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Survey Indicates Indie Publishing is Pot of Gold for Some, Work in Progress for Many

13 December 2016

From author Marie Force:

Survey responses from nearly 2,000 indie authors, half of them entirely indie published, give insight into the industry and advice on how indie authors can make a better success of their business. Marie Force, the New York Times-bestselling hybrid author of more than 30 indie-published titles, conducted the survey through Survey Monkey with questions developed by Marie with input from many other indie authors. It was widely publicized through indie author groups and social media. Nearly 90 percent of responding authors were female, the majority between the ages of 41 and 50. More than 60 percent of respondents identified a subgenre of romance as their primary genre. Five percent were science fiction authors, five percent were mystery/thriller authors and four percent were fantasy authors. The survey was live from Oct. 8 to Nov. 8, 2016.

When asked the reason for taking the indie publishing path, authors cited greater revenue as their primary reason followed by greater product control. Conversely, their greatest frustrations with being indie authors are the perceived lack of a level playing field on the retail platforms and industry instability. However, 29 percent reported they are indie authors because the frustrations are minimal. More than half the respondents say the biggest benefit to being an indie author is agility and the ability to pivot when needed.

. . . .

When asked the reason for taking the indie publishing path, authors cited greater revenue as their primary reason followed by greater product control. Conversely, their greatest frustrations with being indie authors are the perceived lack of a level playing field on the retail platforms and industry instability. However, 29 percent reported they are indie authors because the frustrations are minimal. More than half the respondents say the biggest benefit to being an indie author is agility and the ability to pivot when needed.

. . . .

On an average day between releases, 1543 authors, or 49 percent of those surveyed, report selling between zero and five books while on the other end of the spectrum 8 authors, or 0.43 percent, report selling more than 1,000 books on an average day between releases with another 13 authors, or 0.69 percent reporting selling more than 500 books on an average day between releases. In an average month between releases, 608 authors or 33 percent, report making between zero and fifty dollars on their books. On the opposite end, 15 authors or 0.80 percent, reported making between $30,001 and $40,000 in an average month with no new releases, with 15 others reporting revenue in the higher ranges, and 1 reporting average monthly revenue in excess of $500,000. The numbers increase during release months with most reporting income at $10,000 or below for new releases. At the upper end, 18 authors reported release month income exceeding $100,000.

Link to the rest at Marie Force Blog

Here’s a link to Marie’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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23 Comments to “Survey Indicates Indie Publishing is Pot of Gold for Some, Work in Progress for Many”

  1. It is always doubtful that that kind of self-selecting survey is meaningful, but let’s assume that it is. That means that 49.88 average somewhere between 5 and 500 sales per day, for many authors meaning it is a substantial living.

    The total emphasis on getting rich in certain quarters of indie-land has come to be rather disturbing.

  2. Too bad she never gave numbers on how many people aren’t doing well in 2016. If she did, I missed it.

    • From the OP:

      A majority of authors surveyed reported that 2016 has been the best year since 2010.

      Doesn’t square with what I’ve heard and experienced.

      • What you’ve heard and experienced is anecdotal. For example, this is the coldest winter I’ve ever experienced! It must be climate change.

        Squeaky wheels are the loudest. People who are doing well aren’t on the boards crowing about it. Just the people who aren’t. Success yesterday is no guarantee of success today.

      • My data concurs with a decline in revenue over the past two years. On the other hand it may have to do with the genres I’m writing lately. Vampires sell, sci-fi not so much.

  3. They report earnings of $0-$50 and then jump all they way to $30,000?

    Silly.

    • The numbers in between would look too much like trad-pub figures and they’re trying to scare writers back to trad-pub, not warn them that it’s no better or even worse.

      • There were 27 income categories she surveyed, actually. The link to all of the raw data is at the end of the original article. The article was just a summary of the data she collected.

  4. “Survey Indicates Indie Publishing is Pot of Gold for Some, Work in Progress for Many”

    So, just like that other publishing gig? 😉

    • BUT… if you went the other route, you would have an agent to nurture you. I mean, isn’t that worth 15% of your sales alone? They can tenderly swaddle you inside the contract until they one day leave you in a hot car.

  5. Whatever else you can say about publishing, indie or otherwise, the instability and difficulty are at least consistent between them. It’s difficult with a trade publisher; it’s difficult going it alone. I don’t anticipate it changing, though I will continue being a hybrid author, with new releases in ’17. I don’t expect to make very much money.

  6. On a completely separate issue, I constantly see agents’ tweets and articles (at least one of which was posted on TPV) which talked about the need for finding more females authors and voices. I think I found them. 90% of self-published respondents were women? This sort of aligns to my rough estimates when I see the number of women tweeting during pitch sessions on Twitter. What’s the problem then with agents? Is there a chance they are biased? 😉

    • “What’s the problem then with agents? Is there a chance they are biased?”

      Or maybe they find it easier to sweet/buddy-buddy talk male writers into signing bad contracts that they get to collect 15% on.

      So what they really want is more gullible female writers beating on their doors.

    • Far more than 10% of published books are written by women, and those female authors have agents. Many agents and editors are female.

      • The 10% you mentioned in regards to published authors is mutually exclusive from the 90% of women respondents in this survey. I was poking fun at Traditional Publishing’s outcry that there needs to be more female authors, which the survey suggests are out there… at least 1,800 if you calculate 90% of the “nearly” 2,000 total respondents.

        From my own anecdotal experience, I would assume that women form a very large majority of writers both traditionally published and self-published. So when I see articles bemoaning the lack of female voices in publishing as well as characters in books, then I get confused. Allen pointed out that maybe women don’t submit, but that’s doubtful as well. Not many of us don’t test the waters and give publishers a shot to put our book in the shelves of Barnes & Noble before going out on our own. I’m sure women as a whole are no different.

        • Oh, I’m not saying more women don’t ‘submit’, I’m saying they turn down the crappy contract — if the agent/publisher didn’t reject their submission before it gets to the contract stage.

          There’s a big difference between ‘female writer’ and ‘female writer published by a publisher’, and lots of points that can keep it from happening from all sides. (And even when it all goes through it might not be much to shout about.)

          On the other hand, the only person that can stop an ‘indie female writer’ is the ‘female writer’ herself. (No wonder there are so many of them out there! 😉 )

          • A couple more anecdotal points… I was at the Wattpad conference in London recently, and the attendees were overwhelmingly female, as were the panelists.

            A local female author who I know told me that when she was starting out and was doing book signings with another author (male, longer-established), people would ask her if she worked for him. Quite how they got that impression when she had books of her own to sell, I don’t know…

  7. The exec summary was a roundup of the raw data, which is provided if you want to see the ranges between 0 and $30,000. There was no goal to push authors in either direction here, but rather to show what’s really happening. I think the survey did that. Some of you may disagree. That’s fine. 🙂

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