And the Publishing Process Survey Says: Part 5

Book Production Process SurveyIn previous posts I covered the parts of the survey that are part of the publishing process, taking your book from initial draft to publication. However, I threw in a few questions not directly related to this process. In this final post I’ll discuss those questions and what, if anything, they might (or might not) tell us.

Reading the disclaimer in the original survey results post before proceeding is highly recommended.


We’ll start with the boring questions (at least they are to me), pertaining to promotion. In the promotion of their most recently published book, the authors who took our survey invested as little as nothing (about 1 in 5) to more than $1,000. The average investment in promotion was $240, thus far. (I should point out that the answer to this question could vary widely depending on how long it was since the author’s last book was released.)

Where did those promotional dollars go?

We provided a list of those promotional and marketing activities where someone might spend money. Some involve fees paid to an organization for advertising or to create marketing materials. Others involved the cost of hiring someone to do tasks the author couldn’t do on their own or thought made more sense to outsource. The only surprise in the results were that there aren’t many patterns. Those who spent money on any of the 17 items presented did an average of 2 or 3 of those from the list, yet only one of them was popular enough to be done by more than a third of the respondents. Advertising using book-specific venues such as BookBub and The Fussy Librarian was the most popular item by far, with almost half of those who spent money on promotion doing this. Advertising in other venues and promotion on social media was also relatively popular. Everything else was tried by less than 25% of the authors surveyed.

Who Are You?

About a quarter of those responding have been traditionally published with more than 40% of those planning on self-publishing all future books. The remainder of those previously traditionally published authors see themselves as hybrids, picking the publishing method based on the project and presumably whatever offers are on the table.

The typical respondent has published eight books those with some traditionally published having three or four more published books than the overall average.

Roughly one-third of the authors said they publish under multiple author names and the majority have published books in more than one genre.

One question I asked was whether the author was meeting their goals and expectations, exceeding them, or felt their efforts were too much for too little reward. Slightly less than two out of three were meeting their expectations. Of the remainder, the number of unhappy authors slightly bested those who felt they were exceeding their goals. Those who made less were more likely to be unhappy, but plenty of those who made minimal money were happy with the results. The only clear pattern were that those who had been at it longer and were seeing virtually no financial reward were the most likely to be unhappy. No real surprises here other than money doesn’t appear to be a big motivator for those who are meeting their expectations with a few thousand dollars a year keeping many plugging away.

Show Me the Money

While the average gross revenue reported for 2014 was almost exactly $10,000, this was skewed by the outliers, although none of our reporting authors said they grossed more than $125,000. (I knew I should have sent Hugh Howey a personal invitation to participate.) Only a third reported making more than $3,000 with the majority of those in the $3,000-10,000 range.


I found this an interesting exercise. There were a lot of little surprises, but for me only one big surprise. That was just how much variance there is among the IU readers who took the survey. Everyone’s process is unique. You all attack the tasks of production, marketing, and promotion in different ways. You each approach your business differently than anyone else. I guess that’s what it means to be independent. What are your thoughts?

Author: Big Al

Big Al (who insists he only has one name, like Cher, Sting, and Madonna) spends his days writing computer programs that are full of typos, homonym errors, and incorrect verb usage. During his evenings, he writes reviews of indie books for BigAl’s Books and Pals and has recently taken over The IndieView, a website founded by indie author Simon Royle as a resource for indie authors, indie reviewers, and those who read either.

9 thoughts on “And the Publishing Process Survey Says: Part 5”

  1. Doesn’t surprise me a bit. There are so many variables in the process, and so many avenues for each factor in the equation, that I think it would be more surprising to find many authors doing the same thing. However, for the sake of analysis, it’s rather like nailing Jello to a tree. Excellent breakdown, Al. Appreciate all your work on this.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Melissa. Obviously a lot of variance was to be expected, but I was shocked to discover how much.

  2. Thank you Big Al,
    I appreciate your research on this subject. Its good to go into this with realistic expectations. Thanks to one of the earlier articles on Indies Unlimited regarding Wattpad, I am currently giving my book a test run over there.

    Not sure how the response you get on Wattpad interprets into book sales on Amazon, but it is approaching 1,000 reads as I write this. I would be very happy to achieve the average gross revenue your research suggests when I finally launch on amazon.

    Thank you again for this article,

    1. Setting and managing expectations (both of yourself and others) is the key to success in many of life’s endeavors, Lance. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  3. Sincerely hope to still be happy with my progress a year or two from now. I’m glad I don’t have to depend on this to make a living. But that is true of most authors who are traditionally published, too.

    1. That point, that it is true of most authors, is one everyone needs to keep sight of, Sandra. A point that many people make (Hugh Howey is one that comes to mind) is that most authors, regardless of how they’re published, don’t make a lot. However, a key difference is the vast majority of those who choose to go the traditional route never get a book contract, are never published, never read, and don’t make a dime. Indie publishing and selling just a handful of books puts you ahead no matter how you slice it.

      Thanks for the comment.

  4. Hey Big Al;
    Thanks for the work under a green eye-shade visor. This exerciser was insightful and interesting. It helps to cast some light into the unknown darkness of self–pub.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: