Here are the results from my poll of authors regarding different publishing avenues and making a living. The poll got 86 responses, and the breakdown is as follows:
Authors who used Traditional/E-book Publishers – 59%
- 81% earned a profit on their books
- 11% broke even on their books
- 8% lost money on their books
- 68.6% earned $0-$5,000
- 25.7% earned $5,001-$10,000
- 5.7% made over $10,000
Conclusion: If you publish your book with a traditional/e-book publisher, you’ll probably make money, but it will likely amount to less than $5,000 a year.
Authors who Self-Published – 34%
- 71.43% made a profit on their self-published books
- 10.71% broke even on their self-published books
- 17.86% lost money on their self-published books
- 70% earned $0-$5,000
- 15% earned $5,001-$10,000
- 15% earned over $10,000
Conclusion: If you self-publish your book, your odds of making a profit are about 10% less than if you went with a traditional/e-book publisher but are still good. Your odds of losing money are three times higher. You’ll most likely earn under $5,000, but if you get lucky, your odds of earning over $10,000 on self-publishing are actually more than double than if you went the more traditional publishing route. It’s a gamble, but one that can pay off.
Authors who used a Self-Publishing Service – 7%
- 80% of authors who used a self-publishing service made a profit.
- 20% of authors who used a self-publishing service lost money
- 100% earned between $0 and $5,000
Conclusion: Not many authors have tried a self-publishing service. If you choose this route, your odds of making money are about the same as if you went with a more traditional publishing route, but your odds of losing money are even higher than with self-publishing. Based on these responses, you’re almost guaranteed to learn less than $5,000.
Overall, about 60% of authors reported that their writing royalties from all sources only make up a supplemental income for them, meaning they get the bulk of their income from a day job or other source. 33% make a part-time living off writing, and only 7% actually earn a full-time living. You can definitely aim to make it into that lucky 7% who make a living by writing full-time, but don’t feel bad if your royalty check only covers a small bill or two. You’re not alone.
Thank you to everyone who responded to this poll. This is excellent data for all of us authors to have.