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lynnmosher

Independent Authors Are Starting To Outsell The Big Five

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Posted (edited)
On 1/4/2019 at 3:40 PM, Accord64 said:

However, to assert that authors have a better chance with traditional publishing is no longer accurate. Over the past decade it’s been a whole new world in the publishing business. Many new avenues have opened up, and everything is in a state of continuous change, so authors really need to do their homework before deciding how they want to publish.

 

Amen, amen and amen to this. Much hard work, talent and business acumen is needed to find success no matter how one chooses to publish.

 

I'm also going to throw this blog post in; it makes interesting reading. Jeff Bezos said that over 1,000 indie authors earned over $100,000 from Amazon book royalties in 2017.

 

Here's the full text of Jeff Bezos' letter to shareholders, in which he mentions this very interesting tidbit in passing.

 

I think it's safe to assume that, in addition to these six-figure indies, there are probably several hundred more making five figures per year.

 

There is indeed no guarantee of success, and for every indie doing well there are certainly lots more failing. But I feel encouraged to know what is possible, and that such indie achievement is far from being an anomaly.

Edited by EBraten

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Guest Steven Hutson
Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, EBraten said:

I'm also going to throw this blog post in; it makes interesting reading. Jeff Bezos said that over 1,000 indie authors earned over $100,000 from Amazon book royalties in 2017.


Yup. I looked into this, shortly after the article came out. These authors succeeded because they did the things that the vast majority of writers will never do. Basically, they replaced the professional services that a trad pub would have provided.

Not a meaningful precedent for a writer who won't do the same..
.

Edited by Steven Hutson

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7 hours ago, Steven Hutson said:

Basically, they replaced the professional services that a trad pub would have provided.

That's not all they did. These writers did not just replace traditional publishing services. For their own books, they replaced traditional publishing itself. They got their books out there to readers who might otherwise never have seen them. And the readers lapped them up.

 

There is no way that every single one of these writers could have gotten a traditional publishing contract. And had they got a deal for one book, they may not have received a contract for all the subsequent books they released within this period that fuelled their success.

 

Traditional publishers do indeed provide good production values, but only for the very, very, very few authors who get a deal. What makes me very happy about information like this is how many more good authors have got actual shot at a writing career.

 

7 hours ago, Steven Hutson said:

Not a meaningful precedent for a writer who won't do the same..

Quite. But that's not who I'm talking about. This is a shining precedent for writers who are willing to do what it takes.

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12 hours ago, Steven Hutson said:

Yup. I looked into this, shortly after the article came out. These authors succeeded because they did the things that the vast majority of writers will never do. Basically, they replaced the professional services that a trad pub would have provided.

 

Not saying they didn't (I have no idea), but how did you verify that they did? That's a 1000 authors. Even checking half of them would take a considerable research effort.

 

 

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Guest Steven Hutson
1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

how did you verify that they did?

 

With 14 years in the business, I'm always seeking to learn. I see interviews online, or in magazines, with the authors. Every conference, every new encounter with a published author, I shower them with questions. What worked for you, and what didn't? Overwhelmingly, those who put in the work, reap the rewards. Those that don't, don't. I see  it happen all the time. No, I didn't talk to every author; but the results of my research are so ridiculously one-sided, year after year.

I should mention also, there were about 600,000 books self-pub'd in the USA in each of the past few years. Hence there are millions of self-pub titles on the market today. In this market, a thousand wildly successful writers doesn't mean diddly-squat. A thousand out of a million represents 1/10 of 1%. 

Of course, there are the anomalies. Some writers do nothing, and just get lucky. Others do everything right, and go nowhere. No single path works for everyone. 

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Guest Steven Hutson
6 hours ago, EBraten said:

This is a shining precedent for writers who are willing to do what it takes.


Agreed. But only a tiny percentage ever will.
 

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I'm not jumping in this argument, but I was wondering if @lynnmosher or someone has the break down of self-published authors who are doing more than publishing for family and friend but actually trying to make a living at writing?  

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49 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

I should mention also, there were about 600,000 books self-pub'd in the USA in each of the past few years. Hence there are millions of self-pub titles on the market today. In this market, a thousand wildly successful writers doesn't mean diddly-squat. A thousand out of a million represents 1/10 of 1%. 

 

So how does this compare with traditionally published authors?

 

26 minutes ago, Alley said:

I was wondering if @lynnmosher or someone has the break down of self-published authors who are doing more than publishing for family and friend but actually trying to make a living at writing?  

 

Good point. Not sure if this data is available, but there there are small self-published segments/categories that traditional publishers wouldn't take on. 

 

Also, there's unfortunately a good deal of plagiarism occurring in the self-pub market - particularly in non-fiction. The cookbook craze comes to mind. Many "authors" do nothing more than repackage (or slightly tweak) existing recipes and publish them as their own work.      

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Guest Steven Hutson
38 minutes ago, Alley said:

self-published authors who are doing more than publishing for family and friend


Good question. My sister is our official family historian, and she has spent the past 20+ years looking up our family tree. When she's done (soon), I will help her self-pub the book on Kindle Print. I don't bother to get an ISBN for it, or seek distribution. This is because the world only has about 100 people who care. We will make the book available to friends and family. Self-pub is a fine option for something line this

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Guest Steven Hutson
10 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

Many "authors" do nothing more than repackage (or slightly tweak) existing recipes and publish them as their own work.   


Yup. You can't copyright mere information, including a recipe. Anyone can rewrite it and publish as their own.

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I do know some who are making a very nice income from self-publishing. But I don't know how representative they are of a larger group. I found two interesting articles, both from the same site and three days apart. One is titled Self-Publishers are Taking Over the Book Market, while the other says Book Sales Fall for Self-Publishing Authors. There are numerous reasons why the numbers deteriorate and Amazon's algorithms is one big one.

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Guest Steven Hutson

I will raise those stakes even further, Lynn. This article from The Guardian says that Amanda Hocking "changed publishing forever," six years ago.

Which is a strange claim, seeing as no one has repeated her feat since (including membership in the Kindle Million Club.)

And now her books have been picked up by St. Martin's Press, which seems like a strange choice for the poster child of self-pub. 
.

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Guest Steven Hutson
30 minutes ago, lynnmosher said:


I'm intrigued by this one: "the most likely causes are a change in algorithms by Amazon, a glitch in the Kindle Unlimited pay-per-page read program, or a sudden change of marketing emphasis by Amazon."

If I read this correctly: The reason why these books succeeded, is not because the books were well-written or the authors knew how to work the business. But rather, because Amazon gave them an artificial advantage in the search results and recommendations. But when they removed that manipulation, the books were unable to stand on their own merits.

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Yeah, I think Hocking hit the perfect wave, perfect timing and perfect genre. And as the old saying goes, it takes ten years to become an overnight sensation/success! And I'm sure her writing has improved along the way.

 

8 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

If I read this correctly: The reason why these books succeeded, is not because the books were well-written or the authors knew how to work the business. But rather, because Amazon gave them an artificial advantage in the search results and recommendations. But when they removed that manipulation, the books were unable to stand on their own merits.

 

From what I've heard/read from others, that's not it. Although, I can see how you'd interpret it that way.

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Guest Steven Hutson
2 minutes ago, lynnmosher said:

I can see how you'd interpret it that way.


Yes, I'm aware that a lot of contradictory info is out there.

But for the moment: How do you interpret that paragraph?
.

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Guest Steven Hutson
Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, lynnmosher said:

Yeah, I think Hocking hit the perfect wave, perfect timing and perfect genre.


Clearly.

But if self-pub is so wonderful, why would she jump ship to a place where she would surrender control and make less money?
.

Edited by Steven Hutson

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Posted (edited)
57 minutes ago, lynnmosher said:

There are numerous reasons why the numbers deteriorate and Amazon's algorithms is one big one.

 

Oh, don't get me started on Amazon's algos. 😦

 

Not to drive this topic sideways, but I noticed the same thing over the past year. While my overall sales were up, my sales at Amazon dropped like a rock. Amazon had 57% of my sales in 2017, but dropped to 18% of sales in 2018. Other channels more than made up the difference. 

 

20 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

I'm intrigued by this one: "the most likely causes are a change in algorithms by Amazon, a glitch in the Kindle Unlimited pay-per-page read program, or a sudden change of marketing emphasis by Amazon."

 

All three have been discussed/analyzed in great detail on other self-pub forums over the past couple of years.  Kindle Unlimited has been a mess of fraudulent manipulation coupled with a slow enforcement effort by Amazon.

 

Most notably for me has been how the algos at Amazon have changed, particularly how it has effected Amazon advertising (formerly AMS). Overall, ads have dramatically lost effectiveness in ROI. I had to pull back and focus on other channels this year, which would explain my sales data.

 

20 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

If I read this correctly: The reason why these books succeeded, is not because the books were well-written or the authors knew how to work the business. But rather, because Amazon gave them an artificial advantage in the search results and recommendations. But when they removed that manipulation, the books were unable to stand on their own merits.

 

Maybe a small part, but I would put most of the blame on the huge increase of books on the market. I don't think Amazon's algos have been able to keep up. System overload.

 

I personally think that Amazon is currently broken. Hopefully their tech wizards will be able to figure this out soon.      

Edited by Accord64

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Guest Steven Hutson
Posted (edited)

Fair enough, Accord.

Still, I'd be interested to know how the sales would shake out if all books had to stand on their own individual merit. We may never know.

Surely (unlike you or me) Amazon doesn't care who buys what. They only care that someone buys something. And if they point everyone to Amazon's own products, they don't have to share.
.

Edited by Steven Hutson

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Just now, Steven Hutson said:


But if self-pub is so wonderful, why would she jump ship?

 

That is truly a conundrum :D

 

2 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:


But for the moment: How do you interpret that paragraph?

 

So glad Accord jumped in. Thank you! My head is not really wrapped around this at the moment. So forgive me. Today is a writing day and I'm trying to write my blogpost for tomorrow and I'm a slow writer! ;)

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Guest Steven Hutson
6 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

I would put most of the blame on the huge increase of books on the market.


Agreed. More and more books on the market, while the pool of readers remains static. (A by-product of the rise of self-pub? Which perhaps works against its own interests?
.

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9 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:

More and more books on the market, while the pool of readers remains static. (A by-product of the rise of self-pub? Which perhaps works against its own interests?

 

I put most of the blame on retailers for that. Oh, did I just say that? 😁 

 

Why? Because I think that places like Amazon need to raise the bar on quality and start rejecting poorly written books. It really shouldn't be hard. A simple automated analysis of typos/simple grammar should catch many of these before they hit the market and muddy the waters. I'm really surprised Amazon hasn't already implemented something like this. For them, it's always been about providing a good customer experience. How is buying a book riddled with simple editing errors a good experience? 

 

And now back to our program. Sorry for the sideways rant.     

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Guest Steven Hutson
7 hours ago, Accord64 said:

So how does this compare with traditionally published authors?

 


Trad-pub'd authors have the benefit of professional guidance they don't have to pay for, and can put out a better product. They think long-term, and not just for the present project. 
 

An agent might work for free for a year or two, before getting paid a nickel for his work. No one will enter the profession, if they can't see the pot of gold at the end. And no one will stay in the profession for long, if the gold doesn't show up consistently.

Do you want to be a flash-in-the-pan author with one hit book, or do you want to build a career? I vote the latter. This is where the real payoff comes, in ANY industry or profession.

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