Thursday, July 11, 2013

Chronic Self-Publishing Syndrome.

My post this week relies on a year-old article in the Guardian about self-publishing authors. The article refers to a survey that was conducted by the Taleist website. One thousand self-published authors responded to an invitation to fill in the survey. So it is not a random survey of self-publishers, and therefore, its validity is open to question.   

I suspect a lot of those who responded would have been enthusiastic about self-publishing because of some success, while people who were not so successful, and had given up, would not have bothered. 

Still the survey has some interesting things to say what committed self-publishers earn. 

Money Earned By Self-published Authors in 2011. 

The average money earned by authors who responded to the survey in 2011 was, $10,000 dollars, a nice round number. Now before you say, that’s better than the dole and rush to start your mega-seller, that average figure is distorted by the sales of the top selling respondents. Ten per cent of authors who replied to the survey made 75% of the reported revenue from self-publishing. About half of the respondents made less than $500. A quarter lost money because their sales did not cover their publishing costs. 

Best Genres for Earning from Self-publishing. 

As expected, romance was the best genre for self-publishing. Romance writers who responded to the survey earned on average $17,000. Science fiction writers averaged $3,800, fantasy $3,200, and literary fiction $2,000.

Best Gender for Self-Publishing.

Sixty-eight per cent of those who said they could live off their self-publishing earnings were female. Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is that romance writers tend to be female. 

Editors and Cover Designers Help. 

Authors who engaged editors earned 13% more on average. Those who sought help with the cover design earned 34% more on average.

Writing Habits of Best Performed Self-Publishers. 

High earning self-publishers wrote on average 2047 words a day. The rest averaged 1557 words a day, which is only 25% less. I average about 360 words a day, last time I checked, so I have some work to do. Writing 2047 words would take me about six hours, and that is without doing much editing along the way. When I am redrafting the world count is very likely to be negative.

After writing their 2047 words, those high earners would then have to spending hours on social media marketing their books.

As a science fiction writer I also spend a lot of time keeping up with trends in the world so I can think about what the world will be like in the future. And then there is time spent reading fiction.

So to replicate the habits of a self-publishing high earner, I would have to spend an estimated 12 hours a day, every day of the week writing, editing, redrafting, marketing, reading and keep abreast of the field.

So if I was going to emulate the writing habits of these self-published writers, I would have no time for anything except writing and promoting my writing, too bad about my health. I wonder how many of the writers who responded to the survey were extremely unfit and unhealthy. I bet a few of them have since burnt out. Even Jack (pictured at the start) in The Shining knows that "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." After many authors are found slumped dead over their keyboards, doctors might have to deal with a new medical condition: Chronic Self-Publishing Syndrome.

I would love to hear the average daily word counts of readers of this blog.


Anthony J. Langford said...

Dead over the keyboard - it just may be!

Very good article Graham and well researched.

I think you made a good observation right at the beginning, that the authors had been invited to participate. I would argue that most make very little indeed, particularly in Australia, though it shouldn't matter, but I still feel that somehow, corporations like Google and Amazon skew their promotions towards US authors through things like search algorithms.
I could be wrong but I just don't see Australian authors earning anywhere near that amount.

Are you gearing up for self-publishing?
I have next to no experience with the e-book world, so really, I have no opinion based on experience.

As for word count, well, when I was writing my novels, before my daughter was born and before burnout, I was probably writing about 1,000 a day. But after that first draft I would write nothing as I spent 3/4 of the overall time on a novel in the editing and re-drafting stages.
Especially now as you say, much time is required to promote, even if youre not self-published. I wouldnt take too much stock on word counts and simply work the way you like to work. I hand wrote my first drafts anyway so I never counted. It was more about being satisfied with a day's work.

These days, I write very little. One day, when I'm not so busy being a parent etc I will return to novels.

Karen Tyrrell said...

hi Graham,
Very interesting article indeed. I'm an Australian indie-published author learning how to diversify my business as an author-speaker. I write non-fiction and fiction books,in ebook and print. I also write for magazines. I deliver writing and mental health workshops and gigs as a motivational speaker. Its hard work juggling all those balls BUT I'm determined to be a success... Karen Tyrrell :)

Graham Clements said...

Hi Anthony,

I am not gearing up to self-publish. At the moment I am gearing up to actually finish re-editing something I have written before sending it out to traditional publishers. I am just curious where the publishing industry is heading.

Graham Storrs, who sometimes visits my blog, is one Aussie who has had some success with his ebook Timesplash - he said in a blog a while ago that he was making some decent money from it. He has since been picked up by Harper Collins or a sub of it.

Graham Clements said...


Having just finished reading your sequel to Me and Her, Me and Him, I, like your husband Steve, have no doubts about your determination to be successful. Hopefully one day I will come close to matching your efforts.

Charles Turek said...

Okay, there are a lot of things you can do with statistics. I would ask whether the authors who pay editors earn more as a result, or have they earned more, therefore they are able to afford to engage an editor. The chicken, or the . . . well . . . You know.

Guy Portman said...

A great article Graham. I am sure you are right about the authors responding being towards the upper end of the earning scale. It sounds like if you really want to earn money you need to write all day and promote all night or the other way round.