Just over a thousand authors responded to the poll, and they made up a diverse group (age, gender,and location). The results are only available as a Kindle ebook, so I went out and bought it. BTW, you can read it for free if you have a Kindle and an Amazon Prime membership.
Here are the highlights:
- 72% of respondents lived in the US
- 75% were between 30 and 60 years of age
- Better than 65% had a college degree (BS, BA, or above)
- One third work full time
- Authors who got outside help earned 34% more on average
- 53% self-published for the first time in 2011, with 20% having gotten a start in 2010
- the 29% who went from a traditional publisher to self-publishing earned twice as much on their own as they did from their publisher
- Only 60% of authors either could or would answer questions about their earnings
- Average earning was $10k per author
- Half of the authors earned under $500 in 2011 from their books
- 10% of authors earned over 75% of the revenue
- 97 authors indicated that they could live off of their ebook sales
The $500 median is probably the detail that will be repeated the most, and that is the one which I wanted to really understand before I posted this. I expect those who need to defend traditional publishing will point to it as a sign that self-pub is a dead end and proclaim that traditionally published authors make more than that so it's clearly the better system.
I see it differently. Over a third of the respondents couldn't get a traditional publishing contract. If they earn so much as a dollar, it's more than they would have under the old system.
While the published author might make more on average with a traditional publisher (disputable), I would bet that half or more of the 1,007 self-pub authors in the survey would never have been given the chance by a traditional publisher. (In fact, 40% had tried to go the traditional route and still have the scars.) There's a reason why we call them gatekeepers.
On the other hand, there is one point which I don't mention above that I think is worth mentioning here. There might be a reason why those rejected authors were rejected. The indie authors who never tried to go the traditional route made an average of 41% more, suggesting that some of the rejections may have been justified.
All in all, it's a fascinating read. You should go get it.