An Authors Guild of America income survey confirms ALLi findings that indie authors earn more from books than their traditionally published peers but little from other activities. Welcome to Self-Publishing News with ALLi News editor Dan Holloway, bringing you the latest in indie publishing news and commentary.
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About the Host
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.
Read the Transcripts to Self-Publishing News: Indie Authors Earn More
Dan Holloway: Hello and welcome to the next ALLi Self-Publishing News podcast.
Term has well and truly started here in Oxford. This is being recorded very much in the middle of the night, in the vampiring hour, to make sure that we avoid students rushing in the corridors, because we all know that the moment anything approaching daylight hits, all the students are bound to be hitting the libraries and hitting the lecture theatres. So, welcome to a dark, foreboding Oxford.
Authors Guild of America’s Author Income Survey
The big news that we have this week are the results of the Authors Guild of America's author income survey, and one of the really interesting things about this is to compare it to ALLi's Author Income Survey, which we launched at London Book Fair this year.
Both of them look at people who are making most of their money through writing. People who spend most of their working time based on writing and writing related activities, and both of them are based on figures from 2022.
So, one of the things that's really interesting is the headline figure suggests that for both, indie authors are, as a cohort, typically making slightly more than traditionally published authors or slightly more than slightly more.
So, the average indie author income according to the ALLi survey was $12,755. That's average defined as the median. So, that's what the person in the middle of the cohort would have been earning.
For the Author's Guild survey, that figure was $12,800. So, really comparable figures, which is absolutely fascinating, and the figure that's being compared to is an income of $10,000 which is the median earning for those who are traditionally published.
So, that's quite a significant amount. That's about 25 percent more, which is not an insignificant figure, and obviously it's going to be really fascinating to follow how that trend continues in the years to come. Obviously, the landscape is changing.
One of the other stories we're going to be looking at this week is demonstrative of how that landscape is changing with new opportunities opening up for indies, but also with the traditional scene, with Amazon changing constantly.
So, in terms of slightly more detailed findings, it's probably no surprise that the most popular genre, or the most successful genre in terms of income, is romance, and romance and romantic suspense, which when joined together have a median income from writing the books themselves of over $30,000. That's quite significant.
Interestingly, graphic novels have been singled out as well in the survey. So, authors of graphic novels that have a median income of $15,000.
Really interesting to see that mystery, thriller and suspense authors, the median income is $10,000, which is lower than I would have anticipated, because I always think of those as being genres that are really successful for people who write a lot. They tend to be populated by authors who write really successful series, and the readers of those genres I tend to think of as being really voracious readers, the same as romance readers. So, it seems that's possibly not the case right now which is going to be something that I will follow as a thriller writer very interestedly over the next few years.
Something of particular note in this survey, of course, is that it does break out self-published authors at all. That's something that, the ALLi survey apart, is fairly new, the level of granularity we've got, and part of that is down to the simple numbers of people who were responding to this.
So, it seems that 400 of the respondents to the survey were connected with ALLi, which is absolutely fantastic and means that very kindly the Author's Guild are going to be able to send us results specific to ALLi members, which is going to be really fascinating and give us some great insights into what our members are doing.
So, one of the really interesting things about this survey as well is the way it compares as we did in the author income survey, it looks at the money we make from writing our books and the money we make from other writing activities. What's interesting here is the fact that it seems as though full-time self-published authors are really making very little, according to this survey, from sources outside of writing. As I said, the median income for authors from their books is $12,800. The total income from all writing related resources is $15,000, and that's not much more. 15 percent is the figure of income that comes from writing related activities rather than just from the writing itself.
That compares to traditionally published authors for whom 40 percent, almost half, of their income comes from other sources. It would be really interesting to find out what the reasons for that are. So, is it the case that there are more opportunities for people who are traditionally published to do things, for example, like giving talks, teaching creative writing, having opportunities to, I don't know, write in a way that isn't actually writing their books, but writing about how they write their books, giving courses on cruises, even things like editing, which we think of as a more traditionally writing-related activity. Is it that you get more opportunities to do this if you are traditionally published?
Or is it a question of time, that as indies we spend so much of our time writing that we don't have time to do other things? Or is it time related in the sense that we spend so much of our time doing the other things around writing that would more usually be done by a publisher that means that we don't have that time to spend on writing-related things like teaching people how to write, or doing editing, or doing design work ourselves.
So, it will be really interesting to dig into the details of why that is, and maybe it's something we can start to really get some more granular detail on as these studies progress over time and as the questions become more specific.
So, do go and check out the full survey. Then again, for reference, do go back and make sure you check out the ALLi Indie Author Earnings Survey. There's an absolutely brilliant report on the ALLi website. It's got 48 pages of absolutely fascinating information. So, I really recommend going and checking that out.
Wattpad Finding New Ways to Pay Writers
Now, I mentioned the changing landscape. So, one of the really interesting things this week is to see that Wattpad is finding new ways to pay writers. So, this is really great. As we know, Wattpad is one of the most popular reading sites in the world, if not the most popular. It has almost 100 million monthly users, which is an eye wateringly high figure. They read billions of pages of work every month.
People on Wattpad really are these kinds of voracious readers that I talked about when I was talking about the author survey. They love reading. It's not just a site for writers, unlike a lot of places where people go and post their writing work, it is populated mainly by readers.
What Wattpad has tended to lack is a way of making sure that those writers actually get paid for producing entertainment for the readers. So, it's very good at taking things that are very popular on there, and then once they've found the work that is very popular, they can publish it and they will turn it into an adaptation for screen for big or small screen. So, they work very closely with studios.
They're very good at developing the successes, but then they're not necessarily so good at actually paying them on the site. So, what they've done now as part of a move that they have announced to support authors more. So, they've actually stated that they really want to support authors more. So, they've launched a program called Wattpad Originals. Wattpad Originals will be a token-based system, so you will, as a reader, you buy tokens, and you can use those tokens to read chapters of books that you're following on the site, or if you have the high-rate premium subscription for $7.49 a month then you get tokens included with your subscription.
The way it works is that for books that are included in the Wattpad Originals series, ten chapters at any one time will be behind a paywall, and it's actually quite a neat system, the way they're doing it, that every time a new chapter is added, that goes behind a paywall, and a chapter that was already behind the paywall comes out.
As a reader, it's not that if you want to read that book, you're never going to be able to read it for free. Those chapters will eventually become available for free, but if you want to read them really quickly, then you have to pay. So, it's tapping into the fact that people who read on Wattpad tend to be really enthusiastic and they want to know what's happening now.
Also, really interesting decision they've taken to make is that they want writers to tell people how long to wait for the next chapter, so you know how long you're going to have to wait for the next chapter you pay for, and also for the next chapter that's going to become free to fall off the bottom, as it were.
It's a really interesting model. I'm not sure how successful it will be, but it's good to see that the biggest reading site that there is out there is getting behind its authors and actually recognizing the role that authors play in making it successful.
Amazon Facing Anti-Trust Lawsuit
Finally talking of the traditional landscape that we've existed in, Amazon seemed to have done what Amazon do best and got themselves into trouble with the law; they are the subject of yet another antitrust case.
So, this is another antitrust case in the U.S. brought by the Federal Trade Commission which is accusing it of, “a set of interlocking anti-competitive and unfair strategies to maintain a monopoly.”
These include the fabulously named Project Nessie, which seems to be an algorithm to extract something. We don't know exactly what because that's been redacted, but it's a fabulous name and calls to mind the Iliad, which is, of course, Amazon's internal name for its sludge system, for the fact that it used to be much harder to unsubscribe from anything than it was to subscribe, and the length of the unsubscribe process; it was so long that it gave rise to the nickname, the Iliad.
It will be really interesting to follow what happens here. One thing that Mark Williams points out, which is really interesting. You've got this, I think it's 173-page lawsuit, and publishing isn't mentioned in it once. So, that shows how far the landscape is changing and how much, even if we still think of Amazon as being the place when it comes to how we as writers navigate the publishing world, in Amazon's mind, maybe that's no longer the case.
So, interesting times. A lot of what's happening at the moment feels like we're at the beginning of things. We're at the beginning of new trends. We're at the beginning of seeing indie authors as professionals, in a mature way with full statistics and the ability to track what it's like making a living, or trying to make a living, as an indie author.
It will be really interesting to follow that. It's also going to be really interesting to see how this new landscape effects that.
Are people going to be taking opportunities from places like Wattpad is? Are Wattpad authors going to be included in surveys about indie author income in the future?
All sorts of fascinating questions. Those will be answered in the years to come. I look forward to sharing the answers with you. Probably not going to have any of those answers by next week, but I know that I will have things that are equally fascinating to share with you.
Take care. I believe the first glimpses of the sun are beginning to peek over the sky, so I had better stop now and look forward to the onset of the student rush. So, goodbye from Oxford.