I recently published some interesting statistics about author income. Written Word media also published in late 2019 the results of their author survey. It answers some great questions, like how much new authors make, how popular audiobooks are, genre differences and more.

Their data is based on survey responses from over 1,000 authors in September 2019. They refer to three segments of authors when looking at the data:

  • Emerging Authors – Authors who have never made more than $60k in a year from book sales
  • 60kers – Authors who have made over $60k in a year from book sales
  • 100kers – Authors who have made over $100k in a year from book sales

Emerging Author Income

How much are Emerging Authors (those making less than $60,000 per year) actually earning? This was a common question, and, thankfully, we have the data to get a little more granular.

As you can see from the graph above, the majority of Emerging Authors surveyed are making well below $60,000 per year.

As a matter of fact, most are making less than $6,000 per year.

Audiobook Popularity

Audiobooks are a rising segment of the publishing industry. It’s interesting to see how popular it is among authors.

Not terribly surprising, but as authors earn more, they are more likely to publish an audiobook.

This could be due to the fact that producing and publishing an audiobook requires more up-front investment. If you aren’t earning as much, it may be harder to justify investing in audio.

Genre Differences

Written Word media also had a few questions about genres, and how they differed by income level. Interestingly, there wasn’t much difference here between emerging and high-income authors among the following genres:

However, there were three genres that were over-represented by Emerging Authors: Literary Fiction, Children’s and Non-Fiction. 60kers were more likely to be writing in Paranormal, Romance, or Paranormal Romance.

The takeaway here is that you can write in any genre and still become a 60ker. Your odds of becoming a 60ker may be slightly lower if you write in Literary Fiction, Children’s or Non-Fiction.

Marketing Effectiveness In and Out of KDP Select

How important is going wide to an author’s success? It looks like both KDP Select authors and wide ones use the same marketing channels, suggesting it doesn’t really make that much of a difference (except to the hours you have to spend uploading and maintaining your titles across several media).

The chart above includes authors who either had all of their books enrolled in KDP select, or had no books enrolled in KDP select. The primary difference is reflected in the effectiveness of Bookbub Deals, which makes sense as Bookbub is more likely to accept your title for a feature if you are “wide”, and getting a Bookbub deal will spur sales across multiple retailers.

Author Employment

There is also some discussion around how long it takes authors to develop a backlist, especially when they also have a day job. This is how author employment broke down by author group:

As you might suspect, Emerging Authors are more likely to have a day job unrelated to their writing, and 100kers are most likely to support themselves and their family off of their writing.

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