I haven’t been following the back-and-forth between indie and trad publishing lately, although when I was trying to decide how to publish The Unfinished Song, it was obviously tremendously important to me. Honestly, when I took the plunge, it was out of despair. The best available statistics at the time promised that if I self-published, I’d likely never sell more than 100 books. Total. Ever.
I’ve now sold over 100,000 books.
It’s from that admittedly biased stance that I come to the latest brouhaha (pay special attention to the “Genre Sucks Balls” pie-chart) over Hugh Howey’s Author Earning Reports.
Here’s Hugh Howey’s site http://authorearnings.com/. If you haven’t read the reports, but have enough interest in the subject to read blog posts criticizing them or lauding them, for goodness’ sake, read the reports. They are cool.
While you’re at it, also check out Failure Ahoy’s addendum, Self-Publishing’s Share of the Kindle Market.
I would say that the main problem with Howey’s data is not any of the objections raised by trad publishers / agents / PR people, but the simple fact that the Author Earnings listed there are GROSS for trad authors and NET for indie authors. Obviously. Because indies are their own publishers. It’s impossible to calculate those, because they are so different.
To anyone going indie, however, I would advise that you re-invest ALL the money you make in the first two years (at least) back into your business, and about half the money you make into your business the two years after that. Of course, that’s just a random ballpark and you need to decide what makes sense to you. Just don’t forget to invest in yourself as a publisher as well as pay yourself as a writer if you go indie, because you’re both. As an author, I’ve done well so far, but as a publisher, I’m barely breaking even. It’s an important distinction for an author-entrepeneur to keep in mind.
All those writers still shopping for trad publishers, here are some more of the latest figures on how much writers are earning. Here’s a good list of typical romance advances.
I’d say that Fantasy and SF ranges are probably comparable (some quite high advances, most quite low), but with about a tenth as many potential publishers. Remember, too, that advances for F/SF are often across 3 books and 3 years or more, so be sure and calculate that when you consider that an $60,000 advance in that case is actually $20,000 a year/ a book.
Here’s how much the readers of Writer’s Digest earn from writing:
Amazingly, writers who have not yet written or published anything, make no money. Equally amazingly, doctors who have not yet attended medical school, or practiced medicine, also make not money.
Some writers, such as Jim Hines, are making a living with trad publishing. I wish Jim would self-publish, though, because I want to buy Codex Born, the sequel to Magic Ex Libris, but (it’s published by DAW, which is Penguin Group) and they see fit to charge $10. Which I still think is a lot for an ebook. So I’m hoping it will go on sale…. While I was dithering, trying to decide whether to buy it or not, I bought West Coast Witch instead, from an author new to me. Just for the record, I hate, hate, hate it when readers bitch about how much my books cost. (What? Don’t you value my work above rubies and pearls?!) But I still bitch about it when I’m in my reader’s chair. And I probably will buy Jim’s book. Next month.