I first published just over two years ago, and here are my figures for the entire period to 31 December 2016.
Total downloads from eretailers, all books: 78,700
Approximate number of words published: 470,000 (around 200,000 a year)
Approximate number of hours spent researching, writing, editing, or proofreading: ten hours per week on average
Total income after all expenses: minus NZ$1,500.
(I’ve paid for developmental editing, professional proofreading, photos and cover design, advertising, and a whole heap of other things.)
So that’s it. I’m losing around $1 for every hour I spend writing stories.
I didn’t expect to make an instant success
Which is just as well, really. Like everyone, I hoped I’d be discovered the day I published my first book, but I knew it is an overcrowded market and I’m an unknown living on the edge of nowhere. I figured I needed to get four novels out there before I began to make an impact, and the fourth is almost finished, and still several months from publication.
Big hugs to all the wonderful readers who have joined me this early in the journey. Your comments, emails, and reviews have given me the rewards and the confidence I needed to continue.
I have a publishing plan and a marketing plan, and the hope that sooner or later my writing will actually pay enough that I can do it full time, instead of fitting it into the gaps of a busy life.
Little known authors face some disturbing trends
- The book market is crowded, and becoming increasingly so.
Books never go away. Ebooks and print on demand books cost nothing for the retailers to carry, and so they remain on the lists.
The lists at Amazon abound in silliness like 50 page 99c books that finish with cliffhangers and are followed by four more of the same kind. And authors who apply keywords with every regard to finding a little populated list, and none to accurately representing the story.
Anyone can publish, and — with the loss of traditional gatekeepers such as purchasing agents and editors — many people serve their writing apprenticeship right out in public, without any more editing than their Mum provides, and with a spellchecker their only proofreader.
- Amazon will dominate the market for the foreseeable future, and they serve their own interests, not those of readers or authors.
- Many readers expect books to be free or no more than 99c, and will complain at paying more. I say this with some trepidation I saw a comment just a few days ago from someone castigating an author for commenting about people signing up for a newsletter to get a free book then unsubscribing. “Authors should be grateful people are reading their books,” this reader said.
Here’s why you should consider buying at least some of the books you read.
On the other hand, I give away a lot of free stories, always have at least one free book, and post weekly on Wattpad so I can share at least some of my stories with those who can’t afford to pay. I agree with Shannon Thompson on this one.
On the other hand, if you download pirated books, on your head be it.
What does this mean for readers?
You might not much care. Writers will continue to write, no matter whether, in the balance, they are losing money. So you’ll always have new books to read. The greats will keep writing, and you can always save for their books or get them from the library. And a few authors will persevere and have the good fortune to be picked up by libraries and prominent reviewers so you find out about them.
I’ll soldier on, too, doing my 200,000 words a year until I can retire and write full time. I’ve published three novels (and almost finished writing a fourth), five novellas, and a number of short stories, so if I could triple my output, I’d be doing that each year, once I write full time.
But remember that, in one sense, readers do pay for every book an author gives away, or every book sold at 99c (for a 35c royalty). They pay in the books the author doesn’t have time to write, because of the day job.
Can you help the authors you love?
You can help the authors whose work you most enjoy, and it doesn’t have to take much time or money. Read our books and tell us what you think of them
. Write reviews, even a couple of sentences. Tell your friends about our books. Ask for them at your local library. The world has many undiscovered authors worthy of a chance in the spotlight. And in the new world of independent publishing and ebooks, the power to direct the beam lies with you, the readers.