Long-time science fiction author and NYT best seller Kevin J. Anderson joined us on the podcast today to talk about his recent projects, how the industry has changed since 1988 when he published his first novel, and what made him decide to start his own press.
Here are a few of the specifics we chatted about:
How Kevin is continuing to learn and try new marketing things, even after almost thirty years of publishing novels.
A project he’s excited about where he’s sharing his new epic fantasy novel, Spine of the Dragon, with newsletter subscribers as he works on it. (If you’re interested in seeing his process and reading the story long before it’s published, you can visit his site to sign up.)
How the landscape has changed over the years, and how it can be tough to make a living as a steady, mid-list author in the traditional publishing scene now.
Kevin’s enthusiasm for dictating his novels as he hikes in the mountains of Colorado (Lindsay would try this while hiking if she wasn’t constantly stopping to whistle for her dogs and telling them to stop chasing squirrels).
Why he thinks more authors should try dictation, since he finds it a very natural way to get the story down.
What it’s like writing in established universes and doing media tie-in novels.
Why Kevin decided to start Wordfire Press to publish his out-of-print books that he had the rights to.
How he ended up taking on a lot of other science fiction and fantasy authors who wanted to breathe new life into their out-of-print titles.
What Kevin has learned about starting a press that might be helpful for other authors thinking of doing the same.
Tonight’s discussion was with the anonymous Data Guy, curator for the famous (or perhaps infamous!) Author Earnings Report. If you haven’t been by the site, make sure to visit and check out some of the reports (you can also grab the raw data if you’re a data person!).
Here are some of the questions we asked Data Guy:
What exactly is the Author Earnings Report, and how do you get your information?
How are you able to look at a book’s Amazon sales ranking and figure out how many books are selling each day?
How are indie authors doing compared to small press, Amazon imprints, and traditionally published authors?
Which genres are indie authors doing best in?
What’s the reception been from the industry? Has Amazon stepped forward to confirm or deny the accuracy of your reports?
Does the data show that authors need to release frequently (i.e. every few months) to stay on the radar and continue selling well?
Are there any correlations between basic stats and overall income? i.e. total number of books, number in series, number of reviews, etc.
How is sales ranking figured? Is it true that it takes more sales to make it to a certain ranking than it does to stick once you get there? How are past sales weighed in to the current ranking?
How does Kindle Unlimited play into your rankings and income reports?
What do you think is the best route for authors starting out today?
On this week’s show, we chatted with fantasy author Amelia Smith about a bunch of data that she crunched based on the Author Earnings Survey over at Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings Report website. The survey and the raw data have been online for a while, but nobody seemed to have tackled putting it together into useful information until Amelia came along. We asked her a bunch of questions about what she found in regard to author income, books on sale, and whether indie or trad publishing is more likely to get a person to a living wage (which she defined as the U.S. average of $32,000 a year).
Here’s some of what we covered:
What is the Author Earnings site and where does this survey come in?
Who responded (indie, trad published, hybrid, small press, etc.) and how many authors were interviewed?
How many books do people have out on average before they reach that living wage?
As Amelia says in her analysis, “The majority of authors will never make a living at this, but chances increase both with number of books written and with years in the game. They get as good as 50/50.”
Were authors of certain genres more likely to make a living than others (not surprisingly, lots of romance authors of all kinds are doing well, and very few short story, poetry, memoir, etc. folks are making significant money)?
What was the common theme with the failure stories (authors with a lot of books out but a low income)?
Did it matter what year people started publishing in, or could they put out a lot of books in their first year and get to that living wage quickly?
Were slower writers penalized because of the 30/90-cliff and the way the Amazon algorithms work?
Were small presses helpful or were most indie authors better off on their own?
Amelia’s own experience with Netgalley (she mentioned the Patchwork Press Co-Op as a way to buy into Netgalley, a big company that assists with getting book reviews, for less than an individual membership)