The Guardian recently interviewed Dave Cornford and Steven Lewis, who conducted a survey about self-publishing and earnings. Interesting stuff, but I find the angle on the story decidedly obtuse. (See what I did there?)
…a [Taleist] survey of 1,007 self-published writers – one of the most comprehensive insights into the growing market to date – found that while a small percentage of authors were bringing in sums of $100,000-plus in 2011, average earnings were just $10,000 a year. This amount, however, is significantly skewed by the top earners, with less than 10% of self-publishing authors earning about 75% of the reported revenue and half of writers earning less than $500.
See, I think that what The Guardian is missing here is that for a whole lot of writers, $10,000 per year on a book would be pretty sweet. Less than $500, I agree, is pretty discouraging, particularly if you’ve done everything right and paid for professional editing and cover design.
As it turns out, though, authors who DO hire editors and cover designers are more likely to be in that upper bracket:
There’s a clear link, [Lewis] said, “between earnings and the amount of help, and therefore feedback, that an author is willing to take on board. Authors who engage editors, for instance, end up with more royalties. Readers are excited by having access to new voices, but they’ve not been waiting for unedited, unproofread and amateurish books. There’s more to being a successful author than finding the ‘Save and publish’ button on Amazon, but there are a lot of authors who haven’t realised that yet. In that sense, the low earnings were not surprising.”
Authors… would be well advised to spend time and money on making a title look professional, the survey found: self-publishers who received help (paid or unpaid) with story editing, copy editing and proofreading made 13% more than the average; help with cover design upped earnings by a further 34%.
The bad news? These professional services cost money. The good news? Your book is worth the investment.