Which Publishing Route Makes More Than $500k per Year?

Before jumping into the book sales market, it may be a good idea to know what to expect, and what routes to pursue. This isn’t just for authors pursuing self-publishing, it’s important for every author. Traditional publishing has always had a certain expectation that authors will play a part, if not large part, in the marketing plan for their book. The only difference is, traditional publishing will give you a team to work with who’ll make a lot of the big decisions, like book cover, publication outlets and price. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing!)

According to top novel rank, the top Amazon categories for Amazon.com are as follows:

1) Books (Kindle)

3) Kindle eBooks (Kindle)

4) Audible Audiobooks (Audio)

5) Literature & Fiction (Kindle)

To understand this chart, there’s actually a difference between category 1 and 3. Category 1 is just the go-to readers will order their books from, and even though the majority are kindle readers, they don’t necessarily search the Kindle store.

Another factor I find interesting is that Audible gets ranked higher than any genre. Audiobooks are a large part of sales, and if you aren’t taking advantage of turning your book into an audiobook, you’re missing out on a good portion of your readers, or listeners, in this case. (Half of the books I “read” are also audible books, because when you’re busy it’s the easiest way to get your reading in!)
Now let’s look at some sales numbers.
(Graph and data courtesy of AuthorsEarnings.com)
This graph shows a trend that we should expect, self-publishing is starting to overtake traditional publishing. It’s becoming easier and easier to self-publish, and some authors make a good earning at it, so why not? There’s always going to be a nature vs. nurture level of debate on self-publishing versus traditional publishing, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you which is best, or which produces the best work. I’ve read equally poor and magnificent books on both ends of the scale. But as far as the numbers go, your publication style should not be limited by the preconceptions that self-publishing is not “really” published, nor that traditional publishing is going to earn you more mula than traditional publishing.
I would like to accentuate this point by the below pie graph.
(Courtesy of  AuthorsEarnings.com)
I find it fascinating that in this study, small and medium publishers take the cake. And I think there’s a very good reason for that. Indiepublishers have a learning curve, a lot of which is inflicted upon their readers. The Big 5 are set in their ways, know what they’re after and aren’t big on taking risks. Small and medium publishers however, they’re the goldilocks zone. They have enough experience to eliminate rookie mistakes, but aren’t so ingrained in their ways not to take a risk or two, perhaps tackling a project simply because they love it, even if previous novels haven’t been able to prove it in the field. Definitely something to consider before you simply leave your decision as a black-and-white Big 5 or Indie.
And now, for a reality check. According to AuthorsEarnings.com, only 2.8% of authors make over $10k a year. This is a highly selective study, so that number is up for debate, and if you’d like to check it out for yourself I encourage you to do so. None-the-less, it’s interesting and a reminder that you should only write because you love it, not because you expect to become rich and wealthy.
Here is a graph showing the development of publication style, heading in an interesting trend. I’d like to see this graph a few years from now, and see how 
the hybrid authors have changed.
(Courtesy of  AuthorsEarnings.com)
And just for fun, here’s a graph showing those who wrote what they loved, and hit it rich and famous at the same time. In this case, the trend is deeply interesting. There are far more Indieauthors making the big bucks than those in any other form of publishing. (I think it’s also important to notice the OVERALL number of authors making the big bucks is also decreasing.)
(Courtesy of  AuthorsEarnings.com)
I hope this post has been educational and inspiring for you, helping you to understand your goals in your writing career. Whether you plan on pursuing traditional publishing, self-publishing, or somewhere in-between, don’t go in blind. There are plenty of success stories, and all of them had one thing in common: they prepared, revised, studied, and slowly waded their way to success. I recommend getting started with this year’s Writer’s Digest Guide to Getting Published.  Put in the hard work, and you will see the results!

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