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Old 02-13-2014, 12:46 PM   #31
BearMountainBooks
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Originally Posted by Lemurion View Post
All these numbers are interesting, but I don't know that anyone has enough of the right numbers to make more than simple sweeping generalizations.

...
I want good numbers, I really want good numbers, because I do feel self-publishing is a valid path to success. I just don't think these numbers are as good as people think they are.
I completely agree. If I sell 10k books as a self-published author I am going to make more than if I sell 10k books via trad route. I'd have to sell MORE than double to make the same amount of money if I went trad route.

HOWEVER, these nice numbers don't really tell us all that much other than: Some self-publishers are making good money. Some trad published authors are making good money, but if they put out a popular self-pubbed novel, they would make more.

I also think relying on "ranking" numbers is dangerous. Amazon constantly tweaks those algorithms. I can tell this by comparing a one-day ad/sales 3 years ago to a one-day ad/sales today. My ranking hit higher marks this past year with such ads--but my actual sales did NOT hit higher numbers NOR did they result in the ranking lasting nearly as long.

Things are constantly changing--including the books Amazon chooses to show most often. It's nice that someone is trying to analyze the numbers and it's fun, but the bottom line is the same. Write a good book. Hope it sells.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:11 PM   #32
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Updates were promised, updates are being posted:

This one is a look at all print (including Amazon) vs Amazon-only digital, bith trad and indie published. Raw data supplied.
http://authorearnings.com/what-write...-on-the-table/

One thing to consider is that these order of magnitude studies leave out the intangibles.
The feeling of validation for those that value the old school approach, the fire and forget simplicity of selling copyright control, the upfront lump sum payment for those that need it versus the control aspects and the extra time and effort spent contracting and managing freelancers on the other.

Different authors are making different choices for themselves. What Howey is doing is collecting and presenting data so the authors can make choices based on what the market really looks like. Some familiar establishment claims are being validated (or, more precisely, clarified) while others are proving to be...dated.

We'll have to see if this effort gets other ebook vendors to open up even slightly so we can get full market data.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:29 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by BearMountainBooks View Post
...the bottom line is the same. Write a good book. Hope it sells.
Absolutely.
But consider that, however crude, this study is the first head to head data we've seen of successful indie versus successful tradpub.
Most reports compare the gatekept, "successful" tradpub books to the entire indie "volcano of crap". This looks at the top ebook sellers indiscriminately to see how successful succesful can be.

It is a study for writers, not agents, publishers, or readers.
(Though it can be educational for us readers, too.)

To help them see what others have achieved when they write a good book and it sells. What they can aspire to.

I see it primarily as Howey providing new writers a calibration chart for expectations.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:30 PM   #34
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Very interesting. I had no idea that Amazon was that successful in connecting readers with non BPH authors.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:40 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by Barcey View Post
Very interesting. I had no idea that Amazon was that successful in connecting readers with non BPH authors.
Not just Amazon, really. (I'm not exactly sure what BPH? stand for? ? Publishing house?) Anyway, other retailers, when it comes to ebooks are quite good at being able to sell various books whether indie or not. I never went exclusive to Amazon. While Amazon does have the most eyeballs, you can't really exclude that other retailers are happy to sell indie or trad. It's whatever the audience buys. It's probably more work for the author to become "Known" or sell well on other retail platforms, but it does happen.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:41 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
Absolutely.
But consider that, however crude, this study is the first head to head data we've seen of successful indie versus successful tradpub.
Most reports compare the gatekept, "successful" tradpub books to the entire indie "volcano of crap". This looks at the top ebook sellers indiscriminately to see how successful succesful can be.

It is a study for writers, not agents, publishers, or readers.
(Though it can be educational for us readers, too.)

To help them see what others have achieved when they write a good book and it sells. What they can aspire to.

I see it primarily as Howey providing new writers a calibration chart for expectations.
True.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:42 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
Updates were promised, updates are being posted:

This one is a look at all print (including Amazon) vs Amazon-only digital, bith trad and indie published. Raw data supplied.
http://authorearnings.com/what-write...-on-the-table/

One thing to consider is that these order of magnitude studies leave out the intangibles.
The feeling of validation for those that value the old school approach, the fire and forget simplicity of selling copyright control, the upfront lump sum payment for those that need it versus the control aspects and the extra time and effort spent contracting and managing freelancers on the other.

Different authors are making different choices for themselves. What Howey is doing is collecting and presenting data so the authors can make choices based on what the market really looks like. Some familiar establishment claims are being validated (or, more precisely, clarified) while others are proving to be...dated.

We'll have to see if this effort gets other ebook vendors to open up even slightly so we can get full market data.
Emphasis mine.

This is where I disagree. I don't think this is an accurate picture of the market. I think it's a reasonably good picture of success, but not of the market as a whole.

In order to see what the market really looks like we need to know how many players there are. The total number of successful authors is irrelevant without knowing the size of the field. Give me numbers, even approximations, on how many authors are in each category to start with, and then we can actually talk.

Right now all these numbers really say is that successful self-published authors are successful. We already knew that.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:46 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
Absolutely.
But consider that, however crude, this study is the first head to head data we've seen of successful indie versus successful tradpub.
Most reports compare the gatekept, "successful" tradpub books to the entire indie "volcano of crap". This looks at the top ebook sellers indiscriminately to see how successful succesful can be.

It is a study for writers, not agents, publishers, or readers.
(Though it can be educational for us readers, too.)

To help them see what others have achieved when they write a good book and it sells. What they can aspire to.

I see it primarily as Howey providing new writers a calibration chart for expectations.
It's a calibration chart for success, not for expectations.

Getting into the top 1% is not a reasonable expectation for the majority of entrants in any field.
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Old 02-13-2014, 02:01 PM   #39
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It's a calibration chart for success, not for expectations.

Getting into the top 1% is not a reasonable expectation for the majority of entrants in any field.
And the harmful part of it is that almost EVERY budding author out there assumes he/she WILL BE IN THAT 1 percent! It's almost a guaranteed part of the dream and sometimes it's all that keeps a person writing (success will come. Just keep writing...)

For some, it may be more helpful to set more attainable goals. But be that as it may, it is some data and data in and of itself is not bad. It's not a bad thing to know that some self-published authors are finding a way to make a living. It's also not a bad thing to realize that not all trad published or self-published are--and in fact, most aren't.
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Old 02-13-2014, 03:16 PM   #40
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I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the practice of giving a book 5* reviews merely on its announcement, for no better reason than that the reviewer likes the author. There's at least one of the book sites, and I can't remember which one it is - it may be goodreads or it may be a different one - on which this practice is widespread.
Often there is a much better reason than that. Often the reviewer IS the author, or his agent, or his publisher, or his sister, or a commercial review site/blog, etc etc. The level of deceit that is used is remarkable. I am thankful that none of the authors that I've seen do this have ever been on my to-read list.
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Old 02-13-2014, 03:21 PM   #41
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And the harmful part of it is that almost EVERY budding author out there assumes he/she WILL BE IN THAT 1 percent! It's almost a guaranteed part of the dream and sometimes it's all that keeps a person writing (success will come. Just keep writing...)

For some, it may be more helpful to set more attainable goals. But be that as it may, it is some data and data in and of itself is not bad. It's not a bad thing to know that some self-published authors are finding a way to make a living. It's also not a bad thing to realize that not all trad published or self-published are--and in fact, most aren't.
I agree.

Many people interpret these numbers as saying that if they become a self-published author they are more likely to be successful than if they get published by a big five publishing house, even though they say nothing of the sort because they don't address the question.

What these numbers do make clear is that successful self-published authors are likely to be more successful than successful big five published authors, but that says nothing about the likelihood of such success.
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Old 02-13-2014, 04:45 PM   #42
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I'm guessing that someone has not seen the websites and discussion sites where authors (and their 'helpers') swap reviews in bulk or the sites that openly advertise the sale of bulk reviews. "Me and my dozen users will review you, and you and your dozen can review me", "Pay me and I will add twenty reviews to your book".
Figuring that as one of several problems with unsigned reviews, I don't normally pay them attention. But I just checked them for a book that I am finishing up, Formosa Betrayed. Turns out that there is a book by the same author concerning an earlier historical period -- Formosa: Licensed Revolution in the Home Rule Movement, 1895-1945 -- and Amazon has mixed up that one with the reviews for Formosa Betrayed. So the customer reviews are doubly meaningless.

As for the number of stars, they are pointless to me because there are lots of people who, if they read it, would like any given book, and lots who would dislike any book. A high star average thus just means that the marketing presentation, on the web site, was effective in drawing to that book the kind of people who would like it. And a low star average means that the wrong people read it. It doesn't tell me whether I would like it.

If a book doesn't fit snugly into a genre, perhaps it would average fewer stars because of mismatching reader expectations. But it still could be a bestseller and/or an excellent book.
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Old 02-13-2014, 04:50 PM   #43
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What these numbers do make clear is that successful self-published authors are likely to be more successful than successful big five published authors, but that says nothing about the likelihood of such success.
Well, now.
Definitions matter: what you consider success and failure.
Context matters, too.

How about if we add some other numbers to the mix?
Numbers from the traditional establishment?

If a new writer chooses to go traditional he'll need an agent.
Well, agents reject 90% of submissions. They say that themselves. Some because they're bad, others because they're good but they're too different from whatever is currently popular, some because even if it sells it won't generate enough to be worth the agent's time.

Now, lucky writer got an agent and he even got a contract (standard terms) and after 18 months the book is published and he finally gets the last of the advance. And he waits another six months to see if the book earned out over the three month release window or if the gig is up.
By the publishers own words we know that 80+ percent of their books *never* earn out the advance.

So what's the "success" rate for going trad pub? If every agent sells every manuscript they take on, that would be 2% "success". If the agent sells half, maybe 1%.

With success defined as earning out a high 4-digit advance, maybe a low 5-digit advance.
I'm not sure how many writers would consider earning $8500 over 2, maybe 3 years off a book successful, but that's how low a bar you need to set to get a 1-2% success rate in the tradpub game today.

So, now, let's unwind that definition of success and hit that same per book benchmark from the other side.
An indie publisher selling books at $2.99 (the lowest price that qualifies for the 30% distribution fee) will net $2 or so per book so earning $8500 over two years requires selling 5.6 books a day. Or about 160 books a month. That corresponds to an Amazon sales rank in the 30,000 range. Amazon carries around 2-3 million books (including PD titles) so a ranking of 30,000 puts the author in the top 1-2% range, just like the trad pub path.

But...
If the author goes trad and fails to make the cut, they get nothing but rejection slips.
If the author goes indie, they could be a "failure" by traditional measures, part of the 99%, and still be making $3-4000 a year, per book.
And, while traditional publishers will not publish more than one or two titles per author a year, prolific indie authors have no such restrictions.

It has long been a matter of public record that writing is a crappy business to be in. Not much has changed there.

What is now being documented is just how crappy it is.
And that it is slightly less crappy to go indie and even to forgo print entirely than play trad-pub roulette: the odds are never with you, either way, but the indie road offers consolation prizes for most of the "failure".

Not. Simple.

Last edited by fjtorres; 02-13-2014 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 02-13-2014, 05:06 PM   #44
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fjtorres, that's a better layout of reality than the original articles...
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Old 02-13-2014, 05:37 PM   #45
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Well, agents reject 90% of submissions.
It is all about numbers.

I gather from the OP article that the greater the number (starting from the most popular) of books drawn into the sample, the worse for indies, and the better for commercially published.

I agree with Howey that taking every book on Amazon.com into the sample would be unfair to the indie world. But the number of titles he picks (the top-selling 7,000 for some analyses, top 50,000 for others) is necessarily arbitrary. And note why it would be unfair to compare the income from the average indie book with that from the average big publisher book. It's because commercial and university publishers do actually publish better-than-average books.

Howey's argument that going indie maximizes genre authors income isn't bulletproof, but he does present real evidence. But from a reader standpoint, he didn't help the indie cause.
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