Where’s the Money? — by Amanda Green

*I’ll note two things in addition to Amanda’s post below — first I heard elsewhere that Hines had made 40,000, which for the record might be.  You see, when you report earnings in a year, are you reporting money PAID in? or money signed for — Or it’s possible the person reporting got confused. I don’t know and don’t care enough about JM’s fortune’s to check.  BUT most traditional advances are paid in three installments.  (Baen is different.)   Next, something Amanda didn’t touch on, but I — who have worked in publishing for 14 years — will.  If you’re going traditional (other than Baen, which is why I keep working with Baen) you need to factor into the “cost of doing business” the fact that the royalty reports are often blatantly crazy — like basing it on Nielsen’s which report AT MOST 2/3 of sales (their claim) but more likely 1/3 (from independent analysis); that the publisher, like one of mine, might claim a book that stayed on the shelves everywhere, including high end bookstores only sold 1k books because “A lot of them were spoiled.” — spoiled by what?  Who knows? — and that you won’t get your copyrights back without a major fight.  Predatory contracts and the fact you have no say in how your book is treated is another big deal.  It was to save my nerves (Honestly guys, if you page back, you’ll find posts.  My hair was coming out by the handfuls.  I thought “vitamins” I thought “menopause” but no, it was stress.) that I stopped working for all publishers but Baen and Naked Reader Press (but that’s a special thing since it’s an endeavor of friends) and Goldport Press (ditto.)

For the rest, I agree with what Amanda says.*

 

 Where’s the Money? — by Amanda Green

Over the last couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of discussion going on across the internet about how much money writers make – or don’t make. It started with the results of the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Survey. Authors started talking on Facebook and other forms of social media about where they fell in the survey results. Some said the survey proved what they’d been saying all along – that only those who are traditionally published or are hybrids make any money writing. Others took a different view, questioning the results of the survey and any bias it might have had.

I decided to look at the survey after I’d seen a post by Jim Hines about how much money he’d made this past year as a writer. For some years now, Hines has posted his income from writing. I applaud him for it but will admit that he doesn’t give as much detail in his reports as I’d like to see. So, let’s start with what Hines had to say and then go from there.

According to Hines, his income for 2013 breaks down like this:

  • Novels (U.S.): $55,350
  • Novels (Foreign Editions): $1,000
  • Self-Published: $1,650
  • Short fiction and Nonfiction: $1,500
  • Miscellaneous: $1,300

If my math is right, that’s a total of $60.800. That’s nothing to sneeze about and kudos to him for earning that much. However, here is where my questions begin.

Hines notes in his post that he sold three books to his publisher during 2013. So it is safe to assume that a good chunk of the novel sales figure comes from advances. Unfortunately, he doesn’t tell us what amount that might be, so we can’t weigh advances against royalty payments. The reason this concerns me is multi-fold. First, authors who sell to digital first publishers or who self-publish don’t get advances. Their income is royalty only. Second, it’s common knowledge that most traditionally published books don’t earn out their advances. The lack of numbers about these two concerns means it is more difficult to weigh his earnings against a self-published author.

We also don’t know the number of titles he has self-published and if any of them were new to 2013. He also admits that he has don’t nothing to promote his self-published titles.

Still, he made more than a lot of folks do at a “real” job. But is he the exception or the rule – both for traditionally published authors and those who take the digital first, hybrid or self-published route.

The 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Survey was set up so that respondents were split into one of four groups: aspiring writers, traditionally published writers, hybrid-published writers and self-published writers. Of those four groups, the aspiring writers counted for more than 65% of those responding.

Okay, right there I have a problem. If by “aspiring writers” the survey meant those who have never been published, why were they included in a survey on earnings? An aspiring writer has never sold anything before. That means they haven’t earned anything from their writing. To include them in a survey to determine what type of writer makes more money is to skew the results. To include them to the extent that they make up approximately 2/3rds of the respondents is to basically invalidate the results if for no other reason than it brings into question the validity of the rest of the survey.

But I digress. . . .

According to the survey, approximately 77% of the self-published authors who responded made $1,000 or less a year. “[A] startlingly high 53.9%” of traditionally published authors made the same amount. As for hybrid-published authors, 43.6% said they made $1,000 a year or less.

Needless to say, I have problems with these figures as well. To start, the bias of the survey is clear in the language used to describe the number of traditionally published authors in this category. No descriptive is used for self-published or hybrid-published authors. But it is a “startlingly high” number of low-earning traditionally published authors.

My next issue is that there is no breakdown on what these authors are publishing. For all we know, the self-published authors put out only short stories – which sell for substantially less than novels – while the traditionally published authors were putting out books in a well-established series. Without knowing if the survey was comparing literary apples with oranges, we can’t put too much weight behind these figures.

If that’s not enough to make you at least question the built in bias that might exist in the survey, follow the link in the article linked above. It will take you to a site where you can download the survey – for the mere price of $295. Note, too, the title of the download: What Advantages do Traditional Publishers Offer Authors. Sounds like there’s a slant in favor of legacy publishers to me. How about you?

The funny thing is that a lot of authors felt the same way. The numbers they saw reported in the survey didn’t make sense. Go to Facebook and you’d see them talking about what percentile they fell into. Author Beverley Kendall went one better. She put together her own survey that she pulled together in a 25 page plus document and then posted to her website. While I won’t and can’t say it is completely accurate, I will bet it is a much more accurate picture of the industry and of what authors are earning than the other was.

There were 822 respondents to the survey that were split into the following groups: self-published, traditionally published or digital-first published. 65% were self-published. 21% were traditionally published and 14% were digital-first published. None were “aspiring authors”.

The first breakdown made was the percentage of authors who made $10,000 or more in 2013.

  • 56.90% of traditionally published authors fell into this group.
  • 46.04% of self-published authors did as well.
  • 44.95% of digital-first authors also made this amount.

It is at this point that Ms. Kendall points out that the monies earned by traditional authors include their advances while self-published and digital-first authors don’t have that luxury. To me, that makes the number of authors falling into those categories all the more impressive.

Ms. Kendall then goes on to give more information than we’ve gotten from the overviews of the other survey – and, sorry, but I’m not paying hundreds of dollars to buy the survey to see the actual questions and breakdowns. In her breakdown of information garnered through her survey, she looks at the impact of genre on earnings – and notes that romance readers buy a LOT of books. She notes that series also seem to improve sales. She also confirms something Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have been saying for a long time: volume sells. The more titles you have out there, the more your sales will grow.

From the survey:

Those having 1 – 3 books for sale:

  • 79.93% earned less than $10,000
  • 13.14% earned $10k – $25k
  • 3.65% earned $25,001 – $50k

You can see the trend.

Now, for those with 12 – 20 books for sale:

  • 21.70% earned less than $10k
  • 11.32% earned $10k – $25k
  • !5.9% earned $25,001 – $50k
  • And it continues up to 7.55% earning more than $500,000.

Ms. Kendall also points out that being professional with your work helps as well. Having your novel edited and having good covers helps promote sales. She also takes the time to compare her earnings from traditional publishing with what she has made self-publishing and I wasn’t surprised to find she prefers the latter for obvious reasons.

What does all this mean? First, that any survey can be manipulated to skew the results to favor the stance of the sponsor of the survey. Second, neither of these surveys were scientifically done. So there is no telling what the actual margin of error might be. But, if I had to choose one to help guide me in making a decision about whether to try to go the traditional publishing route or the self-publishing route, it would be Ms. Kendall’s. She opens her questions and the results up for all to see. She also didn’t have two-thirds of the respondents being “aspiring writers”.

From personal experience, I can also say that most of what Ms. Kendall says seems to be exactly what is happening with my own career. The more I publish, the greater my sales. Each title seems to help sales of the titles before it. My series – both under my name and under my pen name of Ellie Ferguson – sell better as individual titles than the one non-series book I have out now. Books where romance is a major theme sell better than those without it. Beyond that, each year my sales increase. I have made the equivalent to an advance on one book this past year and this next year looks to be even better.

The choice about whether to go indie or to go the traditional route is one each author has to make. However, don’t make that decision based on faulty information that is obviously slanted in the favor of legacy publishers. You have to make an informed decision and that means doing your homework. If you see a survey like the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Survey, especially if it doesn’t let you see the data and how it was compiled without paying major money to do so, then question its validity and look for alternative information.

For me, I’ll continue working with a micro press and putting work out on my own. I know there is money in it. I might not get rich, but at least I know the majority of the money paid for my novels comes to me and not to supporting some ostrich-like publisher in New York that still denies that the industry is changing and that continues to treat its authors like so many interchangeable widgets.

107 responses to “Where’s the Money? — by Amanda Green

  1. I wonder about the romances selling so much better than the others. I know it is true but, I wonder if books containing romance with other things happening would sell better if romance was one of the tags. Pixie Noir contains a wonderful romance as a sub-plot to the main story but, has none or few of the romance tropes. It hearkens back to what a romance was before Harlequin et.al. ruined the genre. Seriously, go read a romance from the early twentieth century such as Thomas Costain. Romance was included but, Nurse Jane didn’t have to secretly love Dr. John in chapter one. they didn’t have to get together in chapter 2 and break up over a misunderstanding in chapter 3 etc. Could we turn back the tide so that love and relationships could be in a book without the stupid tropes that seem to be required today? And maye turn romances back into a genre worth reading instead of pap for airheads?

    • Romance is caught in the same trap as everybody else, I think. The evil publishing overlords (or, um, traditional publishing) have determined what the ‘formula’ for a successful romance genre story is, therefore, do this or die staring at the vine you wish you could wither on.

      A couple of the big name romance writers veer from that traditional formula you mentioned, but often more in subtle treatment than actual abandonment. At least one of the authors in ‘romance’ that I have read seems to have gotten caught in a contract and has put out some books where she’s clearly phoning it in. Some of those books read like a romance-by-the-numbers guide. Blech. I haven’t read any indie romance (frankly, it frightens me to contemplate, it could be so much worse than indie SF/F) but I wonder if there’s some authors out there exploring the other ways human beings bump into each other and start relationships?

      Pixie Noir is on the list of must reads, but I haven’t reached it, as of yet. However, from the descrips it sounds like it has a natural romantic element to it. Not knowing enough about the tagging system in Amazon and such, what does a romance tag do to the system? Would it skew too much from the other natural genre fits?

      For myself, I would like to be able to take genre as a broad cue and peruse the tagging for some specifics and then go from there. But I’m not sure how that all plays out without me finding myself wrapped up in an odd alien romance with tentacles and steamy…never mind. Really. My mind took the next step on that sentence, you don’t wanna.

      I’ve glanced at the mug, the coffee is still 2/3’s full. This should be considered in reading the above.

      • I found that if you tag it Romance when it is not the typical cute meet, can’t think of anyone else the entire book that you get bad reviews. You may get away with it by calling it sweet romance. I have read a writer who imho writes romance, but she puts it in fantasy and has a big fan base– so there you go. Many of the Romance readers nowadays expect two to three graphic sex scenes in a novel tagged romance.

        • Just a note: The RWA (Romance Writers of America) train the writers before they make it to Harlequin or other Romance publishers.

        • Well, that just complicates the whole thing. I guess the EPO’s have trained up a portion of the readership to narrow expectations in genres.

          Might have to delve into this tagging thing, sounds as if we need to foster a culture of more subtlety in secondary tagging. Or figure a way to cue romantic subplots in various stories without tagging “Romance” as the genre — ’cause I’m sure everybody needs another side project as much as I do.

          :\

          • Genres are a marketing strategy– you write a novel or story… then you think where does this fit the best? (Or you can decide to write in a genre if you know the genre expectations). So yea, a good story is a good story– genre is how you market the story (niche advertising in a sense).

            • Which works, until your niche has been narrowed so far that it’s excluding prospective customers. Not to say I have any idea of how to address it, but when genre classifications are so constrained that authors are producing formulaic stories to fit the genre something needs to change. This from the perspective of a reader and prospective writer.

              There’s some fantastic stories I would have missed if I hadn’t ignored traditional genre rules and gone exploring on someone’s recommendation.

              It’s the tendency of advertising to want to classify, enabling targeted marketing, and to train the markets to respond to the target signals. From a business perspective, however, this limits the customer base. Finding ways to target appropriately and meet expectations without excluding potential interest from outside the target market is one of the challenges of modern business, particularly as narrower niches exist via the internet.

              This is something I’ve been working over in non-publishing business considerations, so it’s much on my mind. While I’m not particularly interested in re-inventing the wheel, neither do I want to be stuck with spoked wood for lack of exploration.

              And this qualifies as me flailing about for ideas, so ignore as needed.

              • Of course there are mixed genres– one of my fav is the Retriever series, which is sci-fi and mystery. I think she puts it in sci fi and does a secondary tag of mystery. Anyway– there are ways around it.

                  • Wait … I’ve been reading romance? Eeeeyuuuuw. 😉

                    • If you employ the classic definition, Louis L’Amour is Romance.

                      What is being packaged as Romance these days was once sold as smut.

                    • You just said that to make me feel all funny inside.

                    • RES already made my point about Louis L’amour being classic romance, and Pixie Noir is of the same style of ‘romance’. Where there is an actual story, and the boy meets girl aspect is a major subplot.
                      Possibly you could tag Pixie Noir as Fantasy romance, much like they have Romantic Suspense novels, but I wouldn’t tag it as straight (get your mind out of the gutter, I know the romance in it is heterosexual!) Romance. I suspect to many potential customers would either pass it up because they don’t like regular romance (yep, that would include myself) or if they are a romance fan they would be disappointed and give poor reviews because too much time is spent on the plot and not enough on the emotional anxiety of the characters.

                  • Let me paraphrase SPQR: Oo! Shiny. That has neat implications. So… do you tag it that way? I just looked at the Amazon listing and don’t see a hint of romance, (but a very nice discussion of space opera). I tagged THTS contemp fantasy/erotica, but it doesn’t seem to be getting me much traction.

                    M

                  • Very good too – the hubby just finished reading the second book (I finished all three last year) 😉

              • I suggest if you want to learn more about how to use genre, you should go to Dean W Smith’s workshops. I find that when I go there, I learn things that I can’t find anywhere else.

        • To the reader “romance” means a particular thing on a particular trajectory with a particular outcome. I’m all for letting people know exactly what they’re going to get. That’s how products and consumers find each other.

          Can a person put “romantic elements” as a tag?

          • It depends on what you are trying to achieve. If you have a minimum of 6 tags, you might not want to secondary tag it as romantic elements (or do). Think of it as a marketing strategy more than a writing strategy. What kind of people do you think will like the book, and then who would read it. You target differently between male and female– If you are targeting women then romantic elements. If you are targeting men, then adventure. 😉 Just deliver what you promise in the tags. IF there is NO adventure or NO romantic elements it equals reader dissatisfaction. I know you knew that of course.

            • Cyn, as an advertising/marketing person, you are 100% right. Choose tags based on who might be interested in reading the book(s). One that ‘m working on, is for sure, YA, Christian, and Christmas. Beyond that ????
              Sit down and ask yourself, “what are the “natural markets for this book?” Think broadly, and ask those with an interest in that genre. They can tell you quickly. If you are cross genre, list the specifics on the descriptions. I’ll ask the question on LinkedIn, in the F&SF readers group, and the MAANZ marketing group. I’ll try to post any replies here on Facebook and the Diner (if I remember).

              • As important as it is to use tags to attract potential fans, it is even more important to avoid tags which might draw the wrong crowd. A reader who feels lied to by a tag will not only not read other books by the writer, said reader will slam you in the review.

        • Cyn, that’s why I never tag anything contemporary romance. If I can’t just tag it romance, I will go with something else — romantic suspense, etc. I also make sure the meta tags I put in when I’m converting the book includes romance and whatever sub-genre that might be appropriate. That said, I have had negative reviews from those who don’t read beyond the word “romance” and who come into the book thinking it will be nothing but one sex scene after another tied together with a little bit of plot.

      • Eamon, there are bad ones out there — really bad ones. But they are usually ones you can tell just by the description that you want to steer clear of. The 50 Shades wannabes and a lot of the paranormal romance books. However, there are also some really good ones. That’s why I love the preview function on Amazon and other sites. I can usually tell before the end of the preview if the book is something I’d be interested in.

      • It’s not clear to me why a genre romance has to involve the two MCs spending most of the book disliking each other or trapped in a misunderstanding two three-year olds could solve . Plenty of adventure has romance. John Carter had Deja Thoris. Manny had Wyoming. Athena got Kit. Miles had…well, lots of people, and, eventually a True Love. It’s still romantic, and–bonus points–it’s not idiotic. Bujold’s fantasy has people falling in love in the midst of other plotular activity. As someone who likes romance in her fiction, but doesn’t quite like the genre formula, I like knowing it’s there. I don’t want it to be the only thing, but that’s just me. I understand why it sells well. But, does its presence turn away male readers?

        • My experience is that guys don’t mind romance as long as it’s not the whole of the story. Put it in an SF or fantasy context, where the romance is a sub-plot, and it’s fine. The closest to pure romance that I’ve read and enjoyed was Bujold’s _The Sharing Knife_ trilogy, which had plenty of adventure and travel writing mixed in with the romance elements, no to mention supernatural monsters, which is always a plus:-).

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          I suspect that many guys would “pass on” the story if they were told that it was a “romance story” but it wouldn’t bother them if they read the story and found a romance intertwined with the rest of the story.

          Mind you, until I got introduced to Georgette Heyer when I thought of “romance story” I thought of the Harlequin Books type of “romance stories”.

          On the other hand, even before that, I enjoyed “spotting the romance” that was bound to happen in Eric Flint’s 1632 books. [Wink]

          • Yep, when guys see ‘romance’ they think ‘Harlequin’ or EEeuuw-yuck!

            So if you are planning to market to guys at most secondary tag it with a [blank] romance tag, not contemporary or plain romance. To be honest I would have never read Wedding Bell Blues except it was free and was heading out the door to work out of town for a week, and didn’t have enough to read in the evenings so I grabbed it. While not especially my taste it was well written and good enough that I bought the ‘Hunted’ books when they came out, because as I stated below the Paranormal’s generally have to have a plot of some type, and Blue’s showed me that the author could string together a coherent plot. (and I suspected it of being either Amanda or Kate, since I knew Ellie was a pen name, and Sarah said it wasn’t her, and I was pretty dang sure it wasn’t Dave 😉 )

          • Sigh. I keep hoping for a worthy successor to Heyer.
            My take away from the comments here is to identify a science fiction novel with a romantic sub-plot, for example, as science fiction, not give it a romance category, but maybe put “romance” in those invisible tags that show up in searches but not on the book’s Amazon page where people who would go eeeuy-yuk would see it.

        • Tagging it romance tends to turn men away, because they expect to be a gushy plotless story written for women. Not all of them are, but that is our expectation, much as we expect a Western to involve lots of action, sixguns and horses. I have read some romance, and there is some I even liked (Sherrylin Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter novels, Amanda’s Ellie Ferguson books, etc.) but all to much of involves a couple of people so stupid that I am hoping they get in a head on collision coming to meet each other and kill each other off. In my limited experience the Paranormal or Suspense types of Romance have to have some type of plot involved, not necessarily a good plot, but even a bad plot is usually better than no plot.

        • The presence of romantic incidents in other genres? Doesn’t turn me away unless it’s ham-handed, unrealistic, mechanism for sex delivery or like that. But I like character stories, and characters (people) have relationships. I know there are some guys out there that’ll put a book down if two people are looking at each for too long (without plotting death and destruction) but I think they’re a small number.

    • Sanford, there are those books. They are just tagged as romantic westerns, historical romance, etc and the descriptions will usually note that this is a “sweet” romance. Like you, I miss the old-style romance where there were believable characters and an actual plot.

  2. This is good information for me. I suppose I qualify as ‘aspiring’, since I have no fiction published. I did have income in years past doing freelance stuff – but why, in my mind, does that not count? I guess because my soul longs for the free floating bliss of fiction rather than the harsh, concrete style of writing that business writing is.

    But what would assist me most, as an aspirant, is the nitty-gritty details: where can I find a cover designer that won’t break my bank account? What is a good information source for indie and micro publishers? And how do I arrange a decent marketing strategy when I do have the stories completed?

    A nice FAQ file with attachments or appendices would be wonderful. And I’d even be willing to shed a few shekels to acquire such a valid source.

    • If you’re just starting, there’s several places to start looking for how-tos–one I like is the Writer’s Cafe, a forum on the kindle boards where a large number of indies, including big ones, hang out and share info and kvetches and humor: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,60.0.html

      For more organized information, try this book: http://tinyurl.com/lrams7p

    • (I seem to have a stuck comment? Apologies if this is a duplicate)

      If you’re just starting, there’s several places to start looking for how-tos–one I like is the Writer’s Cafe, a forum on the kindle boards where a large number of indies, including big ones, hang out and share info and kvetches and humor: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,60.0.html

      For more organized information, try this book: http://tinyurl.com/lrams7p

      • (I seem to have a stuck comment? Apologies if this is a duplicate)

        If you have more than one link in a comment, WordPress shuffles it off to the moderation queue, where it languishes unread until Dona Sarah can get to it and approve it.

        The simplest way to avoid this is to just stick to one link per comment.

    • cover designer — take the WGM workshop and do it yourself — seriously. It’s the best you’re going to get. Yes, it costs money, but then you can do it yourself.
      There isn’t a good info source for indie and micro because they go up and down all the time.
      Marketing strategy — the best one seems to be “put more stuff up.” Did you read my PJM 13 weeks on publishing?

    • For DIY covers, use stock photo sites and learn how (various suggestions offered above). Might mean investing in a learning curve for a software tool — not all of them need to be expensive like Photoshop (which I was already using for photography). Some are free (e.g., Gimp).

      If you want to step up to a higher quality, as I am just now doing for a new series, turn to Elance or Deviant Art and look for candidates there. Elance in particular allows you to post a job and set budgets, and you can usually find someone in your price range (getting the style just right is a bit tougher, but you can also have them audition at an hourly rate with a sample sketch).

    • I went to a regional writer’s conference this weekend (don’t judge) and did glean some info…will try to find out where i hid it & get back to you. One recommendation for cover art was “find a graphic designer/graphic artist freshly graduated”–the route I plan to take (because my art skills are underwhelming & i have friends who are better). The number thrown around for good cover art at a reasonable price was $250.

      The overwhelming advice of the weekend was “build your [advertising] platform and self-publish–if you’re good & fit their bill, traditional publisher will pick you up.”

      The other advice was “butt in chair…”

      • PLEASE DON’T. No, seriously, please, don’t. $250 might be a reasonable price for a longish novel, or if you have a name, but most indie stuff will take a year to earn that. And the covers I’ve seen people have paid for. Let’s say…. I’m not impressed. Look covers are genre-specific. A romance cover designer will BOTCH your fantasy and vice-versa.
        Look, go here:http://selfpubauthors.com/2011/03/24/free-cheap-images-fonts-sound-videos-for-trailers-books/
        IF you’re doing romance, pictures will do. IF you’re not, go to dreamstime (covers cost around $20 for art) and choose “not photos” and whatever your theme is.
        For design, our very own Cedar Sanderson is taking a course to learn to design them and will be doing it for cash money, and frankly if you have more than a novel to put up, it’s best to take the workshop yourself. Dean Smith. WMG publishing.
        As for a “platform” that’s nonsense from the last days of “traditional only” — we haven’t figured out what “promotes’ indie yet — ask Amanda, she has had books make thousands and books make hundreds — except “write in a series and write a lot.

      • Peggy, what Sarah said about covers and genres. If you look at “Justice and Juniors,” it radiates fantasy, even though the contents are sci-fi. The sci-fi elements are lost in the design, which has an unfortunate and completely unintended resemblance to a design in the LotR movies. That’s hurting my sales and I need to get a new cover. If you look at “Cat Among Dragons” and my other books, they do a lot better job of saying “I’m a sci-fi book.”

        I use stock from Dreamstime and GIMP to process them and add text for the short story covers. At some point I’m going to sit down and learn how to really use GIMP, but for now I just tweak the images rather than layering.

    • Smashwords has a list of “cover designers and formatters.” Look at sample covers, and then decide.

    • Doug, my best advice is to follow this blog, Mad Genius Club, Kris Rusch’s “Kris Writes” blog as well as Dean Wesley Smith’s blog. The problem with putting together an FAQ, etc., is that the industry is changing so fast, it is next to impossible to keep up with it.

      That’s one reason I’m always leery of the “how to” books, especially when it comes to self-publishing. There are some good ones out there, but they cover more general information and the authors are aware of the fact that a lot of the information they give the reader will soon be outdated. Because of that, they give you the basics you need to keep on top of what’s happening.

  3. I, too found the inclusion of “aspiring authors” troubling. That strikes me as like figuring the income of physicians by including everyone who ever said, “Man, I wish I was a doctor.”

    • Yeah, that’s such a nonsense inclusion. Is there an expectation that the targeted audience has no critical reading skills? Or does the survey drafter have no real survey experience? Both?

    • Perhaps “aspiring” is shorthand for “writers who have yet to quit their day jobs.” (Yes, I’m being generous.)

      • I think it’s “writers who have not yet attained professional status” — which by definition means “they don’t sell much”

        • If what they mean is “published but not yet fully supporting yourself by writing,” then, yeah, I can see including that category. It’s where I fall, and most of the self-published writers that I know.

          • But if they meant that, it would be an overlap of those who also answered as traditionally published, hybrid-published and self-published. So I think it was exactly what it said — folks who wanted to be authors but hadn’t published anything yet.

        • Yea… I fit in that category at this time as well *sigh

        • Actually,I don’t think you’re right — at least not for the purpose of the first survey. The figures don’t seem to support it.

          • Amanda, consider the SFWA definition — if they include people who sold one short story 4 years ago (which used to be enough for associate membership), or if they’ve sold to “pays in copies” how could you tell?
            it’s an awful, awful imprecise term.

            • Oh, I agree. And that imprecision is part of my problem with the survey. Why aren’t we given a hard definition for what “aspiring author” means? Still, even if we did have the definition, we have to look at the fact the folks responding as “aspiring authors” accounted for almost 2/3rds of those taking the survey. That will and does skew the results.

    • Including “aspiring authors” is akin to evaluating acting as a financial career by surveying “aspiring actors”, professional athletes by including every high school jock who’s tried out for a team, or including every metaphor into a count of parables.

      It is what poker players term a “tell.” It communicates that the survey is simply not serious as an attempt to provide accurate information on its putative topic. It is a push poll masquerading as data.

    • Agreed. Why in the world would you include such “authors” on a survey about earnings? You already know the answer. They haven’t made anything. Then add to that they made up approximately 2/3rds of the sample and you have just seriously screwed and skewed your results.

    • Does this mean I’m no longer “Aspiring” since I’ve sold 15 copies of “Kiwi” and made the princely sum of $5.25?

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  5. Amanda, Sarah, I’m sorry, I seem to have duplicate comments in moderation–can you clean them up?

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  7. Looking at the JM figures as data point. This is an author who never once met a PC bandwagon he didn’t jump on or lead, is the prince aspirant of self-promo. Now given that Indie sales represent YOUR name popularity with readers, and your promotion to readers, and publisher advances (and quite likely royalties if you get any) represent your popularity with the powers-that-be in publishing (as advances do not have to earn out, and if you’re one of the darlings almost never do – making your rate of pay WAY up on the suckers like yours truly, who earns out.) and the fact that my annual indie – nothing exceptional – will probably near treble his, and my publisher income be about a quarter (I am not selling any new books, that’s turn in and royalties, such that they are) makes for interesting thoughts. But I am sure volume has more to do with it.

    • Dave, surely you aren’t saying that being a dahling of PC and the prince aspirant of self-promo won’t insure that you become the Richard Castle of publishing? I’m shocked, I tell you. Shocked! 😉

      • From what I can tell, Hines must be getting 25k advances. That’s double what I get. Um… it’s hard for me to judge, but I wouldn’t think he has a greater fandom than I do. So….

      • Of course, maybe he has millions of fans and just no overlap with mine?

        • Well, I’d never heard of him before this post; so no overlap here 🙂

        • I don’t know if this makes me a fan of his or not but I’ve read his “Goblin Quest” and liked it well enough. I enjoyed it and your “Darkship Thieves” at about the same level. I’m not sure what that’s worth to you since the books are not even remotely similar.

  8. One problem with this survey is that, even if properly done, it would still be misleading. Writing is not a bell curve profession. Like sports, acting, music performance and playing the lottery, its rewards are seriously skewed toward the big payout. A few people will get disgustingly wealthy from it, a larger group will make a moderately decent living and most participants will have to settle for a participation trophy.

    • Absolutely. To even come within a mile of being accurate, it would have to include questions that would break down income by advance — paid and yet to be paid — royalties paid after the advance earns out, number of units sold, breakdown between novels and short stories, number of self-pubbed works that are novels/stories where rights have reverted vs. new material, series vs. stand-alones, etc.

      • Which would require access to data that some publishers apparently do not have, do not codify, do not provide their authors, or that their dogs cats and goldfish ate.

        (I’ve been revising and editing non-fiction. That makes me snarky, grumpy, and tired.)

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