Indie Earnings

Marie Force has released a comprehensive indie survey!

I’m WAY behind on posting my own update here (sorry, doing this is really time consuming and I’ve had NO time) but author Marie Force has just released the results of a much more comprehensive survey than I’ve ever attempted and you can see those HERE. Well worth a read!


First, thank you SO MUCH to everyone who participated in this year’s survey!
After several unexpected delays, I’ve finally had a chance to compile all the results from the 2014 “Quick & Dirty” indie earnings survey and crunch the numbers to the point I can put together a report that I hope you’ll find useful.
I should let you know that I’ve pretty much given up on the more detailed indie earnings surveys I attempted previously, since almost no one seems willing to take the time and trouble to parse out their earnings book by book. So, useful as that data might be, in the interests of getting a much broader response I’ll just be doing the quickie version from now on. That said, I did add a COUPLE of extra questions this year, resulting in some additional data I can now share with you.
Though I’m no longer collecting responses for 2014 earnings, you can still see the survey questions HERE.
The results of previous years’ surveys are below, if you want to scroll down for comparisons as you read.

Before I get to this year’s numbers, a bit of background and explanation:
This year, rather than asking authors to email me responses to my questions, I used an anonymous Google form survey, which had both advantages and drawbacks. The anonymity and ease of sharing and answering this year’s survey netted FAR more responses than previously and also made MY job enormously easier (so yes, I’ll be doing it this way going forward, for sure!) However, it also means I can’t follow up if a particular respondent’s answers are unclear or contradictory. For this reason, I had to delete a few authors’ responses entirely (but only a very few-maybe 3 or 4 out of 200+). However, if a response only looked to me like it MIGHT have contained an error or two (such as a misplaced decimal point), I went ahead and took that author’s reported data at face value. Hopefully this won’t have skewed results too much with such a large number of responses.
Like last year, I counted a title as a title, whether novella, full-length novel or bundle/anthology. In other words, if an author has 4 individual titles that are also included in a boxed set, those count as 5 titles total.
While it looks as though a few people MAY have listed the same books as indie-only titles (which I described as frontlist, never-traditionally-pubbed books) and backlist titles (previously trad-pubbed, now indie), I can’t be certain of that, so I’ve counted them separately. I’ll try to make that distinction crystal clear in the instructions for next year’s survey, since any such duplicates will artificially inflate the total number of indie titles reported.

And now…


This year I received responses from a total of 227 authors, representing 2,594 indie titles of which 1928 were frontlist indie titles and 666 were backlist (trad-pubbed, now indie) titles, assuming no duplicates (see above).

AVERAGE indie earnings reported per author: $91,337

Average number of indie-only (frontlist) titles per author: 8.45
Average number of backlist (but now indie) titles: 2.93
Average TOTAL indie titles per author: 11.43 (again, this number could be slightly inflated by any duplicate reporting)

Perhaps slightly more useful, since averages can be skewed by outliers:
MEDIAN earnings per author: $20,000 (half of earnings fell above, half below this amount)
Earnings reported ranged from a low of $4 (which might possibly have been a typo) to a high of $2.1 million.
This works out to an AVERAGE of $7,996 per title for 2014 earnings. (If there are duplicates in the frontlist & backlist columns, average per-title earnings would be greater.)

As I saw in my previous indie earnings surveys, the more titles an author has out, the greater that author’s earnings tend to be. HOWEVER, this year that correlation is noticeably weaker than in previous years. Several of the very top earners had fewer titles than many earning much less.

Genre seems to be as big a factor in earnings as total number of titles. Not being a statistician, I haven’t done a true statistical analysis, but I can report that those earning upwards of $250,000 in 2014 fell predominantly into three genres:
Contemporary Romance, Paranormal Romance, and Romantic Suspense/Mystery (in that order).
Earnings-wise, Historical Romance appears to be next in line, followed by such genres as Erotic Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy and Young Adult (order is less certain here as fewer authors of these genres responded).

This year I also asked which vendors accounted for the majority of authors’ earnings. As expected, Amazon was #1 for the vast majority of respondents. In fact, out of 227 authors, only 11 listed a vendor other than Amazon as their primary indie income source. Among the other major vendors, BN/Nook held a slight edge over Apple/iBooks, with Kobo and GooglePlay bringing up the rear (in that order). Interestingly, 38 authors listed “Other” as a vendor ranking in their top 3 (though only one listed “Other” as #1).
For next year’s survey, I’m open to listing more vendors as options for this question, if people will send me suggestions.

So there you have it! Please feel free to post questions/comments on my Money Talk page and I’ll do my best to address them.


Older reports:



Yes! It’s finally here! (Sorry for the delay—I was incredibly busy getting the third book in my Starstruck series ready to release last month.)

As promised, I repeated last year’s “Quick & Dirty” survey, since it netted so many more responses than the more detailed one. (People seem to prefer easy. Go figure.) Honestly, I really would like to keep doing my in-depth indie earnings survey, with earnings broken out by individual title, vendor, etc. but so few people are willing or able to gather those stats for me that until I find a way to streamline it (both for respondents and myself!) I’ll probably stick with this simpler (though arguably less informative) one.

Like last year, I asked only the following three questions:

1. What were your total INDIE earnings for 2013? (easy to figure by adding up 1099s from the various ebook vendors)

2. At the end of 2013,

a. How many frontlist (never before published) titles did you have available?

b. How many backlist (previously published by a publisher) titles did you have available?

3. What genre do you primarily write in? (If multiple, please list.)

As you can see if you scroll down to look at last year’s results, I received data from fewer authors, but for more titles than last year: 55 authors, representing 625 titles total.

This may be partly because 2013 was “The Year of the Boxed Set.” I had to decide early on how to count those, and finally decided that a title is a title—whether novel, novella or collection. Yes, this does mean that a few boxed sets might have been counted more than once, if more than one author in a multi-author collection reported to me. I have no way of knowing for sure, since I didn’t ask for titles and I don’t keep author names. (Ever!)

Interestingly, out of those 625 title, 430 were frontlist (never before published) books, while just 195 were backlist—a fairly dramatic change from last year. 32 of 55 authors reporting had ONLY frontlist titles available, while last year just 21 of 60 authors were indie-only. I imagine that’s because I had a different mix of authors responding this time around AND because more and more authors are jumping into the self-publishing fray. In addition, it’s getting harder and harder for traditionally published authors to wrest their rights back from publishers, which is undoubtedly cutting down on the number of backlist titles being newly self-published.

While earnings per TITLE dropped slightly compared to last year, from nearly $14,000 to about $12,500, earnings per AUTHOR rose. 2013 earnings averaged $141,350 per author, with median earnings of $55,211. Like last year, earnings per author ranged from a low of around $300 to a high of about $2.5 million, but I saw fewer at either extreme, with more clustering near the middle. More than a third of respondents reported 2013 earnings above $100,000, a similar proportion to last year.

Also like last year, the biggest single predictor of earnings seems to be the number of titles an author has available—not only for per author earnings but for per book earnings, as well. This is a trend I also observed in my more detailed survey. Having more titles available seems to sell more copies of each of those titles. (So get those books out there once they’re ready to go!)

Even more noticeably than last year, the genres representing the highest incomes overall (nearly all the six-figure responses, in fact) were mystery, contemporary romance and historical romance.

Though I don’t save names, at a guess I’d say at least half of this year’s authors were first-time respondents. While it would be great to have EVERYONE respond EVERY year, obviously there’s no way I can make that happen. You can help, though, by spreading the word! If I get enough late responses for 2013 (or even 2012), I’ll update these reports with the new figures.



Because I now realize how cumbersome it is for indie authors to separate out their earnings per title (I know, from doing this with my own titles!) I thought I might get a higher response rate (though with less detailed results) by putting out a “quick and dirty” version of my survey, timed right after everyone had done their 2012 taxes, so their earnings figures would still be handy. For this simplified survey, I asked only the following:

1. What were your total INDIE earnings for 2012? (easy to figure by adding up 1099s from the various ebook vendors)

2. At the end of 2012,

a. How many frontlist (never before published) titles did you have available?

b. How many backlist (previously published by a publisher) titles did you have available?

3. What genre do you primarily write in? (If multiple, please list.)

As I’d hoped, making it easy netted me FAR more responses than my more comprehensive indie survey (below). In just a few weeks’ time, I received data from 60 authors, representing nearly 600 independently published titles! And I found the results VERY interesting.

Out of 593 titles (so far), 219 were frontlist and 320 were backlist. (They don’t add up to the total because a few authors didn’t specify, while others had boxed sets including both frontlist and backlist, which counted as additional titles for sale.) The sixty authors responding had an average of nearly ten titles available by the end of 2012. 2012 indie-only earnings per author averaged $137,940 (yes, you read that right) with the median earnings figure at $51,211 per author. Responses ranged from the low three figures to the low seven figures (yes, you read that right, too). The average 2012 earnings per TITLE came to $13,957. I can’t compute a median figure per title, since I didn’t ask for book-specific earnings from my respondents, but it’s probably lower than that. The highest earners are spread across several genres, but romance (various subgenres) and mystery are heavily represented.

I’ll continue collecting data from this survey as well as the more detailed one below, and will periodically post updates here. Everything is kept totally anonymous—I don’t even save names in my own files. So please share and spread the word! Survey answers (to either survey, as well as my regular publisher survey) can be sent to

Detailed Indie Survey:

What I need for each title you’ve self-e-published is:

-Whether you’ve reported this title to me before

-Whether it’s a backlist (reprint) or new/ original title

-E-book release date


-Price (non-discounted)

-Lowest discounted price/for how long

-Total number of titles CURRENTLY available under this pen name (traditional & indie)

-Earnings to date for Kindle:

-for B&N:      (feel free to break down further by vendor, especially for significant sales)

-Total earnings to date:   (if you can only give me one figure, please give me this one!)

-Have you previously print published under this pen name?

-Number of months this title has been available

-Title acronym (first letter of each word in title)

Pease feel free to forward either of the above surveys to any and all indie authors you know. The more the merrier!


July 2012 Indie Earnings Report

I have enough extra data now to justify updating the initial Indie Earnings Report I did back in December, even though the numbers have changed a lot less than I expected over the past seven months. Looking at the data, one big reason is that nearly all of the new data came from new respondents, while very little was updated earnings from the authors who responded the first time around. PLEASE send me updated earnings figures! (See above)

That said, I now have data on a total of 151 titles, 66 of which are backlist/reprint and 85 of which are new, original titles. At this point, the average amount of time a title has been available as a self-published e-book is 7.8 months for backlist and 7 months for original, which is nearly unchanged from the December average. (Obviously, all or nearly all of the books reported last time are still available, but since I don’t have updated earnings for 95% of those, the earnings figures still apply to roughly the same amount of time available. (See above.)

The average non-discounted price is now $3.22 for backlist and $2.82 for original titles, showing a bit more separation than before. (See below for my original December report.) Authors seem to have realized the value of “sales,” since at this point 31% of original and 35% backlist titles have been either free or discounted at some point, substantially more than last time around, especially for backlist.

While I said there hadn’t been a lot of change since my first report, earnings have increased somewhat, even for roughly the same number of months of availability. My current data shows average earnings of $8,200 for backlist titles with a median of $5,400 and an average of $12,750 for original titles with a median of $6,000. Again, this is for an average of 7.8 and 7 months’ availability, respectively. Especially notable is the increase in median earnings, since that controls somewhat for outliers that can skew the average figures. (In December, the median earnings were about $4K for backlist and $5K for original titles, so both increased by about a thousand dollars.) The range is still about the same as before, as no new respondents topped that high of $140,000 total earnings reported last time, but earnings in the five figure range seem to be much more common now. As before, these earnings are across all channels, and Amazon sales still dominate, though several authors this time around reported Apple sales increasing, and in a few cases at least equaling Amazon earnings.

I’m still seeing little evidence that previous traditional publication noticeably increases earnings on new, original titles. At this point, 29 out of 85 original titles (34%) were put up by previously (print) published authors, compared to 11 of 49 (22%) last time around.

In a future report I hope to break out the numbers more thoroughly by categories (genre, price, whether or not a book has been discounted, how many other titles an author has available, etc.) For now, just scrutinizing the data I have, I can say that the MOST influential parameter, as one might expect, is how long a book has been available, as they tend to keep earning over time. (There are exceptions even here, especially if a new book has been part of a special promotion, like Nook First.) The second most influential parameter at this moment appears to be how many total titles an author has available. Promotional pricing (sales), even going free briefly, has less influence on total earnings than I’d have expected, though a few authors have reported that putting one book free has increased sales of their other books, especially if it’s a series. (That’s a parameter I probably should have been tracking from the start, I now realize: whether or not a book is part of a connected series. Ah, well, maybe next time.)

Again, please feel free to post questions about this survey on the “Money Talk” page and I’ll do my best to answer without compromising respondents anonymity. And please, please, please keep sending me data! (See top.)


Preliminary Indie Earnings Report (December 2011)

Okay, I’ve finally got some numbers to report, though they won’t be laid out as neatly as my regular Show Me the Money survey, I’m afraid. I have to confess, if I’d realized just what a slippery beast I’d be wrestling here, I probably would never have taken on this task! But since I did, here’s my promised report, which I hope will become more useful as time passes. For now:

I have data on a total of 82 titles at the moment, 33 backlist/reprint titles and 49 original titles (meaning they’ve only ever been self e-published). The average amount of time a title has been available as an e-book: 7.7 months for backlist, 6 months for original titles. (The longest was 16 months, the shortest 1 month.) This obviously means this survey is in its infancy and that these are VERY preliminary numbers! Please keep that in mind as you look at the rest of this, and emphasize it when you talk about it to others.

The average price people are charging (non-discounted) is: $2.93 for backlist, $3.02 for original. (Let’s just call it “about $3.”) As for discounting, 28% of original titles reported have been discounted, anywhere from a dollar off to free, for periods from a few days to a few months. For backlist, 18% of titles have been discounted at some point.

Now, what everyone’s really interested in: actual earnings.

For backlist, the average total amount earned over a book’s e-lifetime to date is $7,915. The median earned is $4,134. (Keep in mind the average length of time these books have been available is only 7.7 months!)

For original works, available an average of 6 months, total earnings to date average $12,548 with a median of $5,150.

These earnings per title range from just a few dollars to a current maximum of nearly $140,000. (Obviously, these figures are changing daily as more books sell. I emphasize again that this is merely a snapshot, taken very early in the game!) These earnings are across ALL channels, to include Amazon Kindle, B&N, Smashwords (including all channels supplied by Smashwords) and other, lesser-known (so far) vendors. I had hoped to break earnings down by vendor, but while Amazon is clearly the top seller for most (not all!) authors, the figures weren’t complete enough to allow me to do that. Many respondents only listed a total figure and quite a few others only gave me total earnings for all of their titles combined, forcing me to average their figures. A few respondents made a point of telling me that the majority of their sales came from an unexpected source (Apple in one or two cases, AllRomance eBooks in another), and for a handful of authors, B&N sales far surpassed Amazon earnings. No one was able to speculate on reasons, however, and I won’t even attempt to do so.

In case you’re curious, only 11 out of 49 original titles were put up by previously published authors, and earnings don’t appear to be significantly better (or worse) based on prior traditional publication. In fact, the single highest-earning title reported to me was an indie original by a previously unpublished writer with no other books available to date.

I had also hoped to group earnings by genre, and still hope that I’ll be able to do that in the future, but for now, the titles are spread across too many genres to make that doable (or useful). Genres respresented (backlist and original) include Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Romantic Suspense, Mystery (of various types, including Historical), Young Adult (again, various types), Thriller, Women’s Fiction, Erotica, Romantic Comedy and Paranormal Romance of various types. I’ve put all the info I was given on my spreadsheet in hopes that eventually I will have enough data to break things down further, making this survey more useful.

Feel free to post questions about this survey on the “Money Talk” page and I’ll do my best to answer (without compromising respondents anonymity, of course). And keep sending me data! (see below) I hope to update this survey periodically just as I do the other one, making it more and more representative and useful as time goes on.

**Anyone interested enough to read this far should also check out if you haven’t already. It’s much more comprehensive than my reports, though using a very different methodology.