2011, The Year of the Indie Author

Today, I read that the Association of American Publishers had reported e-books had grown to be the number one format among all trade categories for February of 2011. As a percentage, they accounted for 29.5% in the combined print and e-book sales group. Considering they only garnered 8.32% in February 2010, that is nothing short of astonishing to me.

The salient facts quoted straight from the report are:

1. e-Books grew 169.4% to $164.1M.
2. the combined categories of print books fell 24.8% to $441.7M.

The full report can be found here.

Credit goes to Robin Sullivan for parsing the data here.

This surge may be because of the large number Kindles, iPads, iPhones, and other e-book capable devices sold for Christmas, so I’m not proclaiming the demise of print. What I am going to do, in my own outspoken way, is declare 2011 the year of the Indie author.

Okay, many other people have said much the same thing, but it’s my turn. I’ll share some figures, but mainly this is my gut feeling. If nothing else, this will make for a great discussion. If I seem a bit unfocused and rambly, I appologize. I forgot I needed to write this until the last moment.

In this last year, I’ve heard sales figures from a number of indie authors that should make everyone sit up and take notice. Let me share some of the numbers as quoted by Robin Sullivan on J.A. Konrath’s blog. I’ve plucked the exact listing and links from his blog so as not to screw them up, so all the credit on them is theirs.

Blake Crouch – 2500+
Nathan Lowell – 2500+
Beth Orsoff – 2500+
Sandra Edwards – 2500+
Vianka Van Bokkem – 2500+
Maria Hooley – 2500+
C.S. Marks – 2500+
Lee Goldberg – 2500+
Lexi Revellian – 4000+
Zoe Winters – 4000+
Aaron Patterson – 4000+
Bella Andre – 5000+
Imogen Rose – 5000+
Ellen Fisher – 5000+
Tina Folsom – 5000+
Terri Reid – 5000+
David Dalglish – 5000+
Scott Nicholson – 10,000+
J.A. Konrath 10,000+
Victorine Lieske – 10,000+
L.J. Sellers – 10,000+
Michael R. Sullivan – 10,000+
H.P. Mallory – 20,000+
Selena Kitt – 20,000+
Stephen Leather – 40,000+
Amanda Hocking – 100,000+

The link to their full post is here.
A more detailed analysis by Derek J. Canyon is here.

I know what you’re saying.

Those are just a few people and we don’t even know how much they’re making. True, but even if we posited they sold for $0.99 and only reaped $0.35 a copy, that would be $10,000 in their pocket for a year at the lowest volume mentioned. Some of these folks made substantially more. Amanda Hocking made almost two million dollars before she got a print offer. Selena Kitt is on track to come close to a million dollars in sales this year.

How many people were making anything like those kinds of sales on their own a few years ago? And that’s certainly not a comprehensive list, either.

Okay, I’ll agree that these folks are at the upper end of the spectrum. The thing is that unlike traditional print, their books never fall off the shelf. As they add books to those shelves, their sales numbers continue to rise. Every month, more people hit that list and with the growing number of e-book sales, it will continue to grow.

With millions of e-reader devices out there, it isn’t a stretch to imagine selling a thousand books a month after working at putting books out for a few years. And the thing about same e-book sales is that they aren’t trailing off with time. They’re ramping up. Each title is selling more every month on average and the trend is accelerating.

You could still be selling that title with good numbers for decades. No print run can match that.

I’m not saying it is as simple as just tossing an e-book out there. You need to do the same things a traditional publisher does. Make sure the story is entertaining. Edit it. Get a professional looking cover. Get it formatted. Crap books won’t sell. Make yours the best it can be and it will find an audience.

All that said, there could be good business reasons to seek a print deal. It just won’t be for the money. It’ll be for things like reaching a new audience and building name recognition. If dirty, filthy lucre is your end goal, traditional publishing isn’t your best bet.

In future installments, I’ll be talking about this topic in more detail. I’ll also be taking your howls of outrage into account, so tell me where I blew it in the comments.

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