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Author earnings down?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Steerpike, Sep 16, 2015.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Here's the message that I've gotten:

    1. Making a living at writing is freaking tough.
    2. In order to make a living, you have to work hard and work smart.
    3. People are, however, living their dream, and they're doing it the way that Greg listed.

    I have no idea why you're finding that message discouraging. I find it enormously encouraging. If I'm willing to work hard enough and learn to write smart enough, I can find success.

    Prior to this message, all I heard was, "The only way to succeed in writing is to get lucky."

    At least I can now see a path forward that doesn't involve luck.

    The truth is that you and valliant12 and TAS and me can all succeed. But it's not easy or guaranteed.

    Why is it discouraging to talk about the reality of the market? If you really want to succeed, you need to be thinking, "What is the path most likely to get me there?"

    If success isn't your primary goal, however, then isn't it best to be realistic about it now?

    I would much rather go into a situation with my eyes wide open. Give me the facts and let me make the decision that is best for me. As far as I can tell, the facts of the market reflect what I've been saying. Following Greg's advice is the best way to gain some measure of success but that you have some small chance of success by following other paths.

    Look, I'm an engineer. Buying lotto tickets is about as mathematically stupid a thing as one can possibly do, but I still buy them because I like to dream about the what if. I'd still rather know going in, however, that I wasn't very likely to hit the numbers.

    EDIT: Note that I'm thoroughly confused by this last post. I thought you were irritated that I spoke out against "artsy" writing so vehemently. Now, you seem upset that I'm saying something discouraging?
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2015
  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Let's steer this conversation back on topic. We can all continue this discussion, if you'd like, through private massaging, Nimue included.
     
  3. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

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    That might be difficult. Sorry, couldn't resist-- carry on.
     
  4. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Ha!

    Normally my self-image management would require an edit. Think I'll leave that one go.
     
  5. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Just to try and balance things a bit, we all write for different reasons and we all have different definitions of success. For some it will be selling lots. For some it will be writing something significant or memorable. For a pitiful few wrecks like me it will be because we've got a muse standing behind us with a gun in his hand telling us what to write and success is sending him away for a little bit!

    Personally, I now have twenty three books out, and I think they're all in one way or another successes. Not all are commercial successes. The Arcanist has recently started flying off the digital shelves which will certainly help the old finances. My other epic fantasies like Maverick also seem to do well, and if I were to be able to kill that damned muse that would be what I'd concentrate on to make money. The one genre rule. Likewise they would be in series and there would be no shorter works.

    But I also wrote The Man Who Wasn't Ander's Voss - I don't think I've sold more than one copy of it this month. Commercially it's a failure - but it wasn't written for that reason. It was written because it explored an aspect of philosophy (and Star Trek) that I found fascinating, and published because it is one of the most original works out there. Success there is to make people think about the duplicates paradox. And to get the book out of my system. In that sense it is a success.

    Thief, the first book I published, is also a success, neither commercially nor because it has something unique and important to say. Simply becuse it was the first book I wrote, and thus is the one that told me I could write a book.

    The rules I gave are essentially for maximising your chances of commercial success. And to be completely hippocritical, I myself even knowing that they could help me sell more books, can't follow them. My muse won't let me. And while I might want to strangle it that might also leave me without any books to write.

    My point here is that there are as many reasons to write as there are writers. Not one of them is superior to any other. Not one of them should be looked down upon.

    Unfortunately there is a tendency within certain literary circles to look down upon the works of crass commercialism. I'm not suggesting that anyone here is doing that. But it is an attitude that is pervasive, and essentially wrong. At heart the literary snob says "I don't write to sell - my art is higher than that". What they completely overlook is the fact that in almost all cases if their books were actually any good, they would sell. There is absolutely nothing that prevents a work of oliterary merit from also being commercial. And what they seemingly keep missing is the fact that the one true literary genius they all agree on as being a genius writer - Bill Shakespear - was writing crass commercialism. He wanted to eat, to keep his actors fed, his theatre running, and his monrch happy. He just also happened to be a very good writer / story teller who tapped into the underlying themes of human nature to write and sell his plays. My thought would be that if that's alright for Billy than why shouldn't it be alright for everyone else?

    To sum up you can write for many reasons. To entertain - which is in essence selling. It is a valid goal of art - as valid as any other. To provoke thought or controversy - again perfectly valid. To achieve certain personal ambitions - and I think that's true of every writer and again its valid. And probably many others I haven't thought of. But there is no exclusion in writing. There is absolutely nothing to say that because you have one of these goals as your focus in writing that your work can't or shouldn't also strive for the others.

    And the worst thing any writer can do is to eschew the other goals in their work. It is as wrong to say I will write a work of literary brilliance or high art or whatever and absolutely not want to be commercial or achieve personally, as it is to say I will write books that sell and absolutely not want my books to be thought provoking and insightful and of course achieve my personal goals. Both options will leave the writer with a work that is sub-standard.

    In my view every writer should be striving towards the goal of writing books that are entertaining and that are also thought provoking and speak to the human condition and that achieve personal ambitions. That is the only way you will achieve your best.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
    PaulineMRoss and T.Allen.Smith like this.
  6. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    The Author's Guild obsession with Amazon as a bane on publishing really babbles me. Notice in the top of the article it says,

    I can't help but think, what does the Author's Guild think author's income would be if Amazon stopped selling books completely and hadn't invented the kindle?
     
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Agreed. That's an interesting triad of dangers they list. Piracy? All evidence says piracy has a negligible effect on either sales or profits. That's across media. Blaming Amazon is problematic given the other epochal shifts in the industry. Which leaves "publishing economies" which is essentially to blame the traditional industry itself for its own woes. Which is exactly what I believe is the case. Rather than focus on the terrible decisions made by the print industry, the Authors Guild chooses to blaze away at the new guys in the room, and all of it sold with a thin guise of veracity by using Statistics. *yawn*
     
  8. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Indeed. I'd love to see the numbers as far as how much money goes into author's pockets from Amazon, Hachette, Macmillian, Random House, and Harper Voyager. My guess is they are contributing at pretty high level. Especially if you move the income fro traditionally published authors who are getting money from sals on the Amazon site (instead of just counting self-publihsed and Amazon imprint sales.
     
    AndrewLowe likes this.
  9. AndrewLowe

    AndrewLowe Troubadour

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    How have you done with Amazon? It says on your author page that you've sold half a million copies... What percentage do Amazon and Random House actually keep?

    By the way, I just picked up the first book of Riyira!
     
  10. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I suspect about the same but the cheque might have "Apple" on it instead.
     
  11. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I am not sure what these "woes" you speak of are.

    The article talks about authors incomes being down, not publishers. Most well established traditional publishers continue to report good revenue and profits.

    I am not exactly sure what you mean by "the print industry" but traditional publishers overall are doing okay with a couple of interesting exceptions.
     
  12. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Amazon has essentially "made my career." Before I was published traditionally (through Hachette and Random House I was self-published. I had a nice run where I was selling between 10,000 - 12,000 books a month. As for other percentages I don't know how many of my sales come from Amazon and how many come from retailers like iBookstore or Barnes and Noble. The publishers don't break them down. When I was self-published Amazon kept 30% and I kept 70%.

    As for what % each of the parties keep when traditionally published. It generally breaks down like this:

    * Trade paperback: 55% Amazon | 37.5% Publisher | 6.38% Author | 1.12% Agent
    * Hardcover editions: 55% Amazon | 35% Publisher | 8.5% Author | 1.5% Agent
    * ebooks: 30% Amazon | 52.5% Publisher | 14.9% Author | 2.6% Agent

    Of course Amazon routinely discounts books. So for books that are sold at say a 25% discount the breakdown would go like this (for a hardcore book)

    * 25% to customer | 30% to Amazon | 35% Publisher | 8.5% Author | 1.5% Agent


    Hey thanks! I do hope you enjoy it.
     
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  13. AndrewLowe

    AndrewLowe Troubadour

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    Thanks Michael! That's actually super helpful--I've always debated self publishing versus traditional...
     
  14. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Author earnings down? Heh. Not for Indies if they're doing it right. Indie publishing is proving harder for me than actually writing the damn books. Maybe it's because I have only one story out and can't seem to work fast enough on getting my other projects out the door, but selling books is hard. Really hard. I have nothing but mad respect for Indies managing to make a living out of this.

    It's definitely not for everyone. However, with time, patience, good products, and an intelligent way of working, making a living in this industry is totally possible and dare I say more so than with traditional publishing. I'm not saying that as a way to insult or demean traditional, but with Indie publishing we keep our rights and make higher royalties. We're able to write as much as we want and if we do too little then that might not be bringing home the bacon.

    Every writer that wants to be published faces the difficult decision of continuing to query or putting their books up on Amazon and other outlets. It's not easy either way! And it all depends on what your goals are as an author. Would you prefer someone to do your cover, blurb, editing, etc or would you like to retain control? The latter is me because I love that it gets to be ME that succeeds or fails at this. I decided to self publish because of rejections from trad publishing but I understand now that I wasn't ready back then to publish. But there's something to making your own way to your dreams.

    All I will add is this: either way you go about it, it isn't easy. Some Indies seem to put their books up and they sell like hotcakes. Some of us have to work for it. I haven't sold a book in two weeks. I just laugh at it most of the time although last night I was bummed because--my short piece that is well edited and packaged--is selling nothing. BUT another author I know put up his story of the exact same length in another genre, with a bad ass cover, NOT edited or even proper grammar, imo terribly written already he is #1 on the short lists of Amazon. It's like...wtf?!?!?!?! I sulked for a bit last night and then was like okay, I shouldn't and WON'T compare. I will be glad for him because he worked hard on his story too. And his story is pretty interesting actually.

    So see? It's a gamble. I think I should be selling and I'm not. What do I do? Finish the other novels I've got cooking. That's it. I'm going to be an Indie that probably struggles for years to get an audience. That's okay. None of this is freaking easy and that's why it upsets me when I see folks fighting about which way is superior. Either way you need a good product. You need readers. You need to have thick skin. And work the hardest you've probably ever worked in your life. With writing time, making covers, trying to build my platform etc, I probably work 40-60 hours per week with nothing to show for it just yet. Anyway, I just wanted to post this for anyone that is considering which way to publish. xo
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 3, 2016
    AndrewLowe likes this.
  15. AndrewLowe

    AndrewLowe Troubadour

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    I just picked up a copy of your story on Amazon :)
    Not particularly my genre of choice, but I've been trying to get around to reading what all the members of the community are publishing!
     
  16. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Hey thanks! I hope you like it :)
     
    AndrewLowe likes this.
  17. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    You are welcome. But keep in mind that the royalty %'s are just one of the factors when considering between the two. There are a whole slew of other things to keep in mind - the most important being if you'll be able to produce a product that has the same high quality standards of a big-publisher on your own. Many can, but if you can't then it may not be in your best interest to put out something that is sub-standard.
     
  18. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    Well it depends on WHICH indies you are speaking about. And yes we are in full agreement that those who are doing it right are earning VERY, VERY well.

    Again, it depends. I judge each of my projects before going traditional or self. The fact that I've continued to sign traditional, indicates that for me it is still better off for many reasons. And that is from someone who does very well with their self-published works. My most recent release came out in December and it's already earned me six-figures...so none to shabby.

    To be honest - I think there is a lot to be said about the hybrid approach and do both self and traditional. Of course the subset of people who can hit both of those very small targets isn't large, so while it is the best route, it may be out of reach to many.

    Yeah, it's best not to try and compare yourself to others. You should be in competition only with yourself for peace of mind. There will always be people selling more than you and people selling less. Best to control the things you can, which is writing good quality work and producing it professionally.

    I don't know of any author who hasn't struggled - self or traditional. Yeah, we all work hard, and in the end it doesn't always pay off. That's why you have to embrace the journey - as the destination may or may not be what you hoped for.
     
  19. MichaelSullivan

    MichaelSullivan Maester

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    That was very kind of you...Glad to see you helping her out like that.
     
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