The vast majority of traditional publishing’s midlist-or-better earners started their careers more than a decade ago. Their more-recently debuted peers are not doing anywhere near as well. Fewer than 700 Big Five authors and fewer than 500 small-or-medium publisher 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. The gap becomes even more pronounced when we look at those authors who first debuted in the last five years, or during the “ebook era.” And when we look at just the most recent debuts from each publishing path, only 250 Big Five authors and 200 recent small or medium publisher authors who debuted in the last three years are earning a midlist-or-better income from their Amazon sales. By contrast, there are over 1,000 indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years who are doing so. There are twice as many indie authors who debuted in the past 5 years now earning a six figure run rate than Big Five authors who were first published in the same time period and are able to do the same. Recent small- or medium-publisher authors are even farther behind: there are four times as many indies earning six figures as small- or medium-press authors who also launched in the last five years. More than 1,080 indie authors, most of them brand new debuts from the last five years, are currently earning at a $50K/year or higher run rate from just their Amazon sales. The 28 Big Five authors earning 7 digits include traditional publishing’s most recognizable and longest tenured mega-bestseller household names: James Patterson, Nora Roberts, George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon, David Baldacci, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Janet Evanovich, and the like. As of May 5, 2016, only 3 Big Five authors who debuted in the past 5 years are currently making a seven figure run rate from their Amazon sales — print, audio, and ebook combined. On the other hand, 14 indies who debuted in the same time period are right now doing the same. But what about those “invisible” authors earning $100,000+ per year…? The ones we keep anecdotally hearing about (and hearing from), who don’t show up on any Amazon category best seller lists? Well, we found them. They were hiding in plain sight, in our million-title May data set. Turns out there were 43 of them lurking unseen in the dark spaces between Amazon’s bestseller lists, including one author invisibly earning more than $250,000 a year. Unsurprisingly, 30 of the 43 invisible six-figure earners — including the top earner — were self-published indie authors. Most were writing in the Romance Fiction genres, but there was also an indie author of editor’s-choice Cozy Mystery Fiction, and even more surprising, a traditional-award-winning indie writer of Literary Fiction. We happen to think that’s pretty cool. When we lowered the author earnings bar to $50,000 a year, we found 142 invisible authors that were earning that much or more on Amazon.com, without any of their titles appearing on any category best-seller lists. 105 of those 142 were self-published indies. We live in exciting times. Today it’s possible to be a full-time professional author, quietly earning $50,000+ a year — even six figures a year — without ever sending a query letter to anyone. On Amazon alone, the data shows over a thousand indie authors earning a full-time living right now with their self-published titles. The only gatekeepers that matter now are readers.
Traditional Publishing, Independent Publishing, Hybrid, Old Model, New Model, Etc.
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I crunched some paragraphs from the Mad Genius Club's new author earnings report:
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