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February 17, 2012


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

The Taleist 2012 Self-Publishing Survey

The recent mega-success of self-epublishing authors such as Amanda Hocking, John Locke, Darcie Chan, and Kerry Wilkinson has generated a lot of media attention over the past year or so. But the mega-successes aren't the only ones who are doing well: all over the Internet (notably at Joe Konrath's blog) you can find testimony from authors who cite substantial sales and earnings from self-published books. It's clear that something extraordinary is happening around electronic self-publishing (print self-publishing, by contrast, seems to be unaffected by the boom).

But how common is that kind of success, really? How representative are these authors of all self-publishers? The traditional dynamic of self-publishing is that success is the exception; has electronic self-publishing really changed that, or does it just look that way? What techniques or traits do successful self-publishers share?

The truth is that we just don't know--not only because most of the data is self-reported, but because no one has really correlated it, or surveyed the self-pub industry as a whole.

That's something that writer Steven Lewis aims to address. Via his blog, Taleist, he's conducting a survey of self-publishers:
How are you doing as a self-publisher? It’s a hard question to answer isn’t it? What are you measuring against?

There are self-publishing authors like JA Konrath, Amanda Hocking,  John Locke and (on a smaller but perfectly formed scale) Joanna Penn who are generous with their figures but they’re selling books from the tens of thousands to the millions. So does that mean you’re a failure if your figures are more modest? Or are you actually doing better than most? What is the average royalty earning for self-publishing authors? How long does it take for a self-published book to reach peak sales? What are the most successful authors doing to market their books?

The Taleist 2012 Self-Publishing Survey will have the answers. We're taking a professional snapshot of the self-publishing industry.
Lewis's goal is to reach 1,000 authors. As of this past Wednesday, over 800 authors had responded.

If you're a self-publisher, please take the time to fill out the survey. It's very detailed--there are 61 questions--and will take some time, but it's well worth it to generate a really solid database that will hopefully educate us all about the new face of self-publishing.

More Fine Print Stuff

If you're considering contributing to a website or blog that requests submissions from the public, be on the lookout for disclaimers like this:
By submitting information to [website or blog], you grant [website or blog] a perpetual, royalty-free license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, distribute, and otherwise exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to that information at its sole discretion, including storing it on [website or blog] servers and incorporating it in other works in any media now known or later developed including without limitation published books.
What this means: the website or blog can not only host your entry, but can use it to create derivative works, such as anthologies, books, presentations, films, etc., without compensation or credit to you. For short personal testimonials or essays, you may not object to these provisions--or you may. What's important is that you read the fine print (even if it's hard to find) and understand what rights you're giving away.

Here's another example of this kind of rights claim: a call last year for poetry submissions for O, Oprah Winfrey's magazine.


PT Dilloway said...

I was thinking of doing that survey until you said it was 61 questions.

Brett said...

I don't understand why the magic number for surveys is 1000 these days. With hundreds of thousands of people, a simple 1000 doesn't show adequate sample size to give a proper impression of whatis actually happening.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what kind of reporting bias such a survey might reflect. It's not a random sample: participants are self-selected. Would you be more likely to answer a self-publishing survey if your book had flopped, or if it had done pretty well?

Victoria Strauss said...

I always wish that people would include me in surveys so I could skew the numbers by expressing the opposite of the prevailing point of view (why does no one ever call me for one of those ubiquitous political polls??) that might be a motivation for some less successful authors.

Seriously, though, hopefully authors will be motivated to participate because they'd like to get a better sense of where they stand within the overall self-pub field. The survey won't be perfect--those are good points about numbers and bias. But I'm hoping the survey will at least get us a bit farther beyond anecdotal reports and media hype, which is pretty much all that's available right now.

Rick said...

I can't wait to see what Joe finds out. Bless you for letting us all know about this.

Unknown said...

I took the survey. Many of the questions I couldn't answer, but my writing was hurt bad by the need to constantly promote, and some writers I won't read anymore because all they did was promote and drove me crazy. My earlier traditional books were pirated years ago on foreign sites, and my self-published work hasn't done well because I hate promotion other than limited direct mail and my print newsletter. So, at this point it appears my fiction will never have an impact on the new publishing ventures.

docstar said...

I really don't see this survey as being much more than an amalgamation of blog/forum discussions. As Anonymous said, it's not a random sample and (I'm assuming) it's anonymous - rather obvious that the results are going to be skewed, and most likely not worth much more than all the blogs and forum discussions.

Jenny Twist said...

What an excellent idea. I await the results with interest

David Gaughran said...


1000 is simply the target. If they get 2000 responses, I'm sure they will be delighted. You might find this interesting, though. I was speaking with Steven Lewis (the guy behind the survey) the other day, when they were up to 800 or so responses. He said that the data hasn't significantly changed since they reached 300 or so response - which is interesting.

Doug Brunell said...

I won't be taking the survey, and nor do I care about the responses. Surveys can be and are skewed. Being anonymous doesn't guarantee honesty (I find it to be quite opposite.) Success is relative anyway. I find success to be when I can quit my day job. My one writer friend defined it as selling a book to someone other than a friend or family member.

Unknown said...

There are 34 million and more books listed on Amazon. I'd say if you are in the top three million you have been a success compared to someone down around 34 million. So, success is relative.

Unknown said...

I never imagined they carried that many books, but on their website it claimed 867,000 Kindle books and the rest hardback and paperbacks.

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