If you haven’t taken a look at Hugh Howey’s Author Earning Report, do so by clicking here.
I earned a little over $2k last month, with 990 ebooks and 4 paperbacks sold.
Of those 990 ebooks sold, 2 were sold via B&N through Smashwords; 3 were on the Canadian Amazon site, 19 sold through Amazon.com, and 966 sold through Amazon.co.uk. I had no ebook sales anywhere else that I’m aware of at this time, since Smashwords’ other partners haven’t all reported through the end of January. Of those that have, B&N was the only one to report any sales. Of those that haven’t, I’ve either never had sales through them, or the number of sales is super tiny.
That $2k+ in sales is 165.42% increase over my Dec. 2013’s total sales, which were a 162.68% increase over my Nov. 2013 sales.
As of yesterday, I’m seeing a 49.47% increase in sales this month. The first 11 days of January, I had 283 sales, versus 423 sales for the first 11 days of February.
Again, my sales this month are mostly from Amazon.co.uk. The breakdown is:
- US – 13.24%
- UK- 84.63%
- DE- 0.71%
- FR- 0.24%
- CA- 0.47%
- AU- 0.47%
Smashwords (direct) – 0.24%
My average royalty rate (all ebook earnings divided by total number of ebooks sold) is $2.07 this year. I’ll note that I used price points of $2.99 to $3.99 in my last post, but in actuality, $2.99 would be the main price I need to sell books at. The reason being that each one earns a slightly different royalty based on the file size delivery charges. The actual royalty varies between $2.09 to $2.03 on my $2.99 titles. Throw in the occasional sale of a higher-priced title, and viola! $2.07 average royalty rate.
Based on those numbers, Amazon.co.uk is my personal “gorilla.” It receives an estimated 3,889,885 daily visitors, or roughly 5% the number Amazon.com does. More importantly, it’s where readers are discovering my work and more of them do so every day. And some email, or like my FB author page, which is pretty awesome.
My ultimate goal is to earn a full-time living from writing. I’m not the only breadwinner in the family, but it would be nice to earn the full amount we need every year in case something happened (I’ve been widowed before, which is the sort of “something” I mean. We are also mostly self-employed, so there are the inherent vagaries of that to keep in mind.).
Our cost of living isn’t super high, so that ultimate goal amount is less than $67k per year (before taxes).
To earn half that amount with the average of $2.07 per sale, I need to sell the following number of books:
To earn the full amount:
Note: Those numbers are rounded up because I don’t like having loads of partials hanging out.
Either way you slice it, that’s simply not many books in the grand scheme of things. It’s not enough books to put me on the Amazon.com all books Top 100 bestseller list, or any other “big” bestseller list. I’m relatively certain it’s not enough to put one of my titles on Amazon.co.uk’s all books Top 100 list (Unless, perhaps, all of those sales were on one title. Maybe then, but I have doubts.).
I’m not entirely sure 32k copies per year would even equal mid-list status, yet it would be a solid “earning a living” amount for me. From what I can gather, a single title selling 10k copies per year is currently accepted as mid-list. So I guess if I had one title sell that many, I’d be a mid-list author.
As of Feb. 11th, I’m selling an average of 33.6 copies per day this year.
Let’s guesstimate my total earnings for this year:
33.6 copies per day x $2.07 average royalty x 365 days= $25,385.75 gross earnings and 12,264 copies. That’s 38.32% towards my ultimate sales goal of 32,005 copies per year.
My net pay after taxes would be $21,612.13, or $1,801.01 per month.
Of course, that doesn’t account for potential continued monthly sales growth as more readers discover my books and I release more titles. It also doesn’t account for expenses in producing more titles, which if I manage to release the 5 titles I’ve planned to, will total roughly $3,500 or so this year.
Based on that, I could fall into the graphs from Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings report of the 400+ authors earning $25k per year—without doing so through Amazon.com itself—and also with the lion’s share of my earnings the result of only two titles (my Discord Jones books) at this time.
Now, if I were traditionally published, what would my numbers look like?
The standard ebook royalty traditional publishers offer is 25%. That would cut my average royalty rate from $2.07 to $0.52.
33.6 copies per day x $0.52 average royalty x 365 days = $6,376.55.
Let’s say I don’t have an agent, so won’t have to give another 15% away.
My net earnings would be $5,888.74 for the year, or $490.73 per month.
Indie publishing: $21,612.13
Traditional publishing: $5,888.74
That’s a 72.75% difference, and not in my favor.
That’s a lot for the possibility of having a few paperbacks put into some physical bookstores. Way more than the $3,500 it’ll cost me to have 5 titles edited, create covers for them, and pay for custom ISBNs from Createspace, where extended distribution also offers the possibility of having them in physical bookstores.
I’d probably earn out my advance, since it would be in the low 4 figures with my being a “new” author. Yet my sales likely wouldn’t be enough to satisfy my traditional publisher (who probably didn’t do any marketing beyond adding my titles to their catalog and perhaps a press release somewhere), so I wouldn’t be offered a new contract, which would affect my chances of getting one from another traditional publisher.
It doesn’t take into account a possible 2-year delay in publication, or the advance being split into halves, thirds, or possibly even fourths. Or the fact I might have to deal with a restrictive non-compete clause and never seeing my rights returned.
I’d end up having to turn into an indie anyway, if I wanted to continue striving towards my goal of earning a living as a writer.
While the results of the data collected for Hugh Howey’s report may not provide a broad snapshot of how well indie books are doing compared to traditionally published books, it does provide a snapshot.
We’re doing damn good, considering the amount of denigration piled upon us by the traditional sector.
It also shows that readers don’t care whether there’s a Big 5 name on a book.
I’d like to add that the indies included in the data gathering for that report more than likely aren’t those who just throw unedited crap stories up. Based on my own browsing of Amazon bestseller lists, most of them are going to be fairly competent writers who do have their work edited in some fashion, and do try to make each of their new books better than the last one was. Most of the indies I’ve met in the KDP forums who sell well (hundreds to thousands of copies per month) have their books edited and don’t skimp in their efforts to continually improve their writing skills.
Choosing to go indie doesn’t mean you’ll reach whatever your personal “success” goal is, but you’ll likely have a better chance if you learn and improve than you will if you just toss out book after book, hoping something will hit—or if you go the traditional publishing route.
Keep in mind nothing is guaranteed when you’re a writer.
Your first book may take right off with respectable or mind-blowing sales, or you may struggle along for years, selling less than $100 to right around $700 per year, as I did for 5.75 years before something caught on. Yes, I’ve been indie that long, and it took that long before I began to have anything resembling “notable” sales.
Even IF something does catch on, it doesn’t mean you’ll be swimming in champagne while browsing real estate brochures offering private islands. Nor does it mean your sales are guaranteed to continually grow. There are too many variables to count on reaching the point of earning a living as a writer, and staying at that point in the future.
But it appears to be a better chance if you go indie.