Tag: pay

Earnings of Self-Published Authors

Like many folks I have been hearing about how “rich” the self-publishing market is and that it is good business for authors to put out their books themselves rather than submitting to traditional presses.

I think many people have fantasized of that “one big hit” or of the “big payoff.”  We hear the stories of authors like Amanda Hocking, EL James, and HM Ward (the last who has chosen not to sign with a traditional publisher) and wonder if the battle for a manuscript, an agent, an editor, a publisher, is worth it all. Isn’t self-publishing the way to go?

A few years ago there was a survey done of 1,007 self-published writers and what it found was that although a few were earning $100,000 or more, the average earnings for a self-published author were around $10,000 a year, not exactly the stuff that dreams are made of.  And of course, as we learned in mathematics class, the average, or mean, is easily skewed by a few high numbers/earners.  What does that mean? That means that out of the 1,007 writers, about half of them were making less than $500 a year.

Of course, many of the more successful self-published authors began their writing life as traditionally published authors. I may have to see if there is an updated survey to discover if things have changed overmuch.


You can read more about the earnings of self-published authors here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/24/self-published-author-earnings?CMP=twt_fdhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/may/24/self-published-author-earnings?CMP=twt_fd

UPDATE: It looks like there have been several different surveys looking at self-published author earnings and all of them quite contentious. 🙂 I shall definitely have to follow up.



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Submitting your Writing – Paying Markets Only?

I was recently in a discussion with a colleague about where to submit my short stories. I’ve had a few sales but am still very much the “shiny new writer.” Her suggestion was to publish wherever, get my name out there, and my work seen. Then I become more of a known quantity and at least for some collections and editors, have a greater chance for that  “extra second” in the reviewing process or potentially, an invitation to submit somewhere.

Less than a week later, I ended up in a similar discussion with a colleague from my writing group. Her response was – Absolutely not! Send your work to paying markets.  It doesn’t matter if your story is a perfect fit for this anthology’s theme or what they’re looking for; you should be looking for paying markets only.  If one doesn’t take it, keep sending it out.  Better to take time and receive rejections until it finally sells rather than “throw it away” on a non-paying market.

Now I’m somewhere in the middle of this argument.  Some of you may have read my post about using a Submission Matrix to determine where I send my writing to (although that mechanism doesn’t work particularly well with the rising number of anthologies – paid, unpaid, and “prestige” currently out there).  It’s a combination of looking at pay scales and publication reputation (based on awards such as Hugo or Nebula winners) to prioritize where I submit to.  Although I will say I am occassionally tempted by some themed anthologies, even if they are no-pay because the subject or issue interests me.  That’s where it becomes difficult for me to determine whether or not to follow through on submitting to that market.

So, when it doubt, I sought the advice of the internet and Harlan Ellison answered my question.  Albeit rather vehemently.  🙂  He says, writers should be paid and agreeing to work for nothing is amateurish and destructive for writers as a whole.  It isn’t just about money, but about respect for the work, and recognition that writing IS work.  I have to admit, I found his argument relatively persuasive.

What do you think?  Will you send you blood, sweat, and written work to non-paying markets?  Why?  Does this really benefit the “new” writer?  I’m curious to hear from other people.

Submission Matrix

Matrix Image by Patrick HoeslyNo, not THAT kind of matrix – a submission matrix.

Okay, so you’ve now finished the ‘story of the century.’ You’ve shed blood, sweat and tears; sacrificed your free time, good eating habits, and small children and animals to complete this you-know-it’s-going-to-be-world-changing final draft. Now what?

I get to that point and then start to feel overwhelmed. Seriously! There are so many places to submit a short story these days – magazines, webzines, anthologies, specialized anthologies, U.S.-based and outside, pro-paying, semi-pro and more. How to figure it out? Without abandoning spouse and children again for computer and submission process.

My answer was to create a Submission Matrix (I really like saying that, makes me feel smart). Okay, back on topic. What I mean is to make a list of what is important to you – pay, prestige, just being “out there” in publication?

I start with pay. Why? Because, for me personally that is what I use to define authors from folk like me who are still at the writing phase of our careers. I’m looking for professional rates first and foremost – $0.05 a word. I include all magazines etc that meet that requirement. Then I look for those that pay $0.01-$0.04 per word, followed by those that offer at least some compensation.  There aren’t as many as you’d think. 

After pay, prestige is the second most important element. There are a few places that, while they don’t quite meet the professional pay rate are known in the industry as solid performers, or as having a quality product, or an eye for up-and-coming authors. There are several ways go discover these “prestige” markets. One way is simply word of mouth through authors, editors, agents, other writers…The way I do it is through awards.  I look at the Hugos and Nebulas, Edgars and Bram Stokers (depending on the genre) and see where the winners have been published.  Many are from “pro-zines” but not all.  And if you’re willing to read back a few years, you’ll find that many of the same “prestige” magazines show up over and over.  It is also a great way to spot up-and-coming magazines that even if they don’t pay $0.05 a word yet, may one day be able to do so.

Third, is responsiveness.   Published authors always say to send your story out and keep sending it out; that’s the best way to eventually get it published and in front of the public.  But I know how I am, in a word – lazy.  I’ll submit a story and if it gets rejected, I tend to be slow about submitting again.  Not becuase of hurt feelings, or because I think the work is subpar, but I’m just downright lazy.  Nowadays, it doesn’t even have to be put in the mail as a number of publications accept email submission.  So, I want to find places to submit that have a quick turnaround time.  If I get a response relatively quickly, I’m more likely to resubmit my work to somewhere else.  Of course, from a mathematical point of view, if I receive quicker responses, the sooner I can send stories out again, the more places see it, the more likely the odds that someone will accept it eventually.  Well…unless it is complete and utter drek.

So I now have these three values that are important to me and a list of various places to send my writing.  Now comes the building of the matrix.  I award points for each of my categories. For example, pay.  3 points for $0.05 per word, 2 points for $0.01-$0.03 per word, 1 point for any fiscal compensation and 0 points for anything else.  Prestige is based on appearances in awards (within the last 5 years) and if stories from the publication appeared in any “Year’s Best” (also from the last 5 years).  Responsiveness, obviously has an inverse relationship with: 3 points for less than 2 months, 2 points for less than 3 months, and 1 point for less than 4 months.  Obviously, I would have more detailed information on each of the publications elsewhere, but for the purposes of submission this is what I use for a quick and dirty hit list.

PUBLICATIONS          PAY         PRESTIGE         RESPONSE        TOTAL

Magazine A                     3                      2                            0                      5

Webzine A                       2                     2                             1                       5

Webzine B                       1                      3                             3                      7

Magazine B                     2                     2                             2                       6 


Which means I would submit my work in order to:  Webzine B, Magazine B, Magazine A and Webzine A.  When the scores are equal my initial priority (pay) is the determining factor.  Whew!  It can take a bit to get used to using a system like this, but I have to admit, it has made my submission cycle simpler.  Whether it has been more successful or not, I’m still waiting to see.  Currently, I’m conidering adding an “Other” category specifically to represent things such as personalized rejections (to better reflect when I’m “close”).  Your mileage may vary but at the very least, happy submitting! 


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