In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at the number of books indie authors publish and amount of time they spend writing and marketing according to a new survey.
Do listen to November's Self-publishing News podcast here. Howard and I are talking about the question everyone's asking: should we leave Twitter and if we do, where do we go? For those of us who haven't left twitter, this week's #indieauthorchat is in its usual Wednesday slot, at 8pm UK time, 3pm Eastern Time. Tim will guide us through a discussion of how to choose a genre.
Indie Authors: What we did in 2022
Written Word Media have just released their annual report into what indie authors do to earn money. The report breaks down results from 1300 authors. It divides them into 8 earnings categories, from $0-249 per month to $10,000+. For each of those stages of earning, it asks some simple but really interesting questions. How much time was spent on writing per week? How many books have people written, and are they enrolled in KDP Select? How much do people spend on covers and editing per book? And what do people find most effective in terms of marketing?
I thoroughly recommend reading the whole thing in depth. There are some things that are really important and obviously missing. What genre people are writing in feels like the most obvious of those. But there are also some really useful insights. At the upper end of the earnings ladder, for example, Bookbub campaigns come out as consistently effective. Bookbub ads, on the other hand, less so. And interestingly, in-person events come out on the low side for marketing value.
More Books not More Time
People at every stage have published a lot of books, with even the $250+ bracket having 10 or more, and top earners 50. But writing time remains fairly consistent at around 20-30 hours per week. Which suggests a lot of the higher earners have either simply been doing it longer, have more efficient processes for using time, or have reverted backlists. It's also encouraging to see that most people find marketing the hardest part of the job. And while higher earners spend slightly more time on marketing, it's not much more – the figure never getting beyond 17 hours a week.
Our campaigns manager, Melissa Addey, commented:
The Written Word Media survey is a really useful piece of data and one which, having been repeated several times, keeps bearing fruit, a great example of the solid insights that can come from asking authors directly about how they manage their publishing business. My advice to all authors is to take some time out to really read through this and spend some time thinking about where you sit, what you seem to be doing well on, where you seem to have weaker results than your peers, etc. In particular, look at the authors ahead of you and think about what you can do to emulate their processes… it's always noticeable that good editing and covers come up time and time again.
Ingram Spark UK Bookstore Sales
If you're a UK author who's noticed a problem with your books' supply or discounting in bookstores, we can now confirm that it arises from Ingram Content's move to direct wholesale in that territory.
Earlier this year, Ingram Spark set about establishing a UK-based wholesale offer for books supplied from their Milton Keynes’ printers. In time, this will be good for UK indie authors, offering the same sort of benefits enjoyed by authors in the US. There Ingram's iPage is the go-to source of book information and supply, giving booksellers a trusted, convenient online pipeline for finding prices, terms and stock availability. In the UK, however, other systems are more familiar and established and, despite many conversations with publishers, distributors, and booksellers, implementation has not gone smoothly.
Ingram is working to fix the situation, which goes beyond IngramSpark books, but unfortunately it doesn't look like it will sort this side of Christmas. Ben Hughes, Senior Manager at IngramSpark said today: While we can’t discuss the details, we are actively engaged with our channel partners on the terms and conditions of our agreements, and we have reached a resolution that is currently being implemented, and should impact customers within 1-2 weeks.
In the meantime, we are expanding our channels of distribution from our UK wholesale business, and encourage interested retailers to visit iPage, Ingram’s premier worldwide book ordering platform: https://lp.ingramcontent.com/retailers/ipage-education
Artificial Intelligence: Sound, then Art, then Text?
Next week I’ll be rounding up the year’s news. But one of the biggest stories of the year has been the rise of artificial intelligence. Specifically, the improvements in what it can do, and the frequency, effectiveness, and cheapness of the applications it can be used for. It started with voice production, as AI-generated narrative got more and more convincing. More recently, the focus has been on AI-generated art. After DALL-e and Midjourney, the last few weeks have seen people using Lensa to post superhero-like selfies.
Artists have been vocal in their concerns about this since it became clear that AI art had the potential to do serious damage to their careers. This week, a prominent author added his voice to the concerns. Chuck Wendig is hardly known for keeping his opinions to himself. And this week, his opinions are about AI art. Specifically, why he’s not going to be using or promoting AI art any more. He gives a list of 8 reasons. But he saves his most important to last. “More artists are asking us to leave AI art behind.” And he stated right at the start of his post, “you should always side with the artists.”
It’s been easy at each stage to say, “sure, it’s getting OK at that but it’ll never get really good. And if it does get good at that, it won’t get good at this…” The main prompt for Wendig to post now seems to come back to this kind of argument. The thing about AI art is that in the space of just a few months, it has got really really good. Just like voice narration did a few months before.
I am not taking sides, but there is a crucial logic here. Suppose AI does become really good at writing. And suppose it threatens writers’ livelihoods. If we didn’t take the side of the voice artists and cover artists, it might be a little inconsistent if we then expect people to take our side if we object to AI stories. We can, of course, continue to believe that the hypersonic growth we’ve seen in other fields might not apply to writing…
Open AI Thinks AI Text is Getting too Good
But that brings me to my next story. Open AI is worried AI-generated text is getting too good. Open AI is the group behind DALL-e 2, one of the pioneering AI art generators. They are all about more AI and better AI. And they think their ChatGPT AI, a chatbot that can do everything from answering questions to writing poetry, is getting so good that they are looking into watermarking the text it generates so people don’t mistake its words for those of a human. They've found, though, that this presents some technical challenges.
Meanwhile, on Twitter and other social media platforms, ChatGPT is convincing previously sceptical authors, who are using it in plotting, character development and asking it questions that create new stories in minutes. Watch this space!Self-publishing News: What Are the Highest Indie Author Earners Doing? Click To Tweet