Michael J. Sullivan
This week I’m continuing in my series regarding Author’s income. If you haven’t read the other posts here they are:
- Two different approaches to Author’s Income: DBW Survey and Amazon Ranking Analysis
- Midlist Author sales on Amazon: Self, Traditional, Small Press, and Amazon Publishers
One of the advantages that traditional publishing has is extensive print distribution. When I was self-published my print sales were a small fraction (about 5% or less depending on the month) of my total sales. Most self-published authors I speak to only see 1% – 2%. But what kind of money are we really talking about? Today I want to explore a typical mid-list author’s sales.
To do this analysis I used Bookscan data. Bookscan is the industry standard when it comes to how many print copies are sold in the United States. Run by the Nielsen Organization (the same ones that track TV shows), they track weekly point-of-purchase sales for books. This means books that actually walked out the store, bought by a real person…not books that left a warehouse and may or may not be on a shelf in a store. Nielsen estimates their numbers to account for 75% of all sales made. Depending on whom you are published through, Nielsen numbers could be way off. I’ve heard some people from small presses complain that bookscan is only picking up 20% of their sales, but for a book from a major publisher I do think they are capturing pretty accurate data. For my own books, I’ve seen that Bookscan is pretty consistently at 68% of my net sales.
To run the numbers I picked a “representative” mid-list author. The book I selected came out over a year ago, is the first in a new series, is released as a trade paperback, and the author had previously published six books across two series. They are well known and well respected and based on my knowledge of the industry I would call them a “good solid mid-list author.” This is the type of author who has established themselves as a “name” in the industry and would likely not have any problem getting any new books picked up.