanks, Hugh and Data Guy, for a splendid piece of work. It’s very encouraging to all of us trying to make a living as independent authors.

    I began self-publishing in May 2013, and hit over $25K in earnings during that first year; doubled that in the second year; and I’m on track to improve even further in this, my third year in the market. I had hoped to be in or near the six-figure bracket by the end of 2015, but health issues have slowed down my production rate. Nevertheless, if I can whip those problems, that’s my target for next year.

    Another wonderful discovery is how helpful most indie authors are towards one another. I’ve found very little jealousy or backbiting; only encouragement, sage advice, and a willingness to share strategies and tactics that have led to their success. Can the trad pub world say the same? I somehow doubt it.

    Thanks again.

  19. Ron Estrada says:

    Another great report. But I would hope that a new author isn’t basing his decision on which route to take based on stats alone. Like you said, it’s a long way to the top if you wanna write (someone should write a song). And you have to be willing to live with the career path you’ve chosen. Indie ain’t easy. We are a specific personality type. I think it’s type D (Don’t want other people running my life). And it’s hard work. But so is trad publishing. Your stats do offer me some comfort in the decision I’ve made. I love being an indie and intend to stay with it through the “dark years,” though these dark years are fairly light shade of dark. I published book 3 yesterday. I’ll have one more by November and two parts of a serial novel published. 2016 is gonna rock. Keep up the good work guys!

  20. L.T. Hanlon says:

    Thanks again for making this valuable data available. It’s great to know you folks are out there digging up the facts.

  21. J says:

    This is good information. I’d really like to see a the list of assumptions at the top put to at least an anecdotal test.

    You know who these authors are, so contact a handful and see if they’d be willing to share their real data privately to compare to what your model thinks they made over these seven quarters. Then generate the margin of error between the model and the anecdotal data collected from volunteers.

    I’m not interested in seeing any individual’s numbers, just the aggregate.

    I’d like to see if the estimates are close for the tracked titles, and how close they are.

    I’d like to see if non-tracked titles, vendors and formats balloon the income level as much as you surmise they might.

    Thanks for all your hard work in creating these reports.

  22. Kay Franklin says:

    This is a fantastic report over a long period. What a source of inspiration for those contemplating self publishing. Thank you.

  23. Helge Mahrt says:

    It would be great to get genre percentages. Are there any non-romance writers among the 500k+ crowd? 🙂

  24. Guy Porter says:

    Can anyone explain the difference between an “indie author” and “Amazon published” authors. I assumed that the Indie authors had published their own kindle book, which leaves me wondering what an Amazon published book is.
    Thanks in advance. This was a great piece of work.

  25. Eric says:

    Hi everyone and thanks to the folks here for providing us all this data. Very helpful. So much to know and so much to learn. I will be a debut indie author I hope next year. I have learned so much in just the last year. I have all the pieces of the puzzle of how to jump into the ocean of indie authors making a living at it “except one”. No one seems to want to tell me how I am suppose to get access to any monies earned from Amazon, Kindle and all the other sources. Can I have any monies earned no matter where it’s from go EFT directly into a bank account? Or do I use PayPal then xfer into a bank account? I don’t understand why this is so cloak and dagger out there. What am I suppose to do stare at the figures wishing I could actually use them to fund the continuation of my indie career? Please this is important if anyone is ok with telling me I would appreciate it.

    It’s hard enough that I will have to use Kickstarter in order to pay for my first book cover and other expenses. I’ve never had to ask the public for money as I am not a politician but a normal worker bee who has worked a long career in IT.

    Cheers to you all. Hope to connect

    Eric

    • Data Guy says:

      All major retailers can EFT your author earnings directly into your bank account every month.

      • Eric says:

        Ok thanks, once I get to the point of using Amazon Kindle ebook publishing service will I be required to have a Tax ID?

        • Data Guy says:

          For a Tax ID, your Social Security number works fine. Or you can set up your own publishing company as an LLC, S Corp, or the like, get a Tax ID for it, and use that. Many indies eventually do the latter.

  26. Mike Ault says:

    Does this track KENP earnings as well? My KENP earnings are 2 to 3X my ebook sales numbers.

  27. LeAnn Robinson says:

    This is a good analysis as far as it goes, but since it only includes ebooks, it doesn’t make a compelling case against traditional publishing. We need to see a graph that shows earnings from overall sales (both ebooks and paper books ) for each category. Only then will the comparison be complete.

  28. Rob Buckman says:

    Hi, I started as an ‘indie’ Sci-Fi author on Amazon a couple of years ago, and after a couple of false starts, I started earning a few bucks from my books. I now have eight up on Amazon, but most of my income is generated from two main series. ‘He Who Dares’ and ‘Echo of Tomorrow’. Over the last two years, I’d have to say that my average monthly income is about $5,000 and looks to get better after I post the next books in the series. Like many authors, I tried the traditional path to getting published but gave up after I had a draw full of rejections letter. Looking at the data, it looks to me as if self-publishing is the way to go, and seems to be the trend in the future. At least you don’t have to fight to get pass the ‘editor’ or wait six months to a year before you get anything back from them. Good, bad, or indifferent, you can post your story on Amazon, sit back, and wait for the sales, and hits to arrive. People will soon tell you is your story is worth reading or not, and many reader aren’t shy about posting a review. A couple of things I found I’m in the process of correcting are the cover art and editing. I found a great artist to do the cove for me, and that alone improved sales, and secondly I get myself a group of volunteer editors/proofreaders who correct the many errors my poor typing skills produced. On the whole, I found self-publishing was the way to go, and from the response and sales I’m happy that people found my stories worth reading.

    • John Stubbs says:

      Rob,

      I have read your books and I was thrilled to see your response here. I really enjoyed your work and it was partially what inspired me to begin my own Science Fiction series. I am through the outlining phase and just begun writing my first book, that I am hoping to publish to Amazon early next year. The story is flying and I am putting word to type at a ferocious pace. I consider the pacing and general technicality of my work to be similar to your own. Thank you for your work and I’ll continue to be a fan.

      -John.

  29. I understand the limitations of pulling data, but I am probably not represented on the charts accurately. I write primarily milfic and scifi, and I have only a handful of books that have already pulled in over $10,000 per year (I have several more than will easily reach that mark soon). But I also have 24 books. As I posted elsewhere, a handful make less than $1000 per year, and two make less than $200. However, take my eight or so books that make about $4000 each, and while they would not have made a blip on this research, together, they earn $32,000 per year.

    In toto, my books earn well into the six figures per year.

  30. Palessa says:

    This is great information. I was with a small publisher until Jan 2016 as they decided to close down. I am now in the first two months of not-so-clueless self-publishing. I’m looking at the long term of this as I write in a highly competitive genre, at least one of them, so it’s going to be a challenge.
    I’m scanning through the comments and a common theme among the questions kinda hit me: # of books. I wonder if that has a correlation to the data you guys are pulling for this. You’d think that the more books you have, the higher the earning but for some it’s just one book that’s really the “alpha” or they only have a couple of books and are in a really great niche or they have a good number of books and are not quite there ($10K/annum minimum)
    Anyway, it was just a thought I had as I was going through this.
    Cheers

  31. JulesM says:

    This is fantastic information. Thanks so much for the tremendous effort you’ve put into gathering these stats and for making the information free to everyone. Other persons would not be so altruistic and your generosity is much appreciated.

    My general comment after having reviewed a few of the reports is that it shows how well self-published ebooks are doing in the last five years when compared to traditional published ebooks. The benefit of self-publishing as I see it, are 1) it allows for persons who would have been rejected by the Big 5 to get out there and sell their books, 2) the royalties for the self published author are way greater than the traditionally published, 3) it requires a lot shorter process to be published and start making money compared to the other method.

    While this is good I view the reports with caution as I keep wondering (despite all the graphs etc.) if it’s a simple numbers game. What I would like to know is absolutely numbers of self published books versus absolute numbers of traditional published books per year. For example, if there are 100,000 persons self publishing on kindle and 1000 making a living from it that’s a 1% chance for a self published author. On the other hand if 50,000 authors are traditionally published annually and 500 are making a living from it that’s 1% of the total. As a result it would not matter which route you choose for your book. With hard work and luck you could be part of the 1% either way. Now if the absolutely figures were reversed i.e there were 100,000 traditionally published titles and 50,000 self published titles then the result would be more intriguing.

    What is important I think is to discover is what things the successful self-published authors are doing? Are they performing the same activities as the more recent and successful traditionally published authors. Which groups spends more/less money on marketing? Those are my questions though I’m not sure your metrics would allow you to appropriately answer those questions.

  32. This is fabulous information! Thank yu so much for the tremendous time and effort that must go into these reports. How are you mining the raw data?

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