Indie authors earn 'up to double' the amount of those who are traditionally published
Published: 21 June 2023
Self-published ‘indie’ authors are earning up to double the amount of those using traditional publishing models, according to analysis by the UofG’s CREATe.
Self-published ‘indie’ authors are earning up to double the amount of those using traditional publishing models, according to analysis by the University of Glasgow’s CREATe (UK Copyright & Creative Economy Research Centre) of a first of its kind global study undertaken by the Alliance of Independent Authors, and sponsored by Self-Publishing Formula.
‘Indie Authors’ Earnings 2023’ found that the average incomes of self-published authors are rising, with a 53% increase in 2022 over the previous year. The median revenue in 2022 for self-published (indie) authors was US$12,749. This is in contrast to the median of US$8,600 for authors with third-party publishers.
There is also a significant reverse gender gap, with LGBT+ authors earning more on average than heterosexual authors, and cisgender women earning more than cisgender men.
However, patterns of low pay for black authors continue to be perpetuated, and disabled authors earn more than three times less than able-bodied authors.
The independent survey, which was open to authors worldwide, is the first of its kind to be conducted in the self-publishing sector. Analysis focussed on indie authors who had self-published at least one book, and who spent at least 50% of their working time on writing or self-publishing activities.
The analysis found that indie authors work in a ‘winner-takes-all' market, with a highly unequal distribution of income: in 2022, the top 1% authors earned 31% of total revenues.
Romance, Crime/Thriller and Fantasy perform best, with authors writing in these genres earning a typically higher income than more generalist indie authors. Those who utilise new business models (such as crowdfunding and patron platforms) as opposed to more traditional routes tend to see the highest growth in revenues.
Age is a factor in success, with the highest income derived between 35-44 at 30,752 USD, and the highest increase in income between years from ages 25-34 at 124%.
Authors who began self-publishing either immediately before (1990-1999) or during (2000-2009) the establishment of digital indie publishing typically earn the most (28,079 and 25,000 USD respectively). This suggests those who began self-publishing before/during the establishment of the digital eBooks market have an ‘early bird’ advantage by establishing themselves in less crowded marketplaces.
‘Indie Authors’ Earnings 2023’ builds on 2022’s ‘Authors’ Earnings and Contracts’ a UK based survey of 60,000 authors about their earnings and professional lives, that found there is an accelerated trend in the decline of writing as a profession. CREATe was commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) to conduct this independent research.
Darren Hardy, Author and Editorial Programmes Manager at Amazon.co.uk, said: “We’re delighted with these findings that prove self-publishing provides a successful route to publication for authors of all backgrounds, and more importantly, makes it financially viable for many writers to be able to publish and sell their books and reach readers all around the world. We’re particularly pleased to see that self-publishing has proved a successful means of getting books by LGBTQIA+ and other underrepresented authors into the hands of readers who so clearly enjoy them. We believe anyone who writes and wishes to be an author should not face barriers, financial or otherwise.”
Dr Amy Thomas, of the School of Law’s CREATe, contributed and analysed data for both surveys. She said:
“These are interesting and hopeful findings, especially following our research into authors’ earnings and contracts, which showed writing as a primary profession is under threat following COVID, Brexit and the ongoing cost of living crisis.
“It is particularly heartening to see that indie authors are faring so well on the cultural diversity front, in comparison to authors who publish through traditional trade presses (or equivalent), especially as we celebrate PRIDE month and the contribution made to cultural markets by the LGBT+ creative community. It could suggest that when we remove traditional gatekeepers and allow people access to the cultural market without traditional restrictions, it enables more diverse voices that are not meaningfully enabled under a publishing house paradigm.
“However, the experience of black and disabled indie authors show that many systematic issues continue to prevent meaningful participation and sustainability of a writing career.”
First published: 21 June 2023