How today’s book market affect writer’s profits and reader’s buying habits

A question was asked on a Facebook group to this effect:

Are authors able to make a living today off book sales in today’s market? Have today’s market changed how many books readers purchased? Is it getting better or worse?

I thought that was a very interesting thing to pose. We are in a recession globally, and the Internet is becoming an increasingly important connection point between readers and writers. Here is my answer the above questions:

I write this as a reader and an author. I know a few authors who make their living from book sales. There are two consistencies: 1) They have multiple books on sale with more books on the horizon, and 2) they are extremely interactive with their readership.

As an author:

There is a sweeping change happening in the literary industry in terms of what’s profitable and what’s not. eBooks and eReaders are closing the distance between the writer and the end-user, the reader. Now authors can easily write, publish and be read. Gone are the days of traditional publishers having a lot of power in terms of who can and can not get published. As a matter of fact, those days been gone for over a decade.

Traditional publishers require their authors to take on the brunt of the promotional efforts for any given title. Indie publishing also requires an author to put some skin in the game. The difference between the two is how much profit you can get per book if you roll with a traditional publisher or publish your book independently.

(Let me just throw some numbers out here. Keep in mind that these are estimates used to illustrate an example, not hard-core facts.)

A book purchase is a book purchase, right? Right. Average book sale – 70% profit on $2.99 is roughly $2.10. Average paperback book sales – 14%profit on 14.99 is roughly $2.10. Nowadays, people are becoming more likely to purchase an ebook at $2.99 and save it on their smart phone or eReader because it’s cheap and delivered quickly. The alternative is a book that’s $14.99 which 1) takes up space that 2) weighs x amount of ounces that 3) you have to physically get from the author, the bookstore or wait on it to be shipped to the reader.

As time goes by, authors will make more net-profit off the higher volume of ebook sales than paper books because of the sway of technology. Plus, ebooks don’t hit the wallet as hard. Authors and publishers that have a catalog of books will always be able to sell their books at a low-cost and high-profit. Traditional publishers sell books during a window of opportunity, after which, it places books out of print after the sales decrease past profitability. Plus, I’ve read where they think that there are too many books being published as a whole. I don’t think so. If you write it and find your audience and it sells, cool. If not, write something else.

As a reader:

I read ebooks on my iPhone. I read ebooks on my Kindle. eBooks can be downloaded for free. The highest I’ve paid for is $3.99, and I cringed when I did that. I’m used to paying $0.99 for an ebook. Now, I still read paper books. I’m still in awe of the world I can dive into as I thumb through the pages. But, I can’t easily carry 10 random books around with me at all times. Sure, I don’t have to turn my paper book of when the plane takes off… Past that, I still think ebooks are gaining ground on paper books.

I’ve been reading a book that I encourage you to download: Be The Monkey. It gives a lot of insight into what’s on the horizon for books in terms of the way readers and writers interact with each other.

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5 thoughts on “How today’s book market affect writer’s profits and reader’s buying habits”

  1. I know a guy who makes a nice cut from his non-fiction book about how to play football. Self-publishing works in this scenario, however, it hasn’t substituted for a day gig. I believe that e-publishing can supplement a day’s wage in the long run, and give the writer more control as to the “who, what, why, where and when.”

    – Julie

    1. Thank you for commenting, Julie. There are some authors out there that are making full-time money, paying bills and all, from their self-publishing endeavors. I’m glad you shared. You’re right, e-publishing in the long run will give author’s more control over their body of work and allow them to push more product out quicker.

  2. As a proud Indie, I love the freedom of self-publishing. If there was ever a time to go for it, this is definitely it. However, I could use the distribution power of a major house. My ebook readers outweigh my brick and mortar readers dramatically. All in all, I’m happy just being read, no matter the channel.

    1. I think ebooks are an interesting intersection between price, availability and convenience. Kudos on finding your readers and making great books for them to read. I appreciate you comment, Nakia.

  3. I don’t think traditional publishing is going anywhere anytime soon but I do think ebooks and self publishing is turning, or has already, turned the industry upside down. I’m an Indie Author and chose do be one because I didn’t like the monopoly the ‘Big’ guys had on the market. They want to say who’s good enough and who isn’t then they want to sign an Author to a contract that is robbery without a gun and still tell them what and how to write forgetting it was that author’s unique work that got them a deal to begin with. It’s a lot like the music business. ‘We love what you’re doing now sell your soul so we can rob you blind and shelf you for years if we feel like it and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ Plus you have to remember any advance is merely a loan against future monies made off your work. Meaning, the publishing house must make back what they put into you, advance, printing costs and promotion, that you still have to do yourself, before you see a penny. Kind of like buying a house with a 70% apr. How’s it looking now? You no longer own your work and in most cases must keep producing! Pimp mentality. I’d rather do it all myself and pass on the ‘Big Deal’ from a traditional publishing house. Of course that’s just me…

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