Average Author Sales

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Average Author Sales

Post by Scott » 18 Nov 2015, 18:05

Be careful when researching average author sales and income. The averages are skewed by the few bestsellers. While the average author might make $10,000 (which is below the poverty the line), more than half of authors don't even make $500. In other words, you have to be careful because most authors make less than 5% of what the so-called "average author" makes, which is especially disappointing since even the fictional, hypothetical "average author" is not doing too well.

The market for authors is actually extremely dismal. Most authors sell almost no copies. A large portion of authors not only make no money but lose money. The averages simply reflect the sales of the very few bestsellers divided by all the many books published which mostly sell almost nothing.

In the rest of this topic, I will simply list some of the statistics for easy reference.

If anyone else has statistics, please list them to. Please include your source, though, as that is the point of this topic. :)
half [of DIY authors] made less than $500

[...]

with less than 10% of self-publishing authors earning about 75% of the reported revenue and half of writers earning less than $500.

[...]

Half the respondents failed to reach $500 in royalties in 2011, and a quarter of the books are unlikely to cover the direct costs of production.

theguardian.com/books/2012/may/24/self-published-author-earnings
According to Jenkins Group, a premier publishing firm, 70% of books don’t make a profit. When people joke about the cover designer making more than the author, it’s often the case.

incomediary.com/7-things-learned-publishing-book
The number of new self-published titles in the USA alone rose from 32,000 in 2006 to 135,000 in 2007 and over 300,000 in 2009, but the average sale was 10 copies. In 2010, 2.5 million ISBNs (new book identifying numbers) were issued. In a recent interview (2015) with the founder of MyBestseller, he quotes 95% of books as selling less than 100 copies.

johnhuntpublishing.com/index.php?id=66&i=0&a=81
a survey reveals that 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of go-it-alone writers are making less than $1,000 (£600) a year

theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/17/writers-earn-less-than-600-a-year
90% of self-published authors sell less than 50 copies of their book in their lifetime

pieceofcakepr.com/why-90-of-authors-sell-less-than-50-copies-of-their-book/
The majority of authors make less than $1,000 a year, according to a new report from Digital Book World. Almost 80% of self-published authors and more than half of traditionally published authors earn less than $1,000 a year [...]

The research revealed that only 10 percent of traditionally published authors made more than $20,000 a year and 5 percent of self-published authors made more than $20,000 a year.

adweek.com/galleycat/most-authors-make-less-than-1000-a-year-dbw/82866
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Post by ALynnPowers » 19 Nov 2015, 06:29

You always have to be skeptical when you see the word "Average" in a study anywhere without the specifics of what kind of average they are talking about. Most of us assume that they mean the "mean" average, but it could also be the median or the mode.
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Post by bookowlie » 19 Nov 2015, 08:27

I have never seen the median or mode referred to as the "average" in a study. The mean is normally used as the average.

I do agree that an average will be skewed if there are some very high or very low numbers in the mix. For example, compare the average SAT scores from 2 schools. Most of the students may have had similar scores. However, one school may have a lower average SAT score because a few students earned a perfect score while the other school may have had a few students score extremely low. These wide variations from only a few students will throw off the average.
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Post by AetherPirate » 19 Nov 2015, 09:48

Sounds like how Michael Jordan skewed Geography majors. Made it seem like the average graduate would make millions :)

Sobering post though. Not that I won't keep trying, but a reality check is a good thing now and then.

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Post by bookowlie » 19 Nov 2015, 10:38

I think marketing is paramount with so many self-published books out there. I know I have reviewed a few gems on this site and wish the authors could get more exposure.
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Post by CCtheBrave » 21 Nov 2015, 15:46

I agree bookowlie, I think it's really challenging for people to get out there and market their own work, let alone market it successfully enough to make a profit. It's daunting, but i'm going to publish a book, all the same (because don't you just feel like you have to? i have an itch, a need to do it, regardless of whether or not it's successful in the traditional sense of the word)
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Post by bookowlie » 30 Dec 2015, 10:10

CCtheBrave wrote:I agree bookowlie, I think it's really challenging for people to get out there and market their own work, let alone market it successfully enough to make a profit. It's daunting, but i'm going to publish a book, all the same (because don't you just feel like you have to? i have an itch, a need to do it, regardless of whether or not it's successful in the traditional sense of the word)
I am not an author, but I would say it's like the lottery - you have to be in it to win it. If you aspire to be a successful writer, you first have to publish a book. :) Good luck! When you become a famous writer, I can say, "I knew CCthe Brave way back when." :lol:
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Post by Cee-Jay Aurinko » 07 Feb 2016, 14:54

Maybe authors nowadays write books to strike movie deals, rather than sell books.
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Post by ReadDear » 27 Feb 2016, 11:09

I have 4 small books. One of them sold well, one bad, and the two are not sold at all.
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Post by Terrylynsmith » 10 Apr 2016, 00:00

Tell me if this is true...I read that an author should not spend a lot of time promoting, but writing. The article stated that one should try and put out a book once every 3 months to generate revenue. Is this concept true?

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Post by DATo » 10 Apr 2016, 04:39

Terrylynsmith wrote:Tell me if this is true...I read that an author should not spend a lot of time promoting, but writing. The article stated that one should try and put out a book once every 3 months to generate revenue. Is this concept true?
Greetings Terry,

I don't know if it is true but if I had to put out a book every three months it would give my brain a hernia.

Your post is a very interesting one and touches on something I have been thinking about a lot lately. It seems that quantity and cheapness is becoming more important than quality these days in just about everything. In the old days we had pens, safety razors, cigarette lighters and a lot of other things including marriages that were maintained and kept for a lifetime. Today we live in a disposable society. We use things up and then throw them away. The result is that we have come to look upon things that were once cherished as being of less value than things which are "new and improved". (Have you ever wondered how something can be both new AND improved? How can something be improved if it is new and never existed before?) *shrugs*

Anyway, I think that this concept also extends to the arts as well. Go to a museum and it is probable that you will see some hideous work of "art" hanging on a wall that took a day to make being extolled as a "GREAT WORK OF ART". Let me tell you something, Leonardo's Mona Lisa was never completed. He worked on it for years and years. Maybe that's why it is considered the finest painting ever created. Can you imagine what would come out of an artist if he had to paint a "GREAT WORK OF ART" in say three minutes? That's what is being asked of authors who are expected to put out a new book every three months. You are in all likelihood going to get a book that reads like it was written in three months. I guess the idea is that if you write four books in a year rather than one the law of averages says that one of them might become a hit thus the odds are greater of making money with one of four rather than just one.

But the frightening thing is that for publishers to be courting this idea it is because it has some proven merit and what does this say about us as a reading public? It doesn't bother me that some people are willing to buy junk to read; as a professor of physics once told me, "Dato, you just have to accept the fact that some people are just stupid." *LOL* It bothers me that the standards of quality, whether applied to literature, merchadise or our selection of political candidates is also becoming stupidly cheapened (think Trump). Sadly, I think we are becoming a stupid society in general and like children we are reaching for and willing to accept baubles rather than true gems.
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Post by Terrylynsmith » 10 Apr 2016, 08:37

Good to know. I was so upset because one of the other authors I associate with, does this. It took me almost a year to write my first book and she puts them out every three of four months. It made me think, is there something wrong with me?

Thank you so much.

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Post by Vermont Reviews » 10 Apr 2016, 18:35

Even if you sell just one you can be thankful. I know that I am with every one I sell.
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Post by Terrylynsmith » 10 Apr 2016, 18:54

Please don't misunderstand me, I sincerely believe in the quality of my work. It's not about sells, I'm financially okay. I'm a nurse, my husband a truck driver...we are doing well. I was just asking if that analogy was true. My friend is spitting her books out while I struggle for perfection. I used an editor, I used a professional book cover designer, and I took my time making sure my characters were fully developed.

So if someone finds it in their heart to read my story, I will be thankful...very thankful. But I just know with my work schedule and thought process, I don't believe I could do what she does.

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Post by Vermont Reviews » 14 Apr 2016, 12:23

What's the title of your story?
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