Guest Post: Good News for Indies by Sheron McCartha

Sheron McCartha is a science fiction author, reader, and reviewer who blogs over at Scifi Book ReviewShe does a great job keeping track of what’s happening in the indie publishing world and has stopped by to share some good news. Take it away, Sheron…

Numbers. Bah! I work with words. So what can a bunch of numbers tell me that could help with my writing?


The Written Word (Freebooksy, Bargain booksy and other ad sites for authors) surveyed 38,000 authors. They compared a group of authors who made $100k or more a year (called $100k Authors) to authors making $500 or less a year (called Emerging Authors). Note that their group of authors are skewed toward the romance genre. Also note that a portion of the blockbuster authors didn’t engage in the survey as they were out on their boats drinking champagne, but still some interesting facts emerged that you as an author can take to the bank.

What made the difference?

1. The longer an author has been writing, the more money they tended to make. So if you’re struggling with a book or two, have patience. Persistence is the key. (I needed that. I so needed to hear that.)

2. Publishing Indie is a viable way to success. Self publishers get a much larger percent of royalties. Does it matter how you publish? Most authors in the survey were Indie authors. Only 5% were traditionally published authors, and none of those made the $100K group. Of those in the $100K subset, 72% were Indie and 28% Hybrid.

Interestingly, another survey, May 2016 Author Earnings reports that “the vast majority of traditional publishing’s mid-list or better earners started their career over a decade ago. Their more recently debuted peers are not doing anywhere near as well.”

Within the hybrid subset, 100K authors are present at a higher percentage than Emerging Authors (28% vs 17%). This may be a result of traditional authors taking their books back from a house and self-publishing them, or a self-publisher getting a large platform that attracts a traditional publishing house. Many successful authors are taking advantage of both worlds. Confused by numbers and want a picture? Here’s a visual:

3. “Going wide” or limiting to KDP Select didn’t make a difference in how much money the authors made.

4. The $100K group spent more than $100 for a professional cover. None spent over $1000. Looking professional is important, but you don’t have to break the bank.

5. Also important is spending your money on a professional editor. In the $100K group, 96% spent money on an editor while half of those spent from $250-$500, at least 20% shelled out $500-$1000. In the Emerging Authors camp, 56% spent up to $50, but everyone admitted it was important to have another pair of eyeballs read over the work.

6. In both $100K and Emerging Authors categories, the author handles the marketing. Those authors making more money often hire assistants to help them with this fun chore. Also, everyone in the survey used ad sites as a means of marketing, so other forms weren’t really studied.

7. Don’t quit your day job. For Emerging Authors, 66% still have a day job and 28% of the $100K authors have one.

8. Finally—the more hours writing=more books=more payout. Emerging Authors wrote 19.8 hours per week while $100K spent 28.5 hours per week writing.

9. For you data hounds, here’s the link: Written Word Media Survey

All right, so surveys and numbers aren’t all that bad and may tell us something. Here’s another while I’m at it. Are you game?

Mark Coker does an extensive survey once a year. He is the founder of Smashwords that competes with Amazon and distributes books over a wide range of platforms. You go through his meatgrinder and he spits out your book to iBook, Kobo, the Nook, his own site and many others. This is what is called, “going wide.” Smashwords’ catalog is strictly eBooks and 127,000 authors make up his catalog of 437,200 books.

The fiction category makes up 87.5% of his sales with 45% of that going to the romance genre. Unfortunately for me, in the top 200 best sellers, 73% are romance while 3% are science fiction. Having said that, Mark talks about some new marketing innovations.

1. Pre-orders are appearing as a tool to launch a new book. However, only 12.23% of books at the time of the survey were born in a pre-launch. Yet, in the top 1000 sellers, 61% used the pre-launch to get things going.

2. Box sets are becoming popular with 90% as single author box sets. Multi author boxed sets aren’t as popular as yet and may have royalty tangles.

3. As to pricing, Mark urges Indie authors to up the cost to $4.99 from a lower price. $3.99 and $4.99 got more downloads than $.99 pricing. If you price it too cheaply do readers think the book is not as good and hesitate?

4. Average word count for the romance genre is 113,803. This may vary from genre to genre as fantasy is expected to be longer and maybe other genres are shorter.

5. Keep the titles fairly short. In the top 100 sellers, character titles were kept to an average of 24 characters while in the top 1000 range, the characters averaged 37.11.

6. Series sell. Top best sellers show that they are likely to come from a series. In the top 100, a free starter book increased sales of the series by 80%

7. Where did Smashwords sell the most? The United States garnered 69% of sales, far outdistancing Great Britain (8%), Canada (11%), Australia (5%).

Here’s the link: Smashwords Survey

Okay, so you have had enough of numbers, and your head is spinning, but some interesting facts have been revealed that any author can use in earning more and becoming famous. At least to your mother-in-law or distant cousin.

How about some words to even things out? I just released my 2nd book in the Terran Trilogy called Somewhat Alien. As an incentive, I’m offering the first book, A World Too Far for free for a limited time only…starting today for Diana’s amazing blog followers. (I read your comments and you are awesome). And remember Mark’s advice about offering the first book free in a series. We’ll see how effective that is.


To sweeten the pot, I will price the new release of Somewhat Alien for three days at a discount price of $.99 in the hopes that I will get some honest reviews from you all. As of now, I have none…none…and I would love to hear from you and how you liked this new series.


More about Sheron: 

I grew up with my father saying that he was going to write a great science fiction book one day. He talked a lot about it.

He loved science fiction, and often on a Sunday morning when we were all lined up and finally ready for church (three of us were girls which took a while), father would be missing. Mother would find him hiding in the bathroom reading like it was a forbidden pleasure.

After he retired and embarked on his great writing endeavor, he came to me and confessed that he had tried to write and couldn’t. He wanted to, but the words weren’t there. He threw the torch in my direction and became my inspiration.

My father has since passed away, but the day I proudly held that first book in my hands, I just knew, that while others were headed out to sing praises somewhere; he was ensconced on a cushy cloud, hiding out reading my book.

You can follow Sheron at @Sheronwriting

and her website: Scifi Book Review



119 thoughts on “Guest Post: Good News for Indies by Sheron McCartha

  1. Reblogged this on black CATastrophy and commented:
    Some much-needed words (and numbers) indie authors must see to believe!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cogent overview, Sheron — thank you for this. And thanks, Diana, for hosting this discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] in the US and UK J. A. Allen – 8 Things You Must Do Before You Write Sheron McCartha – Good News for Indies Dave Astor – Characters Who Make a Big Impression in a Small Amount of Time Ed A. Murray […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. reocochran says:

    Hi Diana, I was trying to play catch up tonight. Hope you had a wonderful weekend and starting the week out like gangbusters. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  5. reocochran says:

    Sheron, this was very informative and compelling to become a “ten years in, writing and self publishing machine.”
    It was meant to sound funny and yet, sincerely appreciative. 🙂 💐

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So much to digest. I’m bookmarking. Fascinating info here. (Not surprised about the romance percentages but some of this was…wow.) Thanks for sharing your findings, Sheron. And, Diana, for hosting.
    P.S. I LOVE the story about your father, Sheron. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very interesting to see all these figures and comparisons. I’d guess those in the top group are putting in a LOT more time than those of us who dabble. Their earnings and ratings are well deserved. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, Marcia. I have noticed that the more books I have available the better my reach – more ways for people to find me and keep reading once they do. It’s all sort of connected to having the time to write. And there are no guarantees. Best to just do what we love 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. D.S. White says:

    Seems like the $100K writers have more time to write and market. Emerging writers have day jobs and find it hard to get the time. It’s an uphill battle for most people who are employed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I agree. I didn’t start writing until I was 50 because of jobs and kids, so I envy those who are carving out bits of time in their 20’s and 30’s. They’ll be that much farther ahead when the opportunity comes to invest more hours. It’s a good thing we love what we do, because we have to be in it for the long haul to have a chance at success. Thanks for the visit!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Jennie says:

    Very interesting and informative. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. bpsenapati says:

    Great post for every Indies, lots of valuable information. thanks Sheron for sharing your research.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. […] Good News for Indies (exciting news; informative posts) […]

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wow, this is great info. Self-pub/indie is looking better and better, but I want more books ready to release at once (kinda like how you did the Rose Shield, D) before I test those waters. Still, I’ll keep plugging away at traditional, at least for now until I get some of my other projects polished up. Thanks for the great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The trends are looking good, Julie, and I think they’re going to get better as the industry continues to shake out the kinks. I have a feeling that traditional publishers who don’t give the author that something extra (particularly in high-quality editing and marketing assistance) are going to fall to the wayside. And I believe that eventually, Indies will develop a standardized process to vet books so that the quality is consistently reliable. It’s fun to watch how it all unfolds. Thanks for the visit!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Jay says:

    Wow, so much ground covered!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Christy B says:

    So much great information here from Sheron and I’ll absolutely check out her site too. This gives hope to any Indie who is struggling and makes me think that if I have more books then I’m more likely to be able to make a real go of this! I’m thankful to Diana for the guest post so I could gain confidence today 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  15. balroop2013 says:

    Thanks for the info Sheron and Diana…seems inspiring! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. That was fun. I love the part about not needing to go wide and not needing an agent (necessarily). RT

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for sharing, Diana and Sheron! Fantastic insights. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Check out this great information for indie authors in this post on the Myths of the Mirror blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m not a numbers person either, but these are interesting, well organized metrics. Thanks Diana and Sheron. Best to you both. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks, Sharon for all this helpful information. Thanks, Diana for having Sharon as a guest. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Reema says:

    Great Post! Thank You for the Insights Diana and Sheron ! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Many thanks for sharing these findings with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. dgkaye says:

    Fantastic post. Thank you Diana and Sheron. Interesting statistics. So I spend well over $100 for book covers and well over $500 for editing, I”m determined to get out of that ’emerging’ category, lol. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Hi everyone, but I do not know a lot about publishing books, but I have read it and understand that there is a lot going on at such field in every sides of the world, I wouldn’t have imagined so if I didn’t come to find this extract written by Sheron and Diana. Thank you for bringing them, from now on I will keep searching for this information for myself. Thank you girls. Have a wonderful week!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Carrie Rubin says:

    Great info here. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. calmkate says:

    Great post, appreciate the survey results and personal touch at the end .. good luck to all indies 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Mae Clair says:

    Another P.S:
    I’m adding a link for this to Story Empire’s Curated Content post on Friday. I think many writers will benefit from seeing this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Mae Clair says:

    Excellent information! I do agree that authors have to be patient–whether indie, hybrid, or traditional–it normally takes building a backlist to see some return. And (IMHO) editing is critical. If you’re going to invest all that time in writing a book, it’s important to turn out the best possible product at the finish. Even editors hire professional editors for their work.

    Thank you, Sheron for the wonderful post and Diana for hosting.

    P.S. to Diana: I started reading Sunwielder last night. It’s fabulous!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment, Mae. Sheron did a nice job in summarizing the survey results. I’ve noticed that building a backlist has made a big difference in sustainable sales, and of course, editing is crucial. Thanks so much for the note about Sunwielder. I have a little crush on Gryff. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  29. Some very interesting information on Indie publishing, Diana. It is very encouraging as sometimes you do wonder if Indie is the right way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s encouraging too, Robbie. It seems that the playing field is leveling a bit with the traditional authors. I hope the trend continues, and as more indie authors enter the 100k club, they’ll be more opportunities for the rest of us.

      Liked by 2 people

  30. Thank you for a terrific insight on those publishing numbers. It was very enlightening. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Number 5 seems to be the point too many forget. A lot of the self-published books are in desperate need of an editor. That’s at least my humbled opinion. It’s money well spent.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sheron says:

      Yes, it is… but editors can be expensive and good ones not easy to find. Newbie authors don’t realize how easy it is to overlook errors they make. It is money well spent, however.
      Thanks for your response.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, Bridget. It’s a bit of a catch 22, unfortunately. Emerging authors often can’t afford an editor until they have some sales momentum, and a poorly edited book is going to stymy sales. There are plenty of editing tools to fill the gap, but they can’t compete with the quality of an industry professional. Thanks for chiming in, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Great post Sheron, and thanks Diana. Very informative and encouraging.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Anonymous says:

    I took a class from an author who makes her living by writing novels. She had an interesting comment on income. She said that her friends who are not authors believe she makes more than she does and that her friends who are authors believe she makes less than she does.

    Liked by 2 people

  34. There was recently a discussion in a goodreads group about the necessity of editors . In the discussion , three ’emerging’ authors put forth that ‘editing is not important ‘ because you could see the author’s only for real only in an unedited copy . While an argument was put forth that the readers actually pay and expect a good quality, they set out to argue that a responsible reader would read the preview and not ‘cry’ for editorial errors in the reviews . What do you think ?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sheron says:

      Seriously? My opinion is that no reader wants to keep stumbling out of a good story because of poor grammar or faulty story structure. Having said that, getting a clean copy takes hard work by those who know what they’re doing. Readers expect a well edited book…but it’s not easy.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’d guess that the “Emerging Authors” who made the silly comments are going to have short careers. Thanks for the visit, Harini. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  35. Hi Diane! I was quite surprised by the findings! I expected just the opposite regarding self pub. and publishingif through the prof. houses. Good news! I agree so wholeheartedly that good editing is crucial. I have done some editing myself for writers whose first language is not English, I prefer editing persaonal writing. Thanks so much for your updates in what’s going in the world if books. So very appreciated. Much love to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner, Indie Author. and commented:
    Thanks to Sheron McCartha, guest writer on Myths of the Mirror, for these interesting facts regarding Indie publishing.

    Liked by 2 people

Comments are warmly welcomed. Don't be shy .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s