Indie Authors: Book Sales and Other Income Strategies

As an author, there’s a lot of things to consider when it comes to earning money. Some indie authors are able to earn a full time income, according to The Guardian and Russell Blake. Print sales are not the most lucrative, according to LG O’Connor, and print and ebook bundling doesn’t always work out, according to Copyright and Technology. It can also be hard to find the right price for your book, as Gene Doucette points out.

Book Reviews, Prizes, and Bestseller Lists

Getting a review on a prestigious list can help with your book sales, such as the New York Times Book Review list. There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to that list, however. According to LitHub, they start their Year-End Notable Books list in January, they review all genres, and the best books are the ones that elicit emotion.

Prizes can also help boost sales, according to Time. In 2010, “Tinkers, by Paul Harding, went from selling just 40 copies the week before the prizes were announced to selling 1,042 copies the next week, and then 6,131 copies two weeks out from the Pulitzer announcements.”

Bestseller lists can help authors get more sales. It’s true, the New York Times cut some of its bestseller lists, in order to be more strategic. But now Amazon has weekly bestseller lists, according to Publisher’s Weekly. The Guardian breaks down what that means for the publishing industry, and includes that it could help certain genre books that don’t crack the traditional bestseller lists. (The LA Times has an interesting article posing the question, “Can bestseller lists be bought?”, which at least one book has been accused of.)

Additional Streams of Income

Writers can earn money through channels outside of selling books. One writer, Kameron Hurley, has a community of fans on Patreon who pay her money each month in exchange for monthly content. Because she has a steady income, she can give her patrons more stories, and she also shares behind-the-scenes information with her community.

Audible also has a $5 million fund for emerging playwrights, according to the New York Times. This gives writers the opportunity to create audio fiction.

When it comes to self-publishing, don’t limit yourself to just your country. The Creative Penn has tips for publishing in other countries, which includes targeting one market at a time, checking rights, prices, and taxes, and finding the right translator.

Authors can also turn to corporate sponsors for income. Nonfiction Authors Association shares how authors can work with corporations, which includes sponsored tweets, speaking engagements, webinars, event sponsorship, bulk sales, paid blogging, and more.

There’s also the backlist to consider. Publishing Perspectives says to work with libraries, share backlist teasers in frontlist books, and have strong covers. Author Maggie Stuckey shared on Publisher’s Weekly about her Soup and Books program she does with libraries, to promote her own backlist. Having a strong brand also helps, as is the case of Ladybird, according to The Guardian.

Income Considerations

When it comes to earning money online, Amy Lynn Andrews has a checklist of what you need to do before you start selling. The list includes keeping records of everything, registering your business, and getting a business bank account.

Martin Crosbie also has advice for how Canadian authors can avoid retailers from withholding taxes.

More Insights

If you’re looking for inspiration, watch Warren Adler’s video about how he became a writer.

If you’re researching for your next book, the latest Smashwords Survey may help give you valuable insights about top categories, preorders, and pricing.

If you want to learn more about funding the arts, Patreon has a great post about and the history and future of funding art, and goes into detail about Radiohead and their In Rainbows album.

And last, for fun, Digital Book World shares how much money publishers actually make.


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