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On the Author Earnings Report

Iain Broome
Iain Broome
2 min read

This has been causing a significant stir this week. Compiled by author Hugh Howey and a sadly unspecified data guru, it’s a report on the present and future of publishing and, in particular, author earnings.

It’s a fascinating read and I encourage you to take a look. In the end, it makes a pretty compelling case for indie publishing as a route to sustainable income as an author. In that sense, this excerpt struck a chord:

Our fear is that authors are selling themselves short and making poor decisions based on poor data. That is the main purpose for fighting for earnings transparency: helping aspiring writers choose the path that’s best for them. A secondary goal is to pressure publishers to more fairly distribute a new and lucrative source of income. Operating in lockstep in offering authors only 25% of net is not just unfair but unsustainable, as more and more authors are going to jump to self-publishing.

But there are some caveats.

Though the data is interesting and important, I’d like to know a little more about the way it was collected. I’m not saying it’s inaccurate, but if you’re going to create something that influences the thoughts and actions of many writers, it’s surely worth sharing as much of the research process as possible.

The second thing worth noting is that the data focuses exclusively on three types of genre fiction – mystery/thriller, sci-fi/fantasy, and romance. What are authors of literary fiction supposed to do with this data? Or any other genre that doesn’t fall into the chosen three?

Howey says he picked these genres for analysis because they are the three most popular. But on a personal level, as an author who writes outside of those genres, the results are next to useless. Could I have earned more by self-publishing A is for Angelica? I’ve got no idea and never will.

Maybe I’m being a little churlish. Clearly there has been a huge amount of effort gone into this research and the findings really should make all authors think about the decisions they take when it comes to their work. I think it’s fair to say that times they are no longer changing. They have changed.

Update: A longer, more comprehensive version of the report has now been published, which answers some of my questions.

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I'm the author of the novel, A is for Angelica. Every week, I send Draft Mode, a newsletter full of tips and tools that help you improve your craft and promote your writing.