Report launching at The London Book Fair shows self-published author incomes are growing year-on-year
A new survey reveals that authors who bypass traditional publishing channels see increased incomes from their writing and publishing year-on-year, against a background of authors with third-party publishers seeing a fall in earnings.
The world’s first independent, international survey of the incomes of self-published (“indie”) authors, commissioned by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), found that the median revenue for independent authors in 2022 was US$12,749.
This compares – gross incomes of “primary occupation authors” who spend more than 50% of their working time on writing and publishing activities,- with a median of US$8,600 for authors with third-party publishers. Figures are converted to US dollars for ease of comparison.
Most significantly, average incomes of self-published authors were rising, with a 53% increase in 2022 over the previous year. By contrast, previous author income surveys, which have focused on revenues received by authors with third-party publishers, have repeatedly reported falling incomes. Some recent global surveys saw the following median incomes:
- 2022 UK: US$8,600, down 38.2% since 2018 (Authors’ Licensing and Collective Society)
- 2018 Canada: US$6,990, down 27% since 2015 (Writers’ Union of Canada)
- 2018 US: US$6,080, down 24% from 2014 (The Authors Guild)
Self-publishing authors are bucking this trend. ALLi’s findings align with other evidence from the worldwide self-publishing community. The National Survey of Australian Book Authors in 2022, which included a higher proportion of independent authors than other surveys (one-third of respondents had self-published), also reported income growth: up 3% over the previous seven years.
Key findings from the ALLi report include:
- In 2022, the median income of self-publishing authors who spend more than half their working time on writing and publishing activities was $12,749.
- The average income was over $80,000.
- Almost a quarter had not yet started to earn, bringing in between 0 and 1K.
- Almost half of the respondents (43.8%) reported over $20k revenue.
- Some 28% earned $50k+ and almost a fifth ran six-figure publishing businesses.
“ALLi has always believed that authors are financially better off self-publishing,” said Orna Ross, ALLi Director. “Now that the results of this survey confirm that belief, we want to make sure all authors know that they can make a living as an author, if they do the work and acquire good publishing skills, alongside good writing skills. And that they are not alone. There is full support for talented and dedicated authors at ALLi and throughout the self-publishing community.”
“We need the literary establishment to play its part too,” says Melissa Addey, ALLi’s Campaigns Manager. “Since its inception, ALLi has campaigned for schools and universities, literary festivals and events, bookshops and bestseller lists, awards and reviewing outlets to open up to indie authors. More than a decade on, it’s sad to see how little has changed in most quarters. It’s time for literary organizations to wake up to the realities of how authors work and earn in the 2020s, and do right by all authors, not just those with traditional publishers.”
Research and methodology
The survey was commissioned by ALLi and distributed in February 2023 to their members and subscribers and, through other key self-publishing and author organizations, to a wide cohort of self-publishing writers around the world. The survey garnered a total of 2,539 respondents, of whom 2,261 (89%) met the qualification criteria. 60% of the respondents were located in North America and 21% in the United Kingdom, followed by Australia/New Zealand and Europe each representing about 8%.
The analysis was conducted by San Francisco-based Thad McIlroy of The Future of Publishing, and Los Angeles-based strategy consultant and principal of SKS Advisors, Steve Sieck.
The report, Key Findings from ALLi’s Independent Author Income Survey, will launch on Tuesday 18th April 2023 in Author HQ at the 2023 London Book Fair and publish on the ALLi blog at SelfPublishingAdvice.org on that day.
In follow-up research, ALLi has commissioned the UK Copyright & Creative Economy Centre, CREATe, to expand analysis of the findings, particularly in relation to key demographic groups and factors that contribute to higher incomes. This project is sponsored by author education company Self-Publishing Formula.
ALLi will publish the full report including demographic data in June 2023, together with a collection of key insights from several peer self-publishing organizations as: the Big Indie Author Data Drop. This compilation and final 2023 report will be presented at the Self-Publishing Live conference in London in June 2023 and will repeat as an annual event, filling a notable gap in author income research.
ALLi is a nonprofit organization with a mission of ethics and excellence in self-publishing. We’re the only global self-publishing membership association, now entering our second decade of empowering authors through our Self-Publishing Advice Center, member benefits, monitoring of the self-publishing sector, and advocacy for independent authors.