Last month, Written Word Media shared the results of yet another extensive author survey they’ve run, to tease out the strategies and tactics successful authors were using to achieve their success. The survey compared authors making over $100,000 in a single year vs. authors who earn less than $500 / month from book sales. They call these two groups 100Kers and Emerging Authors. Approximately 11% authors surveyed fell into the 100K bucket, so it’s a pretty exclusive club but also one that is within reach.
The results are well worth checking out in full, but here’s a brief summary you may find of interest:
1. Success Takes Time
The vast majority of 100kers– almost 90% –have been writing more than 3 years, compared to only 59% of Emerging Authors. On average, that means 100kers have just been at this longer. Experience counts for a lot and emerging authors shouldn’t get discouraged. It takes time to build an audience for your books.
2. Indie Publishing is a Viable Pathway to Success
Of all 100kers none were purely traditionally published. The rest were either Indies or hybrid authors. To be precise, 72% were indie and 28% were hybrid. Publishing Independently rewards authors with higher royalty rates which means it is easier to start generating meaningful revenue when you self-publish. Indeed, fewer than 700 Big Five authors who debuted in the last 10 years are now earning $25,000 a year or more on Amazon — from all of their hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook editions combined. By contrast, over 1,600 indie authors are currently earning that much or more.
3. The Great Wide vs. Exclusive Debate is not Settled
It turns out that the choice to go wide or stay exclusive with Amazon doesn’t change your probability of making it to the 100k club. Almost as many people from both groups (about two-thirds, to be precise) are KDP-exclusive.
4. 100kers Have Professional Covers
The graph below speaks for itself: the vast majority of Emerging Authors pay under $100, whereas the majority of 100kers pay over $100.
5. 100kers Have Professional Editors
Just like with book covers, there is a clear discrepancy between what each group spends, with EAs opting for more economical services.
6. Both Groups Handle Marketing Themselves
For both 100kers and Emerging Authors, over 90% of them report doing their marketing themselves. The only difference is that 100kers can hire some help. 45% of 100kers reporting having a ‘helper’ like an intern or assistant who helps with marketing. This makes sense: once you make $100K, you can afford to hire someone.
To take the Marketing question one step further, Written Word Media wanted to know which promotional techniques 100kers were using. In the graph above, notice that 100ers use 3 techniques more than EAs:
- Discount Deal Sites,
- Facebook Ads, and
- Amazon Ads.
All of these are paid marketing techniques that require a budget.
Additionally, notice that there are 3 techniques used more by EAs than 100kers:
- In-person signings,
- Social media, and
- Book Giveaways.
All of these are mostly free or very low cost but are more difficult to scale and may not be as effective. The pattern is clear: paying for marketing works, and 100kers have figured that out.
7. 100kers Write More
The 100kers write a lot more than the emerging authors. Emerging Authors spent 19.8 hours per week writing, compared to 100Kers who spent 28.6 hours per week writing. That’s a 46% increase! All that extra writing pays off.
Also, when we look at the total number of books published, we see a huge difference. The 100kers have on average 30.3 books in their catalog. Emerging authors had around 7 on average. Averages don’t tell the whole story: the maximum number of 100kers’ books was 63 and the minimum was 7. Which means the 100ker with the least amount of books still had 7 books in their backlist.
Spending more time writing yields more published books, which appears to be a successful strategy.