Selling Ebooks: Some Self-Publishing Statistics That May Surprise You – and Help You Sell More

I’ve been writing and selling ebooks online since 2002. When I first started out, there was practically nothing out there to teach you how to effectively market ebooks. And while self-publishing is still a relatively new medium, as each year passes, more and more data is available to help self-published authors hone their ebook marketing plans and earn more.

To this end, following are some results from a recent self-publishing survey that I found interesting. Note: I focused on those stats that have to do with ebook marketing.

When Selling Ebooks Online, Professionalism Counts

The survey revealed that 41% of self-published authors paid for ebook cover design; 29% paid for proofreading or editing. This investment paid off; those who invested in services like story editing, copy editing and proofreading earned approximately 13% more than those who didn’t.

Ebook cover design really pays off – self-publishers who hired a professional cover designer earned an average of 18% more than those who didn’t. This matches my experience. For years, I sold my e-publications with no covers. But, I definitely started to make more money selling ebooks online once I started creating professional-quality ebook covers.

Is Ebook Marketing a Waste of Time?

ebook-marketing-statisticsI found the following statistic particularly interesting because I spent all of 2011 self-publishing a total of 50 ebooks.

The survey revealed that top earners spent more time writing ebooks than marketing them. And, it gets even more interesting . . .  the results showed that self-published authors who spent the most time marketing earned the least amount of money.

Say what!

Again, this definitely mirrors my own experience. Last year when I was writing all those ebooks, I really didn’t have time to market that much. Over and beyond publishing my weekly newsletter and doing some article marketing here and there, I really didn’t do very much in the way of ebook marketing.

But, the more ebooks I published, the more consistent my income became. This is holding true well over a year later. One of my freelance writing goals this year is to market my line of ebooks more. This summer, I’ve kind of fallen down on my sword (oh, I plan to pick back up in early fall, for sure!).

But, my sales have remained pretty steady. This initially surprised me for a couple of reasons: (i) summer is a traditionally slow time in editorial; and (ii) as I said, I really haven’t been marketing that much this summer.

Ebook Reviews Can Increase Your Earnings – a Lot!

The survey revealed that top earners of self-published ebooks had about four times as many reviews for their most recent title as those outside of the group. This meant they earned approximately six times as much for those who reported the figures for their second most recent book.

Bottom line, ebook reviews count. And, the best way to get them is to submit your ebook to popular reviewers on Amazon. Self-published authors who used this strategy earned approximately 32 percent more for their latest release. And, they got an average of 25 percent more reviews.

The kicker? This was a severely underused strategy.

Again, this mirrors my personal experience – as in, I have underused this strategy; in fact, I haven’t used it at all. My ebooks on the big sites like Amazon reflect this because I have very few of them.

Selling ebooks via mega-sites like Amazon has increased my overall income though because it gives me more exposure (and credibility as an author, in my opinion). However, I still sell the vast majority (about 90%) from this, my primary site.

Selling Ebooks Online: How the Money Is Shaking Out for Many Self-Publishers

Unfortunately, the news isn’t all that great. The survey found that a handful of self-published authors were earning the bulk of the money (about 75%). Specifically, the numbers showed that:

A mere 97 respondents (less than 10%) reported making enough money from their self-published books to live from their pen. More than half the respondent earned less than $500 and a quarter of the respondents did not even recoup their initial investment. The average yearly earnings of self-published authors was barely above $10 000, not quite enough to become rich.

I feel lucky in that I’m considered a “Top Earner”; in 2010, over half my annual income came directly from my ebook sales. This was true in 2011 and remains true for this year as well. In fact, I could survive on my ebook sales alone without having to take on any freelance writing projects. I want to point out that this was not an accident.

I laid out a plan a couple of years ago to transition from writing for clients to making my living as an independent self-publisher. Anyone can do this; just realize that it takes patience, a lot of hard work and planning.

And, now that e-readers are becoming more popular, there’s never been a better time to become a self-publisher in my opinion.

About This Self-Publishing Survey

Based on results from a Taleist survey  of  1,007 self-published authors, which gives insight into the world of self-publishing.

how-to-write-an-ebook-medP.S.: Want to start your own “ebook publishing empire?”

Think ebook publishing is hard? Have no idea how or where to start? Want to write an ebook but can never seem to make time to finish (or start)? You can! By next week this time, you could be finished writing your first ebook and be well on your way to getting your first sale. Really!

I know, I’ve published over 50 ebooks and since 2010, over half my annual income has come from e-products I write and promote. You can do the same thing.

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    1. I’m still learning from you, but I’m improving myself. I definitely love reading everything that is posted on your site.Keep the posts coming. I loved it!


    1. […] the other hand, as reported by Ink Well Editorial, “A mere 97 respondents (less than 10%) reported making enough money from their […]