02 October 2015

Cross post: Analysis of Author Earnings Survey by Amelia Smith

A few weeks ago I was browsing Joel Friedlander's "Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #59" for posts about ebook marketing and came across this post by Amelia Smith, which she has graciously agreed to let me cross-post here. This post struck me as a great addition to the ebook marketing series because when I first started researching indie publishing in 2012, the #1 bit of advice I kept coming across was "publish more books." Smith's analysis of the Author Earnings Survey Data speaks to this advice and offers some insight into how much money a dedicated indie author might reasonably aspire to make.

An Analysis of the Author Earnings Survey Data
by Amelia Smith

I took a survey about half a year ago and promptly forgot about it. Then I wondered, why doesn’t anyone do those big surveys lately. All the talk seems to be about Author Earnings report, which collects and interprets sales from Amazon, focusing on top sellers and leaving out a lot of the not-so-successful authors like me. Then I found this, a huge collection of not-yet-summarized data. When I grabbed the spreadsheet from Hugh Howey’s author earnings survey, I wanted to find out what it takes to win at this game, and what my chances are of making a living writing books. I also wound up chasing a few side collections along the way. Here’s some of what I learned. The TLDR version? The majority of authors will never make a living at this, but chances increase both with number of books written and with years in the game. They get as good as 50/50.

I didn’t pay much attention to the merits of self-publishing vs “trad,” or to whether the authors in question used professional editors and/or cover designers.1 Instead, I compared median numbers of books published versus median income for a variety of groups, mostly divided by number of years in the game. Through this, we can see if there’s any relationship between earnings and number of books published per year (there is, but it’s not straightforward), and whether there’s any point at which an author can be reasonably assured of making a living (there isn’t). I also disregarded author’s response to the question of “Are you making a full time living?” because some said that they were at $12,000 a year, while others thought they weren’t, even at over $100,000/year. I wound up using $32,000 a year as my “Making a Living” threshold, because that’s an Average Joe earns in the US, according to Google. 

25 September 2015

Guest post on ebook marketing by Scott Burtness

I am the author of two self-published novels and a published short story. Currently, my self-published titles are on a single platform: Amazon.
So far, managing a single platform has been a wise decision. It has provided a controlled environment to try different marketing tools. With all marketing and promotion driving traffic to the same platform, it is easier to determine what works well and what doesn’t. When something works, I have downloads. When something doesn’t, I can usually be found in a dark room crying into a pillow and saying, It’s just allergies, there’s just something in the air…

When evaluating marketing and promotion efforts, I measure success by number of downloads, not number of sales. To explain the distinction, here’s a little info about my progress thus far.

I published my first book, Wisconsin Vamp, in January 2014. Between January 2014 and June 2015 (when the sequel was released), I had 246 paid downloads of Wisconsin Vamp, which yielded about $500 in royalties. Not much to crow about, but I also had 6,047 free downloads via Amazon’s KDP Select “Free Book Promotion.” By opting-in to Amazon’s KDP Select program, you agree to offer your ebook exclusively through Amazon for 90 days. During that time, you can make your book free to download for a total of five days. Free downloads don’t pay royalties. However, they do build a fan base and *hopefully* get more reviews for your book. Reviews are important, and I wanted to build demand for the sequel and my future works. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

So. What I feel has worked.

18 September 2015

Guest post: Where Creativity Meets Productivity by Soramimi Hanarejima

Today I'm thrilled to bring you a guest post by Soramimi Hanarejima, who writes amazing short speculative fiction that takes abstract concepts and gives them physical form (e.g. the man who goes on a city-wide search for his creativity) and blends the mental and emotional aspects of human experience. His first collection of short stories has been accepted for publication by Montag Press Collective.

Over the past several months, Soramimi and I have been sending each other reading recommendations and resources to enhance creativity, and that's where the idea for this blog post - and two more that will be coming in the next few months - came from. Soramimi is intensely interested in the how, why, and what of creativity. This first post addresses the how, the coming posts the why and the what.

Where Creativity Meets Productivity
by Soramimi Hanarejima

You have now begun to walk in the open space of the page. The journey becomes an elaborate series of gambles, and there is no forward progression as such; there is shaping and reconfiguring, stepping backing, inking in and beginning over.—David Morley

Creative writing can be messy. There can be countless ideas, aspirations, doubts and dizzying decisions to be made regarding plot development, tone, the psychology of characters and much more. Research beckons, the urge to outline flares up or gets suppressed, scenes spring to mind, scuffles between spontaneity and structure erupt. There are so many facets of craft to grapple with.

Then again, writing is on some level about getting work done, about creating a product. So while I love discussions about craft and activities that hone our literary sensibilities, the resources that have been most valuable to me recently are books, podcasts and talks that deal with the pragmatics of being productive as a creative individual, of carving out time and space and practices to fill that time and space in the service of accomplishing meaningful work. Here are my favorites, the ones that keep me coming back for their effective frameworks and processes.

27 August 2015

Writing group alternatives

The other day I received a message on Facebook from a writer who lives in rural England and wants to improve her craft. She asked if I know of any online writing groups she can join. I don't know of any specific online critique groups looking for new members, but I do have several ideas for how she (and you!) might find sources of feedback, community, support, and/or encouragement. Here's what I told her:

1) Bookworks is an interesting site that offers a variety of services, including the ability to post 2,000-word excerpts of your WIP for peer review. I don't have personal experience with that feature, so I don't know about the quality of the feedback or how many people are engaged in it, but it might be worth checking out. There is a membership fee for some of the site's features, but the Work-in-Progress feature is part of the free Core membership plan.

2) The ROW80 community is active and supportive. Most people only use it to post updates on their writing goals, but I have seen people post - and get comments on - short excerpts from their WIPs. This community is more about encouragement than critique, so the feedback might not be as constructive as you need. That said, this is another free option and a great way to connect with other writers and get some support for remaining accountable to your goals.

18 August 2015

5 reasons to self-publish

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In my 28 July post, "5 reasons NOT to self-publish," I mentioned that I'm a proponent of self-publishing despite the arguments against it. Today I'd like to expand on that a little bit and offer five reasons you might want to self-publish.

One of the most popular arguments against self-publishing is that the market is already glutted with books, and we need to have some kind of quality assurance so that readers can be reasonably confident that the books available to them are of good quality. We need, they say, gatekeepers (i.e. publishers) who have taste in literature, know what's already out there so there aren't too many similar books, and can assure us that the books we're buying are worth reading both in terms of content and style.

I myself am often overwhelmed by how many worthwhile books there are out there - far more than I'll ever be able to read in a lifetime - and while I agree that there are a lot of self-published books whose quality is not so great, it is also my experience that there are plenty of traditionally published books that aren't so great - even some that have made the bestsellers lists. What's more, I have read some phenomenal self-published books (e.g. Andrea K. 's Touchstone Trilogy, Ruthanne Reid's The Sundered, and Ember Casey's His Wicked Games), which is proof that self-published does not need to equate to poor quality, nor does traditionally published always mean high-quality.