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ePublish a Book » Statistics about the publishing industry, The ePublishing market » Self-Publishing Statistics: Women fare better than men at making money from self-publishing

Self-Publishing Statistics: Women fare better than men at making money from self-publishing

Self-Publishing Statistics: Women fare better than men at making money from self-publishing

By Patricia de Hemricourt

The recently published Taleist survey  of  self-published writers gives a fascinating insight in the brave new world of self-publishing.

Based on a panel of 1007 self-published respondents, the survey clearly shows that not everyone is equal when it comes to self-publishing. Of these respondents,

  1. 40% had been writing seriously for more than 10 years, 60% said they had been at it for more than 5 years and only 10% in 10 admitted writing seriously for less than a year.
  2. 2.     53% self-published for the first time in 2011, with 20% in 2010. Those who self-published for the first time in 2011 published 2.8 books on average. 90% of the respondents said they would continue to self-publish and 30% had never even submitted their work to a publishing house.
  3. 41% paid for cover design.
  4. 29% paid for proofreading or editing
  5. 72% are based in the US and 9% in the UK

Yet, before examining the inequalities, let’s have a quick reality check for those who think that self-publishing is the latest get rich quick scheme. It isn’t… A mere 97 respondents (less than 10%) reported making enough money from their self-published books to live from their pen. More than half the respondent earned less than $500 and a quarter of the respondents did not even recoup their initial investment. The average yearly earnings of self-published authors was barely above $10 000, not quite enough to become rich.

To get their books to market, respondents said they had spent, on average, $685 on direct costs. 54% of authors had already recouped their costs and if sales continued at their present rate, 68% could be expected to be “in the black” within 12 months of publication.

Keeping into account that a small group of self-publishing authors were earning about 75% of the reported revenue, the inequalities are even starker.

So what are the factors that make the difference between the Top Earners (the respondents who said they could live off their royalties) and the others?

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8 Responses to "Self-Publishing Statistics: Women fare better than men at making money from self-publishing"

  1. Kallypso Masters says:

    I participated in this survey in the fifth month after publishing my first book. By then (January), my third was out–the breakout book for my career. While I only netted $3,000 from 2011 sales (only received royalties in October-December because of the waiting period of at least 60 days for the first check).

    While I have YET to get book four out this year (due out Friday!), my sales have continued to improve. (Making the first book free doubled my monthly sales, my peak month grossing over $26,000.) I’ve made over six figures this year–and when I fill out the survey next year, I will definitely have moved into the “making a living” category for self-pubs.

    Don’t give up on the dream! It takes:

    * discipline and writing or social networking EVERY day
    * writing stories that stick in readers heads long after they put the Kindle/Nook down (cliffhangers and series with characters who don’t disappear after their happy ending is my secret to success–I have people all over the world telling me my characters are showing up in their dreams and some even when they’re awake), and
    * incredible luck and good timing (I had three “realistic” BDSM books on the market when all the hype about the “unrealistic” Fifty Shades of Grey came out. As one author said at a conference last month, Fifty is the only gateway drug where your second hit will be better than the first. )

    Good luck, everyone!


  2. Isa says:

    I’m trying to understand the figures here:

    “40% had been writing seriously for more than 10 years, 60% said they had been at it for more than 5 years and only 10% in 10 admitted writing seriously for less than a year.”

    Adds up to 110% and does not include people who have been writing for more than one year but less than five? How does this work?

  3. Self-publishing has made getting into print accessible to many aspiring authors. As a professional editor and ghostwriter, I believe two of the biggest factors that determine the success of a book are quality and marketing. Many self-published authors think just getting printed is enough. They don’t hire a good editor (Cousin Susie doesn’t count, even if she did get a strong B in high school English), nor do they find a good designer. The result is that the quality of the work suffers. For others, the marketing is suspect. Many writers think the work is done simply because they get published. But that’s seriously flawed thinking. You must market your work — how else will your target audience know about it?

    The stark reality is that most self-published authors sell fewer than 100 copies. But to be fair, most traditionally published books (7 out of 10) don’t earn back the advance, so selling is a problem whether you’re self-published or traditionally published.

    Just try to set your book up for its best chance for success by making sure the quality is good and that you market it well to the appropriate audience. If you do these two things, you can exceed the average self-published — and even traditionally published — result.

  4. Lynette Ferreira says:

    Very interesting blog. I enjoyed reading it and it gave me food for thought :o)

  5. Dennis says:

    For the life of me I can’t understand why anyone would dish out hard earned cash just to see their book in print. I am working on my first novel and I will probably e-publish (which is different), assuming I can’t go the traditional route. For me it’s not about ego (just seeing my name on a book)- I want to create a novel that moves people in many different ways and makes an impression (positive). Money is of course important b/c I’d like to make my living writing so I will not go the self-publish route…

    1. Rick G says:

      Dennis, I think you’re confusing the old concept of vanity publishing with self-publishing. Many (probably most) of us who self pub do so via both e-publishing and Print on Demand. The money spent isn’t in the printing, it’s in the polishing (editing, cover, etc) and marketing. The money spent is to ensure a quality product but also to skip the “line” that traditional publishing has. In short, I can publish on my own schedule. In the time it would take me to query, get picked up (if at all), and be published, I can have multiple books out there and be well on the way (to what is a different answer for everyone).

      1. Dennis says:

        I understand that, and as you’ll see from my original post I plan to e-publish (probably). I am against the vanity houses that advertise everywhere and charge working class people thousands of dollars for an unedited, sloppy book that costs someone $24.95. No one wants to pay $20- $29 for a new writer’s book unless it is getting a lot of buzz. A lady I know paid for such a printing and the book had numerous typos in it. They simply took what she wrote and put it to paper. I just hate to see people lose hard-earned $$ for this type of product/service…

        1. Rick G says:

          Dennis, thanks for the clarification. I agree, those are services that need to be avoided.

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