To everyone else, Barry Eisler made a driveby comment (I doubt he's a regular reader) challenging me on my statement about his claim of "'I mean, there are lots of writers ... thousands of writers who are making a good living from self-publishing,'" in the previous linkee-poo. I haven't contacted him directly, yet, so I don't have his permission to post his comment on the top of this blog. You can read it here. Since my response to him is rather long, I've decided to make it a post of it's own.
Well, first my name is Steve. You don't even need to google for that, it's on the top of the right-hand column. It's right there.
So, okay, lets look at the articles you point to. Just as a reminder, my questions are about your contention, "'I mean, there are lots of writers ... thousands of writers who are making a good living from self-publishing.'" While it would help to define what "a good living" means, let's see what the articles you point to actually say.
First is the Atlantic Story, Authors of Kindle Singles Are Raking in Tens of Thousands of Dollars. The only quote I could find there for your statement was "A new report from PaidContent finds that… a few authors are doing quite well from their Kindle Single effort… PaidContent estimates that (Mishka) Shubaly has made about $130,000 from his three Singles. The other four writers in PaidContent's report have brought in amounts ranging from a bit less than $9,000 to $65,000. The Singles in PaidContent's round-up all sell for either $0.99 or $1.99 a pop, and authors see 70 percent of the revenue." Okay, well there are five, although the "bit less than $9,000" would qualify for "poverty" for a single person (as referenced in the original NPR story). So that article doesn't confirm your contention.
The Passive Voice's blog post KDP was my one shot at a lifelong dream we have an extensive reprint of Jeff Bezos' annual letter to shareholders (we'll pass by the obvious critiques of both "self-reporting" and "conflict of interest" here, as well as the fact that Amazon hasn't released the numbers as a legal disclosure). We have the personal stories of five Kindle Authors, all of whom are listed as Kindle Best Sellers, however not all talk about their income from those sales (who knows what it could be). Then Mr. Bezos' says "more than a thousand KDP authors now each sell more than a thousand copies a month, some have already reached hundreds of thousands of sales, and two have already joined the Kindle Million Club." Sounds good, except, again, no actual royalty statements included. All we can take away is that there are "thousands" of Kindle Direct authors (only one half of your contention) and that "some" are over 100,000 books sold. Mr. Bezos then goes on to say "A typical selling price for a KDP book is a reader-friendly $2.99", not the average, not the mean, but "typical", which means nothing statistically. So while this shows that there are plenty of Kindle Authors, there's nothing about how many of them are "making a good living." So this article is not only unverifiable nor does it have the imprimatur of an actual (verifiable) report it also doesn't prove your contention.
Next up is Digital Book World breakdown of Amazon's 2012 4th QTR revenue (the Christmas season) Amazon Fourth-Quarter Sales up 22% to $21.27 Billion. Here, at least, we have a quote from Mr. Bezos that "After 5 years, ebooks is a multi-billion dollar category for us and growing fast…." So, that sounds pretty good. However, the closest actual numbers reported comes in as, "Amazon media sales worldwide (including ebooks, books, DVDs, CDs, music and more) grew in 2012 to $19.94 billion." Down in the weeds of the actual earning report we see that "Amazon’s digital media selection has grown to over 23 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, books, audiobooks, and popular apps and games in 2012…" So for 23M titles, $20B isn't bad. But, again, no breakdown into actual e-books, profits, royalties, etc. But then we get to "Amazon announced that 23 KDP authors each sold over 250,000 copies of their books in 2012, and that over 500 KDP Select books have reached the top 100 Kindle best seller lists around the world." Well, the second half of that statement is meaningless, but the first part with 23 authors selling over 250,000 copies, that pretty good. But, alas, again no actual numbers on how much they made in royalties, and that's only 23 authors. So, again, doesn't prove your contention.
Next is another blog post from The Passive Voice, again they're quoting a press release from Amazon in their Over 150 KDP Authors Each Sold More than 100,000 Thousand Books in 2013. That title is a little poorly worded, but the relevant bullet point here is, "150 Kindle Direct Publishing authors each sold more than 100,000 copies of their books in 2013…" So, that's 150 authors, and again while they're "selling" books, no word on how much they made, and still no hint as to the average price of those books. But wait, "Kindle Direct Publishing authors sold hundreds of thousands of books in November through the new Kindle Countdown Deals…" wow. But how many authors, and how many each did they sell, and at what price? Still no word. So best scenario, 150 authors, but no indication how they're doing. This article doesn't prove your contention.
The next article is on Forbes (hey, okay, a news site), Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer. That sounds impressive, for this writer, Mark Dawson. And hey, he's got what appears to be a decent series that has "sold 300,000 copies" of his series. However, "sold" isn't what it appears to be because "… Dawson had sold 50,000 copies of The Black Mile over the course of a weekend… But (he) made no money whatsoever from The Black Mile" because "He gave The Black Mile away for free. Amazon recommends this as a promotional tool, and it’s one that many try." There's no word on how many other books he "sold" for free, but if he made $450,000 on 250,000 other books (remember 50K were free), I'm assuming he charged for the rest. While that's great for Mr. Dawson, and I'll grant you that $450k a year is a "good living", again it's one author. So this article also doesn't support your contention of thousands making a "good living."
Then there is the Hugh Howey's Author Earnings Report September 2015 Author Earnings Report. And in there, things look pretty rosy for "indie, non-ISBN publishers" (most likely self-published). Both their market share, and the percentage of revenue they make have increased significantly until Mr. Howey states that the market has inversed (well, not really, traditional publishing for the big and small houses still takes the majority). "Today, indie self-publishers are taking home 24% of the gross $ publisher revenue coming out of the Amazon ebook store. Amazon-imprints and their authors are taking home another 13%. The AAP’s 1200 publishers account for no more than 50% of publisher ebook dollar revenue." Note those don't add up to 100%. But still, that's pretty nice. And their new model of pay per page has some nice numbers, "Today, 34% of indie author earnings from the Amazon store — over a third of indie Kindle revenue — takes the form of KU payments for pages read: in July, KU accounted for 2 billion pages (KENP) and $11.5 million dollars in direct author compensation." Not bad. But, again, no data on how many authors and titles are being compared (only market segments). While there may be more money being taken home by self-published e-books, is that being shared by the same number of authors that make up the other segments (there's no data, but my wild-assed guess would be there are multiplication factors of more self-published than traditional published, so their pie share may be growing, the number of people eating that pie is outstripping the growth, but, again, that's my impression from the growing ranks of self-published authors that are referred to in the other articles). Also, there's no data on whom is getting what. So there is no way, with this article, to confirm your claim of "thousands… making a good living."
General notes, not all articles differentiated between self-published and traditional published e-books (except for the Author Earnings Report). Also, not all self-published books are e-books. There's six other notes I had, but it's late, and I'm tired, and you aren't compensating me for this research.
So, I've read all the articles you've pointed to, Barry. Most of which have troubles with sourcing, but none of which support your contention. At best, there are thousands of self-published authors out there. Given. If we add all the numbers up from the different articles over different years we get less than 500 self-published (well, actually e-book authors selling on Amazon which include traditional published authors as well) authors who are "best-sellers." Amazon considered books sold for $0 a sale. Conclude what you will. There are less than a handful who can be considered "making a good living" (again, from the articles you yourself pointed to).
Again, Barry, as I posted in my commentary on the linkee-poo, "I now want a list of those 'thousands of authors' that make a living form (SIC) self-publishing." You haven't provided. Not even close.
Also, you state that you couldn't find any evidence to support my contention that you overstated your numbers. That's a nice try, Barry. One, logic fallacy here in that you're the one making the extraordinary claim, you're the one that needs to prove your statement. I don't need to prove that I think you're shoveling BS here, as that's my opinion. Also, can't prove a negative, Barry, basic argumentative theory. You get no points for that cheap shot (and I'm going to take it as a cheap shot instead of thinking you were insulting my intelligence).
Barry, I know you're supportive of new authors. And for that, thank you. But you don't have the research to back up your position of "thousands of writers… making a good living from self-publishing." I know for you, self-publishing has been a fantastic boon, and good on you. However I'll note you had a following before going that route. Most authors who have done well self-publishing also have that first step up (having a following from "traditional" publishing) or write erotica (I know, I've done the research). Both sides of that require a hellalotta work from the author (either in promotions, or the number of titles published) to make a living. Very, very few have made a good living (for various values of "good") solely on self-publishing. Many have had "success", but that doesn't equate to making a good living (even with "traditional" publishing), which I know you also acknowledge.
Yes, Barry, I know who you are. For being an advocate for "publishing options," a lot of reporters get that wrong and call you an evangelist for self-publishing. Strange how that happens, every single time. There might be a reason for that.
If you wish to point out any discrepancies or facts I may have missed in the articles you linked to, please do. Note, I am asking your permission to post content from any such commentary to the top of the blog as a regular post.
I've noted how you haven't proven your point. I'm calling bullshit on your thousands of self-published authors making a good living. Since you haven't defined it, I will. A "Good Living" means writing income from self-publishing that's above poverty level for the circumstances the author has (single, married, married with children). No including income from other writing sources (such as commercial writing/freelance sources). I want to see that someone can support themselves without help (including the ever famous "spouse with a real job with real benefits"). That's my definition. Ball is in your court now.