Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Half of self-published authors earn less than $500

While the article cited below came out back in May, 2012, I never posted my reaction. Therefore, this untimely post.

So it turns out indie writing isn't the get rich quick scheme some people may have thought. From an article posted in The Guardian:

Despite the splash caused by self-publishing superstars such as Amanda Hocking and EL James, the average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000 (£6,375) – and half made less than $500.

The article states that "a small percentage of authors [brought] in sums of $100,000-plus in 2011". That by itself is inspiring. It fuels hopes and dreams, but, unfortunately, also adds to the noise of self-publishing. Suddenly anyone with a modicum of interest in writing is putting books out there. Nothing wrong with that per se, except that it's created a market that is highly competitive and even more difficult for writers to achieve monetary success.

Now, this is an interesting tidbit:

…self-publishers who received help (paid or unpaid) with story editing, copy editing and proofreading made 13% more than the average; help with cover design upped earnings by a further 34%.

It's common knowledge that book covers are important. Now we have some hard data to support that. I learned about the editing thing the hard way after receiving a couple of less than glowing reviews citing grammar and editing issues in The Five Elements. I've since had the book professionally edited and those sorts of reviews have gone away.

Some sobering info:

Half the respondents failed to reach $500 in royalties in 2011, and a quarter of the books are unlikely to cover the direct costs of production.

Tell me about it. Production costs—book cover creation, editing, proofs, and I'll throw in marketing—can add up fast. Next thing you know you're $2000 or more in the hole and your book is only selling 1 copy/day. It takes time to earn those production costs back, if ever. I'm still working on breaking even in pure financial terms and I'm well over the $500 average in earnings.

Last, some sage wisdom:

Readers are excited by having access to new voices, but they've not been waiting for unedited, unproofread and amateurish books. There's more to being a successful author than finding the 'Save and publish' button on Amazon.

Indeed.



Comments (1) -

  • Daniel R. Marvello

    8/29/2012 9:40:19 AM | Reply

    Those were some interesting stats--thanks for sharing them. I particularly like having "proof" that getting pro help with editing and cover design has real (read: monetary) advantages.

    What I'd really like to see is the distribution of authors by earnings. I'd be happy being "average" if that meant earning $10,000 on my books, but the fact that 50% earn $500 or less means the superstars are really skewing that average!

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