Firstly, a very big thank you to everyone who filled in the survey and a special thank you to those of your who shared the post regarding the 2019 WLW fiction survey. In the end, we had around 230 forms filled in. While this is less than the 600 replies from last year, that survey managed to hit traction within the mainstream market and therefore got a higher number of replies. With this smaller data set, we can be assured that it is the thoughts of people who actively read our genre.
As always, when looking at this data I urge people to keep in mind that this is still a relatively small dataset and was predominantly gathered through social media outlets. This will, of course, skew some of the data and it cannot be taken as an overall market snapshot. That said, there are still key takeaways that can be seen in the data and can be used by authors and publishers.
Please also be aware when comparing this year to last year (or the year before), that some questions have been removed, reworded, or added.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon still dominates our marketplace and is clearly the main distributor for us all. However, there was a slight drop this year in people buying directly from Amazon with a small increase in those buying directly from publisher website. Kindle Unlimited subscribers have again increased, from 30% in 2017, to 41% in 2018 to 45% now.
Over 30% of respondents state that chart position sometimes influences their decision to purchase.
When it comes to pricing, there has been a slight increase in respondents who believe that WLW fiction books are on the expensive side. Interestingly, there has been a sharp decrease in what a standard length ebook should cost, from $10 in 2017, to $2.99 – $5.99 in 2018, and again in 2019.
In contrast, respondents have increased the amount they believe a paperback should be priced at from $10 in 2017, to $12.99 in 2019.
90% of respondents would consider paying more for a book from a certain author. Only 9% would consider paying more for a book from a certain publisher.
This year, I included some questions on perceived interest and crowding of the market. 64% of respondents said that they were felt they were able to find more books that were of interest to them than they were able to find the previous year. 13% were unable to answer the question as they are new to the market. This indicates that our market is growing in terms of readers, and authors. Only 5% of respondents consider the market to be too crowded.
Author brand has increased in importance when it comes to book buying decisions, price has become more importance, as has blurb, publisher identity has fallen to its lowest level.
There has been a slight increase in the perception of covers currently in the market, and a large increase in the importance of covers being a factor to readers. The importance of good blurbs remains high and the perception is that there has been a small increase in the overall quality of blurbs, but there is still work to do. Editing is also still considered very important, with respondents indicating they have seen a slight increase in editing quality year on year.
Author newsletters and social media are still the primary places where people hear about sales taking place, third place went to I Heart Lesfic which ranked above publisher newsletters. For new releases, social media and then author newsletters were the top spots, followed by publisher newsletters, Amazon marketing, and I Heart Lesfic. 60% of respondents had heard of MyLesfic.com. In 2018, 76% of respondents said they connected to authors on social media, in 2019 this increased to 91% (note – as this survey was predominantly shared on social media, this is not surprising).
In the newly added awards section, only 16% of respondents said that they were more likely to buy a book which has won an award, 15% said they might consider it depending on what the award was.
55% of respondents know what GCLS is, and 65% know what Lambda is.
Check out all the results for yourself, I would like to particularly draw your attention to the freeform boxes where people have typed in responses, as per last year this is a very interesting glimpse at the market.
As a full time self-published author, I work from home and am self-employed. I met someone at the weekend, at an author event, who told me she could never work for herself, she’d get too lonely. She’d miss conversations by the water cooler, talking about what was happening in the business, and the general camaraderie of socialising with her work colleagues.
I agreed that it can sometimes be a lonely profession, but I have work colleagues. I gestured around the room at all the other authors manning their tables. “They are my work colleagues,” I said. “We just don’t share an office. It’s a bit like an international company, some colleagues you speak to every day, some once a year.”
The reader chuckled and leaned in close. “They’re your competition,” she whispered.
I leaned in close. “How many books did you buy last month?” I asked.
She thought about it for a few moments. “I read about eight on Kindle Unlimited, bought three paperbacks, and another three ebooks.”
“Exactly,” I replied. “Readers don’t buy one book a year. Most buy more than one book a month. Other authors aren’t my competition, we work together. In the author business.”
Being an author can be as quiet or as noisy as you want it to be. If you want to be the kind of author who locks yourself in a room and turns off the Internet and hammers out a book, you can be. If you want to spend the day talking to your work colleagues and getting their advice on your latest project, or marketing tips, or event information… then you can do that, too.
But there is a difference between a networker, and a lone wolf.
A networker has a network to help carry the load. A lone wolf does not.
Indie authors more than most know the importance of networking. You see, you can write the best damn book in the world… but if it doesn’t get traction then no one will ever find it. You can be absolutely sure that there are plenty of award-worthy books that have been published and fallen down the charts like a stone into a lake. Most of these were probably written by lone wolves.
A networker generally views other authors as colleagues and not competition. They will share advice, be it craft or marketing based, they will help newcomers to the genre, chat to the debut author as well as the multiple best-seller, they will share posts on social media, boost new releases that are not their own, they will engage with the community when it benefits others and not just them.
I love my Indie author networker friends. They are always up for a new challenge, a new collaboration, a new event, a new award scheme, a new not-for-profit project. Quite often I unfortunately have to turn opportunities down because I’m so busy working on various ventures and don’t have time to be involved in all of them.
I’m a member of many groups of like-minded authors. When someone has a new release, they let us all know and they ask if we will share their social media posts with our own audiences. And we do. People ask for help finding an editor, guidance on cover design, and information on upcoming events. I, and others, have helped new authors into the market, and assisted traditionally published authors become Indie authors when we have been asked. On the other side of the coin, I’ve helped new authors approach publishing houses when that would be the better fit for them.
You see, some people seem to struggle to see the bigger picture.
If a new author wants to publish their book and they have no idea how to do it… it doesn’t take much for us to give them advice and help them to produce a really good quality product. And if we help them to market it; then they will help us later on. It’s like a new starter coming into the office. They may be a bit new and not know how to use the photocopier, but if we show them… then later they’ll get us a tea when they do a drinks run.
The more authors there are, the more books, the bigger our genre. And the bigger our genre, the better for everyone. There are still so many potential readers who have no idea that sapphic literature exists. So, the more of us out there shouting about it, the better.
I’ve said it since day one… authors are not in competition with each other. I love working with my colleagues and I am ecstatic for their success, when I look at the charts and I see my colleagues sitting at #1, I’m happy for them. When I see they have been nominated for an award, I want them to win. When they have a new release, I’ll share the news.
So, yes, I’m self-employed and I spend most of my time in my home office. But I feel like I’m a cog helping all the other cogs to create a huge, successful company.
As with so many things in the publishing world, the answer to that question is not a straightforward one.
I recently received a message from a reader, she told me she loved my books and wanted to buy my latest but she was unsure the best way to go about it. She’d heard that purchasing directly through a publisher website was the best. She’d also heard that Kindle Unlimited was the devil for authors, but she loved reading and was looking into signing up to the subscription service.
I wrote back and told her that reading my book in any manner at all is supporting me, whether she buys a paperback, an eBook, reads through Kindle Unlimited, or borrows from the library… I’m just happy she’s reading my work.
But while that is the case for me and many authors, I know that readers are still confused and want an answer on what is the best way to support an author.
So, it’s time for a maths lesson.
For the sake of ease, let’s say you want to buy a book that cost $10 for an eBook and $16 for a paperback and the author is with a publishing house. You probably have three options;
1) buy the paperback from a third party distributor such as Amazon
2) buy the eBook from a third party distributor such as Amazon, iBooks, Nook etc
3) buy the eBook from the publisher’s website
Let’s break these down. Publishers take on all the risk and provide all the investment capital in order to get a book to publication. They pay an author a royalty rate based upon each copy they sell. Most publishers will pay a different amount depending on what type of copy and where it was sold.
I’m going to use dummy royalty rate figures, these will give you an idea of the difference between the three options in terms of author pay but not an exact figure as royalty percentages change from author to author as well as publisher to publisher.
So, let’s say a publisher will pay an author 5% for a paperback sold, 20% for an eBook sold, and 25% for an eBook sold on the publisher platform. In the event of that $10/$16 book sold, here’s the money that will go to the author:
Paperback – $0.80
eBook (distributor) – $2.00
eBook (publisher own site) – $2.50
As you can see, although you have paid more for a paperback the amount that goes to the author is the smallest amount. This is because POD (Print On Demand) publishing is not cheap and paperbacks are generally expensive to create.
Things are a little different for self-published authors, because they don’t get paid a royalty from a publishing house… they keep all the profit they make. But they do have to pay production and distribution fees.
Therefore, if we take the same $10/$16 book, the figures are very different. The paperback figure will change a lot depending on the size of the book, the number of pages, and the finish. I’m going to take an average of a 60,000 word book, printed on 5″ x 8″ format with a glossy cover.
Paperback – $2.50
eBook (distributor) – $7.00
eBook (own platform) – $9.80
As you can see, self-published authors make much more per each copy, taking almost all of the amount paid for books sold on their own platform.
Now, many self-published authors—like myself—also use subscription services like Kindle Unlimited. And this is where it becomes very complicated. Because books are produced in different font sizes and page layouts, Kindle Unlimited applies a specific algorithm to assign every book a number of pages. This is different from the paperback and the eBook as it’s attempting to even the playing field with all the different books in the Kindle Unlimited fund. So, to do this calculation you first need your Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC), for a book for around 60,000 words we’ll guess that this is 325.
The next part of the puzzle changes from month to month, and this is the fund. Amazon looks at how many people are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited from month to month and then how many books are enrolled and every month they issue a monthly fund size, something like $23.5 million. This figure is then broken down into a payout per page, usually something around $0.0048.
So, a self-published book in KU with around 60,000 words will pay the author around $1.56.
Now, this figure is far less than any other copy of a self-published author’s book, but not much less than a published author’s royalty. But a Kindle Unlimited sale remains the second lowest income to an author.
But that’s not the whole story.
There are many authors, myself among them, who believe in Kindle Unlimited and are happy to take this drop in income for the other benefits it brings.
You see, trying to reach potential readers is hard. No matter how many Facebook fans, Twitter followers, or email subscribers you have… there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of potential readers out there who have no idea who an author is.
Like it or not, Amazon is the one of the biggest marketplace for books. Many publishers and authors report that the majority of their sales come from Amazon.
And Amazon, like many bookstores, has best seller charts. Amazon also has a complicated algorithm to decide how those charts rank books and one of those factors is… Kindle Unlimited.
And this is why the question is so difficult to answer. If you’re a publisher who wants the largest slice of profit, you want books to be bought from your own website—which is why some publishers will have an exclusivity period on their own site.
If you’re a traditionally published author and you want more income, you’re also likely to want a sale through your publisher’s website. It would bring you $0.50 more than a sale on Amazon.
But, if you’re a big picture marketeer… you don’t put as much emphasise on an individual sale. That extra $0.50 won’t go far. But selling 10 books at a reduced price through Kindle Unlimited will push your book up the charts and make it visible to hundreds of readers who don’t know who you are. And those readers are more likely to pick up a book they consider to be free, because they are paying a monthly subscription, rather than spend $10 on a book by an unknown author.
Authors often give away free books for marketing. They may give books to readers and ask for an honest review in return, they may give a book to a large review site, or influencer, or book blogger. It’s a part of the business to give away some copies of a book in order to get the marketing benefit in return.
To me, Kindle Unlimited is no different. Except I get paid for it. A much smaller amount than I would have been paid if everyone had paid full price, but I know that not everyone would have paid full price. And those who read my book through Kindle Unlimited are pushing my books up the charts.
And it’s not just the charts, Amazon recommends books via emails and lock screens, ads, and more. They are more focused on books that are in the top of the charts and that is nearly always dominated by books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
So… in answer to that question, how should I buy an author’s book in a way that best supports them… it depends.
For me, buy in whatever way you please. I’m simply grateful for your support.
If you are a member of Kindle Unlimited and you don’t like that so little goes to the author, then you might want to check out that author’s website and see if they have a Patreon page or a Ko-fi account so you can send a few dollars their way now and then.
It’s been a busy start of the year for me but there is one project which I am particularly passionate about and eager to get off the ground; Winter Hearts 2019.
In case you slept through the last four months, Winter Hearts was a festive box set with 13 fantastic authors each submitting a short story about the season. It was all in aid of charity and while the final figure has yet to be accurately calculated (taxes etc) it will be in the region of $7,000. We even managed to hit 1,000,000 pages read through Kindle Unlimited in around a month!
So, of course, I’m organising another box set for this winter. And all authors are welcome to join in! I’d love to make this even bigger than last year. So, if you want to know more, check out the link on my menu bar or click here to go to the dedicated page. If you have any questions this drop me a line.
And even if you can’t be involved in this yourself… please share this message. The more people who do, the more people will hear about it and the bigger Winter Hearts 2019 will be!
I’m very happy to announce that I will be attending the DIVA Literary Festival 2019, taking place in Birmingham UK from 15th — 17th March. Tickets are now available on the festival website, and I’ll be taking part in two panels over the weekend.
On Saturday I’ll be on the Independent Author panel with Clare Ashton, Clare Lydon and Sally Edwards, talking about all things Indie. Drop in to find out more about our journeys and pick our brains for advice.
On Sunday I’ll be sharing the stage with my author wife Emma Sterner-Radley and we’ll be talking about how to live and work together. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to quiz us on anything and everything about our books, publishing business, and marriage!
I hope to see some of you there!
Update: 22nd February 2019
Unfortunately the DIVA Literary Festival has been postponed, stay tuned and I’ll provide you with further information regarding new dates and a venue!
As those of you who visit often probably know, my website frequently goes through changes. However, I wanted to flag up some new content I have been putting live over the past few weeks… namely, new individual book pages. If you visit the Books page, you will see all of the covers of my currently released books, as well as some information regarding books that are coming up in the future (you may find some interesting information there 😉 )
If you click on those covers, you will be taken through to individual book pages which will provide you with some additional information on each book, including the description, customer reviews, and a link to download a sample of the first chapter. Also, where available, you will see a link to the sample of any audiobooks available.
I hope you enjoy these changes!