Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest magazine announced some of the results of an in-depth author survey at this morning’s Digital Book World Conference and Expo in New York. The survey asked more than 9,000 authors to respond to some highly specified questions on the industry; those authors were placed in different categories based on their respective roles in the book business: aspiring (unpublished) authors, traditionally published authors, self-published authors, and the increasingly popular hybrid authors, or those who are published by both the traditional industry and have self-published titles.
Phil Sexton presented some of the early findings in a keynote entitled “What Authors Want,” and the findings were very illuminating about the industry as a whole. Some of the key findings include:
- Authors responding were skewed farther more towards fiction authors, partly due to the involvement of writers’ associations who helped promote the survey.
- Despite its status as a very new genre, 30% of the respondents reported that they write New Adult, demonstrating its popularity for both readers and writers.
- Hybrid authors appeared to be more active, both in their hourly writing time (20-24 hours per week, compared to 10-14 hours a week) and the time they spend working on building their author platforms (7-9 hours per week, instead of 3-6 hours a week from other authors).
- Hybrids are also producing more published titles by almost four to one.
- The number one reasons authors gave for why they write was to create something that people would buy; not to be confused with wanting to make money, the authors want to write and publish books that readers want to read enough to pay for. Aspiring writers’ reason was to satisfy the long-term goal of being published.
- Prestige and brand building were the least important reason for writing across all categories.
- Annual Writing Income:
- Nearly 80% of self-published authors are making $1000 or less per year, but in a startling find, 54% of traditionally published authors also make $1000 or less annually. 57% of hybrid authors make $1000 or more per year.
- Amazingly, only 2% of traditionally published authors earn $100,000 or more per year, while 8% of hybrid authors make that income.
- Most of the traditionally published authors who answered reported that they did not receive an advance, or opted not to answer. The most common advance for a traditionally published author is between $1000 and $3000.
- Traditionally published authors unsurprisingly receive the lowest royalty percentage, hybrid authors were next, followed by self-published authors who make the highest royalties. Interestingly, hybrid authors reported being able to negotiate for a slightly higher royalty, possibly due to the publishers’ awareness that these authors have the ability and fan base to self-publish their titles instead.
- Hybrids have a basis for comparison due to their experience with both industries, and therefore were less likely to believe that traditional publishing would offer their books a greater audience and better marketing support.
- Interestingly, less than 25% of self-published and hybrid authors believe that the quality of a traditionally published book is better than a self-published title.
- In a final startling revelation, 4.6% of self-published authors state they are “very satisfied” with their sales, but only 8.2% of traditionally published authors can say the same.
In a session immediately following this panel, hybrid author Dana Beth Weinberg, who helped author the resulting report, said one thing publishers need to take away from this data is the need to rethink and restructure their contracts with authors, not just their tangible book contracts, but in a more social realm in terms of how they perceive of and treat their authors.
The full data set is available for sale from Digital Book World.