If you’re involved in indie publishing, you’ve probably heard the names Amanda Hocking and John Locke bandied about. They’re the super stars in the biz, making a million or more on their self-published books. Every indie author wants that kind of success, but unfortunately only a few will even come close. On the other end of the spectrum, for those of us who belong to RWA, we all know the magic price tag to get into PAN (the Published Authors Network) is $1,000 in advance and/or royalties on a single “eligible” novel or novella. That’s a pitifully low amount but the sad truth is many authors published with “eligible” electronic or small presses don’t even make that. So, let’s talk money. Just how much are indie authors making these days? Below, you’ll find a few authors who’ve graciously posted their sales and earnings on their web sites or blogs.
To the best of my knowledge, none of these numbers include any free downloads.
August 2010 – March 2011 (4 books) $1048
April – July 2011 (9 books) $2522
Total for 1 year = $3570
Aug 2010-April 2011 (2 books) $8300
16,653 sales (8 books) at $0.99 x 35% = $5829*
(*This amount is just a guess on my part since she didn’t post dollar amounts, just sales numbers. Right now, most of Ms. Scott’s books are priced at $0.99. However, one is currently free while 2 are priced at $2.99 so this figure might be a bit off.)
May (2 books) $377
June (2 books) $2133
July (2 books) $5234
August (4 books) $6272
September (4 books) $5021
Total for 5 months = $19,037
Theresa Ragan is probably the most successful of them all (that I know of). I bow down at this woman’s feet.
Books sold between March and October 2011: 122,611
95,155 books sold at $2.99 x 70% = $198,874
27,456 books sold at $0.99 x 35% = $9,610
If I did the math right, Ms. Ragan has made $208,484 in 8 months with 5 books. Amazing. She has never been traditionally published. She didn’t have a fan base or backlist to help boost her sales, but she’s making more money than most e-pubbed authors I know and I’ll warrant more than many midlist NY pubbed authors. Even though she’s qualified for PAN 300 times over, she isn’t eligible because she self-published. She can’t enter the RITA either. Something’s wrong with that right there. But for me, is being in PAN or eligible to enter the RITA that important? It used to be, but not anymore. Outside of RWA, not many people know or care if an author is in PAN or has won a RITA. Readers just want to read a good book and quite frankly, I’d rather take the money than a shiny gold statue any day.
So, do all indie authors make this kind of money? No. I’m sure Ms. Ragan promoted her booty off to get those sales. And just like many traditionally published authors, most indie authors aren’t going to be able to quit their day jobs. I’ve heard it said more than once: indie publishing is a marathon, not a race. The trick is to not get discouraged when you’re not raking in the big bucks right off the bat. Sales build more sales. Readers follow authors who consistently write good books. Polish your book until it shines, have it professionally edited, design a kick-ass cover, put it up for sale, and then do it all again.
* UPDATE * I found 2 other authors (Trish McCallan and Jolyn Palliata) who are posting details on their indie sales. I won't post the actual numbers here, but you can see them on their blog, Total Transparency Self-Publishing.
* UPDATE #2* I did do the math wrong for both D.D. Scott and Theresa Ragan. I forgot to take into account the Amazon 35% royalty rate for $0.99 books and 70% for $2.99 books and over. The earnings have now been adjusted accordingly.