Only 40 Self-Published Authors are a Success, says Amazon

For those looking to become rich and famous as an author…Don’t write for the money.

Claude Forthomme's Blog

The cat is out of the bag, finally we know exactly how many self-published authors make it big: 40.

Yes, that’s not a typo.

40 self-published authors “make money”, all the others, and they number in the hundreds of thousands, don’t. This interesting statistic, recently revealed in a New York Times article, applies to the Kindle Store, but since Amazon is in fact the largest digital publishing platform in the world, it is a safe bet that self-published authors are not doing any better elsewhere.

“Making money” here means selling more than one million e-book copies in the last five years. Yes, 40 authors have managed that, and have even gone on to establishing their own publishing house, like Meredith Wild. Her story is fully reported in the New York Times, here, and well worth pondering over.

That story reveals some further nuggets about the current…

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4 thoughts on “Only 40 Self-Published Authors are a Success, says Amazon

  1. I read that a few days ago, and while I understand how Amazon reached this number of 40, I think their evaluation of all self-published authors is incorrect. I know authors who don’t sell on Amazon, but sell hundreds (sometimes thousands) of printed books in person. They sell them at conferences such as HalCon, and speaking engagements. I know a few who don’t sell much on Amazon but sell hundreds on ChaptersIndigo.

    Their statement says only one thing: 40 self-published authors sold more than a million copies of their eBooks in the past five years.

    Perhaps ten of those 40 authors sold a million copies of their eBooks priced at $0.99. What about the ones who sold half as many for $3.99? Who makes the most money?

    The 40 number is something that will be regurgitated for next year. It is meant to discourage self-publishing. Well, I’m not discouraged because average traditionally published authors don’t have it any easier, and they are not making any more money than we are.

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    • I didn’t look at it as a way to discourage, I looked at it as a sign that writing isn’t what you should do if you’re looking to only turn a profit.
      I don’t discourage anyone from writing their story, even if you don’t make money from the endeavor, it’s good to get somethings off your chest. I think people would be surprised just how much writing can lift a weight off of your soul.

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      • I don’t disagree with you: writing helps me get through life. It’s beneficial for the soul. I’d write regardless if I published or not. In fact, I’d write more if I didn’t publish because I’d have more time to just write.

        But I don’t edit my drafts, spend hours getting every word right, then hire an editor and market my books for my health. So while I write for the soul, I publish for the money. I need money to eat and for a warm, dry place to sleep. I also like taking in a film now and again.

        I invest in my writing/publishing because that’s my retirement fund. So yes, I write to turn a profit, and I feel these sorts of ‘announcements’ are geared toward discouraging self-publishers. But they are falling on blind eyes with me. They only make me work smarter.

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  2. I couldn’t read that article, but I’m dubious about the spin on that number. It implies an annual income of approx $400,000 to $500,000. How many authors in general make that? I’m guessing not many. However, there are a large number of authors (over a 1000 at least) on Amazon making around $50,000 per year, which is a decent wage. And many more than that who are making over $20,000 per year. I think most people would consider that “making money”.

    So I tend to agree that the purpose was to have a headline to that make self-publishing look unprofitable, since few people will actually read the article compared to those who see the headline, and the NYT is not a champion of indie authors. I wonder if Amazon will respond to this at some point (given they hasn’t mentioned that stats in their KDP newsletter).

    But you larger point is valid, Riley: whatever is considered “making money” — be 40 or 40,000 (a more reasonable estimate) — that is a tiny percentage of all authors. Very few authors will see a living wage from their work, but that is not the point of writing (doing almost anything else is more likely to provide a living wage than writing). Writing is it’s own reward, and whatever we get from it in terms of income is pretty gravy.

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