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Survey Shows Drastic 42 Percent Decline in Authors Earnings in Last Decade


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“The Authors Guild’s 2018 Author Income Survey, the largest survey of writing-related earnings by American authors ever conducted finds incomes falling to historic lows to a median of $6,080 in 2017, down 42 percent from 2009.”


Read the conclusions drawn from the survey here.


There are many additional reason for this decline, not mentioned by the authors guild, because as a bookseller I see the problem from a different angle. During the same period my revenue from the sales of books has declined as well.  This is the reason there are fewer booksellers online, or offline, than there were 10 years ago. The major reason: Amazon.


I sell books anyway they can be sold; I sell books directly; send readers to the author's, publisher's, and even other indie booksellers; and I sell books as an affiliate of Amazon, IndieBound, and Barnes & Noble.  The vast majority of readers chose to purchase books from Amazon.


Last year Amazon cut affiliate commission in half to 4%.  Effectively cutting my book sales revenue in 1/2 overnight. Amazon also pressures authors, through their KDP Select program to give away free books for a period, to keep ebook prices below $2.99 (99 cents is not uncommon), and to give Amazon the exclusive right to sell their ebook (this would normally be laughable if Amazon were not a monopoly). Authors do this in exchange for some "promotion" and higher "royalties."


As a result, I'm increasingly earning 4% on the sale of a 99 cent eBook. My commissions earned from Amazon, on the sale of books, have plummeted. A question for the author: What incentive do I have to sell an ebook that I will generate less than 4 pennies in revenue?   


What am I doing about it.  I'm working to bypass Amazon completely and to ultimately drop all of my Amazon affiliate links.


I've already turned down listing books of authors who have given Amazon exclusive right to sell.  But I'm also working with some of these authors to sell their book through their own websites. I'm also working on a commission model that allows both the author and any bookseller to make more money on the sale of a book than we would if we went through Amazon.


Let's be clear: Amazon has a monopoly on the sale of Black books. When we give a corporation that much power over our culture, we are all impoverished not just economically but spiritually.



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  • 1 year later...

This is very good news:


Self-published authors’ earnings are rising rapidly, but they still make less than traditionally published authors.

  • While the median book-related income for self-published authors nearly doubled since 2013, rising to $1,951, they still earned 58 percent less than traditionally published authors.
  • Among the authors surveyed who ranked in the top decile for book-related earnings, self-published authors earned 50 percent less with an annual median of $154,000.

Like I said in another post my goal is $65,000 in a year of sales from this first book alone. But from this article I can see my next goal should be $154,000.

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Since I wrote my response.  I have dropped all Amazon links, but I have decided to allow advertisers to link to Amazon.   


Many authors do not have websites, have published through and sell exclusively through Amazon, so they have nowhere else to send readers to buy their books -- I can't even sell their book here on AALBC as I'd have to source them from the author -- which is inefficient.  this is an alarming trend... but that is another story.


Again I believe Amazon's near monopoly has contributed to lowering of the average author's revenue.  Part of the reason is there are more authors than ever and therefore simply less money to spread around.  Amazon also extracts more wealth from the authors, as mentioned, putting downward pressure on list prices and and extracting a higher percentage of the book production and sales without adding any value to the quality of the production.


I took an ad from an author who published their book through Amazon.  The book's title had a typo! Amazon really does not care what they publish even a cursory glance at the author's book would have caught that error.  But again, authors feel they are saving money by going through Amazon, but at what cost?


@daniellegfny Good luck with your goal.  It is indeed aggressive -- bold even. $154K in sales within a year for a an independently published children's book, during a global pandemic, by an unknown author and illustrator would indeed be impressive.


If your book retails for $15 (which would be pricey) you'd have to sell more than 10 thousand copies.  That is a lot of books man! 



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1 hour ago, Troy said:

If your book retails for $15 (which would be pricey) you'd have to sell more than 10 thousand copies.  That is a lot of books man! 

What’s the point in writing if you aren’t going to be read? If you are selling books you have to establish a plan that is going to make you known. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges authors face. It’s not the competition, developing and executing plans which get the in front of people.37725F30-BD71-41E2-A4B9-F4E00A5EDCE9.thumb.png.f7d8520d6011164d378fd41b82248263.png 

If you don’t have goals it’s harder to aim for greatness. I now need to learn redirection or hire someone who does it.

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