You can succeed in today’s marketplace as an independent author. There’s data to back that up. Of course, statistics and sales reports won’t mean a thing if your book has not been professionally edited or if you rushed through the design process.
Hugh Howey is an independent author of 31 self-published books. He’s well known now, as he sold the film rights for his sci-fi series, Wool, to 21st Century Fox in 2012. But in his early days, like many independent authors, he had trouble gaining traction with readers.
He found that after self-publishing his books, there were no resources available to help him track how his book was performing compared to other authors in the marketplace. None of the mainstream tracking services — such as the American Association of Publishing — included self-published books in their reports. He had no way to tell who was buying his books, or books similar to his, and who wasn’t.
That is why Howey and his partner — a numbers-crunching self-published author aptly named the “Data Guy” — started Author Earnings, a resource that compiles all of the data that might be relevant to independent authors. It’s crammed with revealing numbers, including quarterly sales reports for both traditionally and independently-published books, regional-specific reports, and reports detailing eBook and audiobook sales. It then synthesizes that data in such a way that allows writers to make informed decisions about marketing their books.
For independent authors, that makes Author Earnings an invaluable resource. But there are additional insights from Author Earnings that authors need to be paying attention to. Here are a few notable nuggets of wisdom from the site’s latest report.
It’s a level playing field
Independent authors comprise a large portion of the industry’s most regularly-purchased authors, and while it remains that the Dan Browns and John Grishams of the world reside comfortably and consistently near the top of any earnings report, when it comes to independent authors, those spending time at the top are constantly changing. Rising new stars are making serious waves in the industry all the time.
Sure, self-publishing a bestseller requires a little luck. And, yes, the independent authors at the top of Howey’s latest earnings report got there because they positioned themselves for success by way of investing in editing work, cover design, and marketing. But what we can now confirm is that you don’t need to be a household name to publish a best-selling book.
You can publish a successful book whenever you want… almost
Author Earnings’ recent data illuminates that eBook sales are pretty consistent throughout the year. Print books sell better in August (for beach season) and December (for the holidays), but for independent authors, there is no bad time to release your book. That means there is no built-in advantage to releasing your book on September 1st versus February 1st.
The one exception here is actually December, which is something we’ve learned over the years: The hardest time for a self-published author to be discovered is the holidays. Readers simply don’t have the time during the holiday season to discover new authors. When they’re purchasing books as gifts, they’re looking for something they know the recipient will like and aren’t usually apt to taking risks.
You can use discounting to your advantage
There are those out there who will tell you, “If you don’t think your book is worth a dollar, neither will readers.” Those people haven’t looked at the data.
What the latest Author Earnings report also shows is that it’s not a “bad” thing for independent authors to give their books away for free or sell them for 99¢. Evidence shows that people are purchasing/accessing plenty of free and 99-cent books, which means selling your book at a cheap/discounted price is a potentially valuable route for independent – and especially new – authors to explore in the quest to find readers and create momentum.
For new authors, creating momentum is paramount. You want to build a readership, you want to get more reviews, and one great way to do that is to make your first offering easier to buy.
It is a bad business decision to limit yourself to one format
Here are a few important stats authors should know:
- 30% of potential book buyers only buy printed books
- 30% of potential book buyers only buy eBooks
- 40% of potential book buyers vacillate between the two options
In other words, independent authors who choose not to publish print books are severely limiting their potential sales because they’re willfully neglecting 30 percent of the market. Same thing with eBooks, especially given the report’s emphasis on self-published authors’ success in the eBook market.
The self-publishing industry is thriving
Author Earnings confirms that independent authors are seeing real financial success when self-publishing books, and while there are fewer independent authors earning triple-digit numbers, the industry is rife with opportunity.
Of course, independent authors always need to ensure that they’ve spent the time creating a quality product before publishing. Seasonality and sales insights won’t mean a thing if your book has not been professionally edited or if you rushed through the design process.
Still, what independent authors should internalize is this: You can succeed in the marketplace. The data backs it up.
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