Can self-publishing really become a lucrative full-time endeavor? Can indie authors ever begin to rival the income of traditionally published authors? A “yes” to either of these questions seemed but fable a few years ago. But today, a six-figure income – or at least a full-time writing career – is actually a possibility for independent authors.
Recently, an “Ask Me Anything” Q&A on Reddit caught my attention. It was hosted by independent author Chris Fox. Fox has been very successful in his career – so much so that he claimed to have earned $65,000 off his self-published books in 2015, and hopes to triple that in 2016 (meaning a six-figure income based on his eBook sales alone). In fact, he recently quit a six-figure salary in the software industry to write full-time. For a few hours, he answered a variety of questions from fellow writers and aspiring authors. (See the full Q&A here.) So I wondered: Is Fox an anomaly, or is this a rising trend?
AuthorEarnings.com has published a report on this very subject, so I jumped into the data. Their May 2016 report reports 1340 authors earn over $100,000 per year on Amazon.com. The striking fact here: “Half of them are indies and Amazon-imprint authors.”
Surely this is just for eBook sales, right? Brick-and-mortar print sales from the Big Five will most certainly bridge the gap and make up the loss in sales. Not true, Author Earnings finds.
“The author earnings gap between publishing paths is so wide among these six-figure-earning authors that once again brick-and-mortar print sales and the like cannot significantly alter the picture,” the report says.
Interestingly, Big Five-published authors make up a significant portion of the 100k-earners if they’ve debuted within the last 100 years. But if you narrow the timeline to those who’ve debuted within the last decade, indie authors make up an overwhelming amount of the big earners – see the figures here. The amount of high-earning, traditionally-published debuts dwindles as we get closer and closer to the present day.
This trend is also true for authors earning over $250,000 per year and over $500,000 per year. The data shows it: Independent authors are threatening the traditional model. It’s certainly an exciting time to be an independent author.
A bit about how these figures were discovered: Author Earnings use a software spider that crawls across Amazon’s bestseller lists, links to also-bought recommendations and through each authors’ full catalog. This resulted in a million-title dataset. You can download the raw data used to compile the statistics on Authorearnings.com.
Patrick Walsh is a serial entrepreneur and the owner of PublishingPush.com, which specialises in PR and book marketing.
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