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Surrealistic Planet

Self-publishing - the statistics

WordsRated define themselves as an international research data and analytics group.

"Through detailed research projects, we tackle the big issues concerning reading, books, authors, and the publishing industry to inform and entertain. Our main objective is to provide reliable, useful, informative, and entertaining data."

Their data about the self-publishing industry is based on 2022, reported in January 2023. It is quite extensive.

  • 30-34% of all ebooks sold are self-published.

  • 300 million self-published books are sold each year.

  • $1.25 billion worth of self-published books is sold each year.

  • The average self-published book sells for $4.16.

  • Amazon pays $520 million in royalties to self-published authors each year.

  • Only 1% of audiobooks on Audible are self-published.

  • 67% of top-rated, self-published books are written by women, compared to just 39% of traditionally published books.

  • The global publishing market is expected to grow at 1% CAGR per year, whereas the self-publishing market is expected to grow at 17%.

  • The number of self-published books has increased by 264% in the last five years.

That last bullet point is quite a stunner, isn't it? Gone are the days when the stigma of publishing your own book meant it was only because no traditional publisher would consider you. However, some data leaves you reeling or simply incredulous! The thing to remember though, these are mean average figures!

  • The average self-published book sells 250 copies.

  • The average self-published author makes $1,000 per year from their books.

  • 33% of self-published authors make less than $500 per year.

  • 90% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies.

  • 20% of self-published authors report making no income from their books.

  • More than 1,000 self-published authors made $100,000 last year from Amazon.

  • Of authors who have published their first book in the last 10 years:

  • 1,200 traditionally published authors have earned $25,000+ a year

  • 1,600 self-published authors have earned $25,000+ a year

I don't know about you, but that doesn't match my experience. A number of well established authors have recently posted their sales data, mainly as a supportive exercise. Their figures don't come anywhere near this. But, we're talking ALL authors. It depends on the genre in which you write as to your success. According to an article in the Guardian in 2015, romance authors earned 170% more than their peers, while authors in other genres fared much worse: science-fiction writers earned 38% of the $10,000 average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20% of the $10,000 average.

According to Geoff Affleck, "Amazon's eBook list reveals that no less than 25% of titles are Romance, Women’s Fiction and Teen novels – the kind with ripped, bare-chested hunky men on the cover!"

Romance remains the market leader here. That's where you need to be, if making money is your main goal. But, according to Jericho Writer's latest data, there's increasing interest in the fantasy genre. 50% of all fantasy books are now #selfpublished. I believe this may be partly due to Mark Lawrence's Self Publishing Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) which is now in its ninth year. The quality (and diversity) of entries is incredible. The standard of writing, book cover and imagination is significantly greater than it was. It's not surprise that finalists often get offers of representation from agents on the back of their success now. The same is true for science fiction, with 56% of all books in that genre being #selfpublished.

When it comes to ebooks, Amazon is dominating the market by a wide margin.

  • Amazon sells over 487 million ebooks through Kindle every year.

  • The company’s market share in ebook sales stands at least 67%, climbing to 83% when Kindle Unlimited is included.

  • Amazon is estimated to control over 87.9% of yearly ebook sales in the UK.

  • Self-published books account for 31% of Amazon’s ebook sales

But let's consider the lowly #indieauthor again, rather than get carried away with such huge figures. According to Chris McMullan, the realistic figure for a "typical" #indieauthor is anywhere between 100 to 700 books IN TOTAL. EVER. His theory is simple; averages take into account all genres, all authors. It only takes a few books on popular topics, or a best seller that has come out of nowhere, to skew the numbers. His theory is backed up with that 250 books mentioned earlier.

Final thoughts

It comes down to what being an #indieauthor means. For most of us, it allows us the satisfaction of putting our books "out there" for others to enjoy. We're not looking to give up our current lifestyle, or pack up the day job. For many, like me, if I cover my expenditure, I'm pleased. The old MGM mantra applies - art for art' sake. If you're doing it for purely commercial reasons, good luck! But don't be surprised if that doesn't happen.

What matters is that #indieauthors are no longer alone. There are a lot of us. That doesn't mean we are competing with each other. There are lots of readers out there too! No, we need to support and encourage each other. It's why I'm on social media. It's not to sell my books (OK, occasionally!) but to be part of a writing network with other authors who I respect and enjoy reading their stories.

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