We’ve all heard the old adage, “Don’t quit your day job” when it comes to writing for a living. It’s true that there are far too many authors who have to squeeze writing around the dreaded “day job” to keep the bills paid. Also, there is no question that self-publishing, has proven itself to be viable for some…but exactly how many is always in dispute. There has always been secrecy surrounding how much income a traditional published earns, and when many self-published authors share their numbers it is met with skepticism.
In the past, self-publishing was a “fallback” position, the option many took when they couldn’t get a contract. But more and more authors are choosing this option, even turning down very lucrative offers. H.M. Ward turned down more than 1.5 Million in contracts to self-publish and she became the #1 Bestselling Kindle Direct Author over the Christmas season (even though she has NEVER traditionally published). Likewise Brenna Aubrey turned down $120,000 for a three-book deal and instead went the do-it-yourself route. I myself calculated that I would lose $200,000 – $250,000 by going traditional, but I thought it was a price I should pay to further my career. As it turned out, that didn’t happen, but it is in large part due to larger than expected audio sales and foreign contracts.
So the question that is on every author’s mind is, “Which path should I take?” For the record, I see benefits in both routes, and actually think there is a good argument to be made for hybrid authorship. Then there are the people who have no interest in one or the other. Entrepreneur authors who can’t bring themselves to signing contracts that are too weighted in the publisher’s favor, as well as those who don’t want anything to do with taking on all the responsibilities that the publisher does for them, have a pretty clear direction. But increasingly there are those who feel they could go either way and just don’t know which way to turn.
While money isn’t the only consideration, it certainly is a large one. The problem is getting good data on this is nearly impossible, as we shall see.
DBW & Writer’s Digest Survey
Recently DBW and Writer’s Digest teamed up to do an author survey, collecting data from more than 9,200 authors. I myself took it, and found the questions to be really well thought out. The best part was they divided up authors into four distinct types: Aspiring, Traditional only, Self-publish only, and Hybrids (who both self and traditionally publish), which is exactly the way I think about the pool of authors. The data has been analyzed by Dana Beth Weinberg, who is well qualified to take the mass of information and try to break it down to chunks that can provide insights.
It was an ambitious project, and generally well executed, but there are some significant problems. I should note that these aren’t introduced by Jeremy Greenfield and Dana Beth Weinberg, but problems with surveys in general.
More at Author’s Earnings – Amazing Stories.