The October Author Earnings report is out, and for anyone even contemplating epublishing, it’s a compulsory read. This is the site’s fourth quarterly report, this time drawing on data from 120,000 ebooks.
I received an email from an author with advanced coding skills who had created a software program that can crawl online bestseller lists and grab mountains of data. All of this data is public—it’s online for anyone to see—but until now it’s been extremely difficult to gather, aggregate, and organize. This program, however, is able to do in a day what would take hundreds of volunteers with web browsers and pencils a week to accomplish.
The first run grabbed data on nearly 7,000 e-books from several bestselling genre categories on Amazon. Subsequent runs have looked at data for 50,000 titles across all genres. You can ask this data some pretty amazing questions, questions I’ve been asking for well over a year. [link] And now we finally have some answers.
That led to the establishment of the Author Earnings website and its two-part mission:
to gather and share information so that writers can make informed decisions
to call for change within the publishing community for better pay and fairer terms in all contracts.
The current report looks at Amazon’s recently launched Kindle Unlimited programme, posing different scenarios for different ratios of borrowing versus purchasing — with some interesting results.
Writers’ situations differ and there are no simple answers, but as the report notes (their emphasis):
What the data tells us, then, is that self-publishing is just as viable as any other form of publishing. Perhaps more so. No one can halt your career because an early title underperforms expectations. You get to hire the editors and cover artists you want to work with. You get to write whatever you want and publish whenever and however often you like. And you can publish every which way. Self-publishing used to close you off to other avenues, now it simply opens them up. Many authors publish in several ways simultaneously.
Every author will need to find their own path. There is no one right answer. If there’s anything the data tells us, it’s that readers are starving for great stories at fair prices, and whoever can deliver that consistently has a chance at earning income doing something they love. Maybe not a great chance at earning a full-time living, but a better chance than at any other time in human history. And that must be celebrated, however you crunch the numbers.
From here on in things will get even more interesting as year-on-year comparisons will be available.