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How Much is Your Average Monthly Income from Self-Publishing


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I wonder how many authors try and fail in their self publishing  ventures.  They remind of Amway people that sign on for something that they truly don't understand.   Something where darned few make it to the top, but they are encouraged that they're going to make it, just hang in there.  And they pay for all the marketing costs and are disappointed with the results.

 

On the other hand, there are those few that make it big.  We've got to encourage them to go for it.

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Most authors say it takes an average of ten books to make a decent income. Which reminds me, I need to get back to editing. 😋 

I haven't been self-published for a full month yet, but I've made about $15 so far. 😄 

Just networking in writers' groups and participating in courses and conferences. I've been actively networking for over three years. I've gravitated toward likeminded authors who are serious about bot

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15 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

They remind of Amway people that sign on for something that they truly don't understand.   Something where darned few make it to the top, but they are encouraged that they're going to make it, just hang in there.

There's a lot of truth to this. There are many moving parts to having a successful writing career. The writing has to be good. And not only good, but marketable. Crime thrillers in ebook format, for example, are more likely to sell than hardback volumes of Xhosa free verse. The packaging has to be on point because readers most definitely judge a book by its cover, and a poorly-written blurb will fail to convert browsers into buyers. The author also needs to figure out how to drive traffic to the book.

 

And then the author has to do all this again and again and again. Research shows that the vast majority of six-figure indie authors have published over 40 books. The money is in the backlist. Almost nobody makes it big with just a few books.

 

Add to that the many sharks out there who are very happy to sell pipe dreams, give false hope, and take people's money. Making it as an indie is hard, hard work. If it were easy, everyone would be raking in the cash. I know for sure that it's a viable path, but only if people are willing to educate themselves and put in the necessary labour to sharpen their craft and master the marketing.

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Yes, and they also include in the list people who wrote something and just wanted to see it in print but didn't truly want more than to hold their own book in their hands. They might have it up to read, but they never try to sell it, which is ok if that's what you want too. 🙂 We all have our own goals. 

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On 2/13/2021 at 10:23 AM, suspensewriter said:

I wonder what the difference was?  And I wonder how many self-published authors really make it big?

If you're on Facebook go check out the 20Booksto50K group. There are self-published authors making huge money in there, and a whole lot making their living through self-published books alone.

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Anyone can put a book out there.  Marketing it and selling it is a different ball of wax.

 

You know the difference between a successful book and a failure?  Marketing.  Now and again you get a word-of-mouth, out-of-the-blue success, but those are outliers.  Every self-pub author I've seen making money (or claimed to be making money) is heavily invested into marketing their book.

 

I actually had a quick conversation with a notable self-pub author (mentioned here in one of these threads).  They were looking to traditionally publish a book.  As it was described to me, traditional publishing was a vanity project.  They wanted to see if they could run with "the big boys."  In their own words, "I'll probably lose money on this book."  

 

I don't know how much of that was BS or truth, but that was their outlook.

 

In any endeavor, if you want to make money, then you need to treat your craft as a business. 

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2 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

Well, I tried to get into that group you suggested, Chris, but I got no response from them.

I think the moderators might have become increasingly wary with who they let into the group, @suspensewriter. All sorts are attracted there, and they're now quite stringent. I can't say I fully endorse everything the group stands for, but if you're looking for a place that has many hugely successful indies who are open about how much they're making and how they're doing it, you'll find plenty of information there.

 

If you listen to podcasts, I'd also recommend checking out the Six-Figure Authors. Listen right from the early episodes where they share a lot of information about how they started. More recently, check out their interview of Elana Johnson. She earns six figures a month writing romance and women's fiction. Another one to check out is Chris Fox's YouTube channel. He's also very candid about where he's been, what he's doing, and what he's making.

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21 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

I wish they had more respondents, Chris.  I suspect it would skewer one way.

1,600 out o 47,000 isn't a terrible response rate, but I hoped for a little more. The $0 column can be dropped since those clearly haven't published anything yet, so really you've got about 1,200 respondents with books on the market. Out of that they have a lot of people in the making-a-living category, and more than I expected in the big-money category. 

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21 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

I wish they had more respondents, Chris.  I suspect it would skewer one way.

But these numbers already skewer toward lower earnings. However, they include people who have published one book, people who are terrible writers, people who do no marketing... If you got a group of midlist trad-published authors in a room, how many would be earning over $10,000 a year? According to the Guardian, the median trad-published author earns under £10,000 a year. In other words, most of them aren't making a living at it either.

 

I'm actually quite pleasantly surprised at how many indies in this one group are making over $10,000.

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I think this article has been posted before on this forum, but it makes for very interesting reading. In the comments, they mention they had 1,100 respondents. It doesn't break down the numbers of authors in the different earning brackets, but it does give insight into what high earners are doing differently to emerging authors.

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36 minutes ago, EBraten said:

But these numbers already skewer toward lower earnings. However, they include people who have published one book, people who are terrible writers, people who do no marketing... If you got a group of midlist trad-published authors in a room, how many would be earning over $10,000 a year? According to the Guardian, the median trad-published author earns under £10,000 a year. In other words, most of them aren't making a living at it either.

 

I'm actually quite pleasantly surprised at how many indies in this one group are making over $10,000.

 

They say there is a deep dive coming on this data, so that will have some granularity on number of books published and marketing spend. Too bad they can't filter by terrible writing as well! It's also hard to know if there is some selection bias on who responded to the survey, but based on the sample size and the number of low responses I'd say there isn't much.

 

I would like to presume that traditional publishers cut out all the terrible writers, but I read enough books to know that's not always the case. You also have to wonder how many people are making $0 on their great manuscripts while they wait for an agent or publisher to call. 

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In a survey that's entirely a measure of success, we might likely expect a selection bias in favor of the most successful out of the full population. That is, the more successful the individual, the more likely they'd choose to answer the survey. Those who hadn't sold anything might be far more likely not to bother.

 

If the survey actually covered more things than just success, it might be just a tad closer to a true measure of the population. Yet if we consider that the more successful may be more conscientious and the unsuccessful may include a lot of people who aren't really that motivated, we might still see a fair selection bias in favor of the more successful members, and the unsuccessful might be under-represented. In that case, more of the unmotivated may have intended to answer the survey, but never got 'round to it.

 

What we do see is at least some indication that the people really committed to working at it can succeed as indies. There's a similar trend I see in all sorts of other business ventures. I know more than a few multi-millionaires who've earned every penny, though they are not writers. What they have is an entrepreneurial drive and intense commitment to what they're doing. Then there are others who've made honest but less-than-frantic efforts in starting a business, and they struggle to make ends meet.

 

I'm just guessing that indie publishing might follow a similar pattern.

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1 hour ago, Chris Brown said:

I would like to presume that traditional publishers cut out all the terrible writers, but I read enough books to know that's not always the case. You also have to wonder how many people are making $0 on their great manuscripts while they wait for an agent or publisher to call. 

 

(Raises hand)

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My sales vary but generally under $200 a year for independently published books. I'm still getting royalty checks however from my four traditionally published books that are still in print from 2004.

 

Most writers I know (indie or traditional) supplement book sales with other writing endeavors--speaking events where they also sell their books, school visits, editing, consulting, etc. 

 

It's difficult to make buckets of money, but as I always say: I'm not in it for the big bucks; I'm in it for the fabulous fame and glory. (heh-heh-heh)

 

("Who is she again?" you ask)

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One of my 10-year goals is to qualify for Novelists, Inc. (NINC), the professional organisation for career authors. To qualify as an indie author, you have to earn $5,000 over 12 consecutive months. The bar is much lower for trad authors ($2,000 over 12 consecutive months). But, then again, they probably had to jump through a bunch more hoops to begin with.

 

This infographic has some interesting membership stats. 85% are self-published, but 72% are trad-published, which implies there's a good deal of overlap.

 

NINC_InfoGraphic-668x1024.png

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You know, they still won't accept me as a new member.  I've got books that are professionally published, and some self published so I believe I meet all their requirements, so I'm just giving up.  I don't have much faith in Facebook Groups anyway.

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