Happy New Year Everybody.
It has become the norm in recent years for self-published authors to disclose their successes and failures for the good of the collective industry. In times gone past, authors were very closed-lipped and competitive about their contracts and earnings, but that was a different, more selfish time. Now we share, we help one another, and we support. When a self-published author shares his results it will either inspire or deter those walking in their footsteps. At the very least it educates and gives a representative view of what to expect when self-publishing. So, in the tradition of Joe Konrath and many other self-publishing pioneers, here are my earnings (Amazon KDP earnings only. Foreign books, audio, and books published elsewhere not included). Make of it what you will.
To start from the top and work downwards, Amazon paid me a total of £38,117 (Just over 60k dollars) in 2013. With various other payments from other avenues, I made about £45k in total ($72k). This is only my second full year of being a writer. In my first year I made £25k ($40k). In the year before, as a phone salesman, I made £20k ($32k). So one thing is very clear: self-publishing was the best thing I ever did. I made more than twice as much this year as I did a few years back working full-time as a salesman (a job i hated). I work about 25 happy hours a week currently; compared to the 45 hours per week I worked as a miserable salesman. I took 6 weeks off over Christmas, including all of December (I could barely get a couple days off over the holidays working retail), and still earned £5424 ($8700) that month. What other job could you get away with that!! Being with my family and enjoying spending time with them was the biggest bonus of all.
The above figures also show another interesting trend. I doubled my earnings this year from last. The money I am making from self-publishing is going UP not down. There is a lot of doom-mongering about things getting tougher and sales going down, and as you will see later, sales have indeed gone down title per title, but you can easily offset this loss by releasing more books (as I have shown). The reason I made more money this year than last is 100% because I released new books. That should be your absolute priority if you want to get into this gig and stay here. More books equals more money - Simples!
So, now that it has been established that, for me at least, self publishing = good times, lets look a little deeper. Here are my figures for 2012 (starting from March) and 2013.
Month 2012 2013
January * £2374 ($3800)
February * £1318 ($2550)
March £1330 £1591 ($2545)
April £1342 £1303 ($2085)
May £1535 £1881 ($3000)
June £1630 £2910 ($4700)
July £5254 £4800 ($7700)
August £2408 £3205 ($5130)
September £2225 £5034 ($8050)
October £2000 £3993 ($6400)
November £2079 £4393 ($7030)
December £2229 £5424 ($8700)
Now, it can be seen that the months are more or less in line year by year. The beginning of the year for me is bad (Feb to May) and I will admit that that last April I was beginning to grow pale. Fortunately, I released Ravage and The Housemates in time for Summer and my earnings shot upwards dramatically. My best month in 2012 was £5254 in July and was a one-off compared to the months before and after. During the Summer of 2013, every month of Summer hit high figures and only trailed off slightly towards Christmas. The increase in sales was due to the season (Summer always seems to be great) but also that I released new books. Releasing new books for summer sent my sales rocketing up. This again shows that releasing new books is the key to making money. Ravage came out in May 2013, The Housemates in July 2013, and I re-released Animal Kingdom in August.
The negative observation is that sales are indeed going down per title. The Final Winter made just under £10k in 2012 (and that doesn't include the sales in January and February that I did not record, so it was probably around 12k). In 2013 it only made £5500 (half as much). The sales for The Final Winter declined a lot but they did eventually steady (thankfully). I imagine it will make about £5000 a year quite comfortably from now on. However, my newest release, The Housemates, made £8000 ($13k) in just five months that it was sale in 2013 (August to December). More than The Final Winter made in 12 whole months. Ravage also made £8000, but in 7 months (not as good as The Housemates but still good). So it is clear that New Releases make much more money than older books (backlist). Again this shows that to make money you need to write and release new books. Your backlist will still make money, but your new releases will make more.
Now, providing I release another 3 or 4 books in 2014, I fully expect my earnings this year to be at least £70k ($110k). While the sales for The Housemates and Ravage may calm down to match those of The Final Winter, I fully expect my new releases to offset this loss plus add to my overall profit margin. I expect to make more in 2014 than 2013; and that's a good position to be in. Over Christmas I used the new Kindle countdown deals to great effect and I expect Amazon will continue to try new things. As long as you stay on top of these tools and keep writing, I believe we can all increase our earnings. Lots of guys are warning us things will get harder. I believe this may be so, on a book by book basis, but as writers we can still move forward by doing what we're supposed to: WRITING.
With foreign deals in the works, audio books, comic books, and more, I hope to move forward as a writer not backwards. I hope that all of you do the same :-)