Taleist released the results of a survey of self-pub authors today. If you haven't seen it yet, then you probably haven't heard the statistics.
Good. That gives me a chance to explain my viewpoint. I read the results this morning, but it took me until this evening before I placed them into context.
Update: The Guardian has an article on these survey results and it's an excellent example of not considering the context.
The thing is, no matter how little those authors made while self-publishing their ebooks, on average they are almost certainly better off than if they did not have the option of self-publishing.
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.