A Glance at Author Earnings

author_earnings_thumbQuite often people write to me and say things like:

“I tried publishing a book on Amazon and I’ve sold three copies in the last twelve months”, or “They say it’s possible to earn a living as an Indie writer, but I’m not so sure…”

Others ask questions like “How can I write, publish and promote a book myself to make a decent living?” and “Should I just keep trying to sell my book to a traditional publisher?”

I’m not going to try to answer these questions today (and there’s no one definitive answer anyway) but ALL of them can be answered for you (whatever your circumstances might be) if you know where to look.

The Author Earnings Report 

One of the ways to keep your finger on the pulse is to sign up for the Author Earnings quarterly report. I’ve just received mine, and this time the focus was on earnings by The Big Five publishers on Amazon compared to other segments like Indies, small press, Amazon imprints and uncategorized.

There’s a lot in this report, and I recommend that you view it here in its entirety and sign up to receive future reports yourself. (Go to the home page and scroll down to fill in your details in the box to receive updates.) However, the graphic below was flagged as ‘the chart that means most to us as authors’, showing the market trends with share of Ebook author earnings:

Extract from Author Earnings Report May 2015

Extract from Author Earnings Report May 2015

You have probably noticed that books published by the Big Five usually cost more than other titles – this is because they demanded the right to set their own prices. The results appear to show that this might not have been a good thing for authors.

The pendulum continues to swing towards Indie publishing, so if you were sitting on the fence, perhaps Indie or hybrid (a combination of books with traditional publishers and Indie) might be the way to go.

[Note: I continue to publish children’s educational titles with a traditional publisher. That was an easy choice for me, since I want to focus on an adult readership for my Indie titles. I’m just one of many ‘hybrid’ authors.]

Who are “The Big Five”?

The so-called “Big Five” refers to Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster.


A Glance at Author Earnings — 2 Comments

  1. This is my big question too, Marg. I’m about to publish my fourth book, I’m trying to market although still working so I could do better in this area. I’m with Amazon and have great distribution, I’m getting great feedback from kids but still I can’t make a living out of writing. I’m currently getting less than $5000 a year, obviously not a living wage! Still determined but would like to see light at the end of the tunnel for all my work.
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  2. From the various writing groups I am in, and through general browsing, it seems to me that the secret (or part of it, if there is indeed a secret) is to write LOTS. You say you’re currently getting less than $5000 a year. Would you be able to turn that into $50,000 if you had ten times as many books out there? That’s simplistic, I know, because one book might bomb and another take off… but there’s also the ‘critical mass’ element, too: your name keeps popping up in lots of places.
    Anyway, that’s what I’m working on… publish lots! Marg 🙂

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