Self-published authors have an advantage in maintaining control over their books’ selling price. But all authors must understand the contract terms from their distributors and/or publishers on how different prices affect royalty rates. You can review general information on the major eBook distributors in our Self-Publishing section, but your contract terms will be the most accurate.
Start making plans now for how to track earnings and royalties received from each distributor. We’ve included some Excel spreadsheet options below with download links.
Sales Figure Breakdowns
How much money do indie authors earn from their books? There’s no simple answer. Every author, every title will be unique. Some factors that can affect sales include:
- Whether the author has an established brand or is a debut author
- Number of distributors who carry the title
- Number of formats available for the title
- The author’s marketing plan for the title (paid ads, blog tour, reviews and more)
- Price of the book
Commercially published authors who don’t have first-hand access to their sales figures and must rely on “ranking” on the online retailers to guess at how many books they’re selling can learn much from reviewing information shared by indie authors. Authors are becoming increasingly willing to discuss hard numbers and we thank them.
- The Bookseller quotes a Taleist survey that in self-publishing “under 10% of authors earn a living”.
- On the Amazon Kindle Boards, there’s an active thread discussing authors who have sold 50,000 or more self-published ebooks to date.
There are a few individual authors who track their sales—on both indie books and commercially published books’ royalty statements—and post updates on their blogs. Keep in mind that these are merely examples and should not be viewed as likely results. Your sales may be bigger or smaller.
- Marsha Canham discusses her earnings from print vs digital books and the costs involved in selling them
- Gemma Halliday
- Debra Holland sales for 2011
- Debra Holland shares her results after one calendar year of indie book sales
- Trish McCallen (also check the sidebar at this linked page for more blog posts about sales figures)
- Courtney Milan compares two different royalty statements—one from a publisher, one on her indie book
- Lisa Mondello
- Nina Pierce shares a reality check of sales figures
- Theresa Ragan (also check her Sales Ranking Chart)
- Cate Rowan tracks her first year of sales (August 2010-2011) on The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood
- Eric Wilson, a NYT Bestselling Author, discusses the reality of earnings from his commercially published books
- Nora Wilson shares her 2011 sales results
Show Me The Money
Brenda Hiatt has also added indie books to her Show Me The Money chart. She updates it at least twice per year, and the chart shows average advances and royalties from print publishers, digital publishers and, now, indie authors. Authors are encouraged to send her information to add to her statistics.