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?

Well…

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.

Enjoy.

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

 

 

Reader Surveys by Genre and Gender

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pixabay

I’m one of those kids that learns by doing. Who needs research when you can tie your legs together, jump into the lake, and try to swim like a mermaid? With nine books under my belt and four more in progress, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to do a little research on who my readers are. Hey, the lightbulb eventually turns on; it just might take a while!

I found some interesting data on Statista about readers and made a few charts. The survey was taken in 2015 with 2,273 US readers.

The survey asked readers to identify the type of books they’ve read in the last year by genre. (Note that this is a survey of interest not volume. So, someone who reads 20 romances and 1 fantasy novel will check both boxes “yes.”) As with all surveys, take this one with a pinch of salt).

% Readers who Reported Reading Fiction

% Readers who read fiction books by genre

% Readers who Reported Reading Non-Fiction

Non-Fiction Readers by Genre

My genre, Sci-fi/Fantasy, is only read by about 25-26% of adult readers. Congrats to you Mystery/Thriller/Crime writers at 47%! This data won’t make me change my genre preference, but it intrigues me enough to explore the stylistic elements of that popular genre(s)!

The next chart looked at the same data divided by gender.

Reader Genre Preference by Gender

Genre preferences by Gender

I was curious as to whether most of my readers are male or female and discovered that Fantasy is one genre that’s almost evenly matched. In this sample, Sci-fi is statistically read more by men.

The reason for this tidbit of research is my book Sunwielder – though women do enjoy the book, men seem to give it the best ratings. It’s a time-travel (sci-fi staple) fantasy with a strong historical-ish component. The slight sway toward male readers makes sense when I look at the charts above.

I don’t expect any of this to change the way I write, but I did find the info interesting. The world of books is as varied as the readers who inhabit it, which is one thing I love about writing.

As a reader, do these statistics apply to you?
As a writer, is there anything here that intrigues you?