The Authors Guild, America's organization for writers, has undertaken the most exhaustive U.S. author income survey to date. 36 other entities, such as Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Ingram, B&N Press, and PEN America, have joined this endeavor.
The study had responses from 5,699 published authors, ensuring a balanced representation from traditional and self-publishing spheres.
Demographically, the participants were diverse, with 21% (over 1,100) being non-white, including 8% Black, 4% Hispanic, and other groups. Around 12% identified as LGBTQIA+, 11% as having impairments, and 6% did not exclusively identify as male or female.
⭐ Self-published authors have seen a 76% income surge since 2018, largely attributed to effective promotional strategies.
⭐ Romance writers lead the earnings chart, followed closely by graphic novelists.
Furthermore, activities related to authorship also contribute to their income.
More than mere statistics, this survey underscores the monetary obstacles writers face, emphasizing the importance of upholding the voices that enrich our literary landscape.
Primary Survey Highlights
1. Author earnings:
- Full-time authors had a median income of $10,000 from their books in 2022, which jumped to $20,000 when considering other author-related sources. This showcases the significant contribution of non-book-related writing activities to their overall earnings.
- Considering all authors, the median book-related earnings stood at $2,000 in 2022, and total writing-associated earnings were $5,000.
2. Self-published author revenue
Full-time self-published writers, on average, earned $12,800 from books and $15,000 in total from all writing pursuits in 2022. Notably, those publishing since 2018 witnessed their income leap from $13,700 in 2018 to $24,000.
3. Earnings by genre
Romance writers took the lead with a median income of $31,725 from their books. Graphic novelists followed, earning $15,000. Other genres, such as mystery, thriller, and literary fiction, had varied median earnings, highlighting the substantial income disparities between genres.
4. Racial discrepancy in earnings
Racial income disparity is evident. Black authors' median book earnings were a mere $2,412 compared to $10,985 for white authors. Total earnings also reflected a similar trend, although the gap was slightly narrower.
5. Promotion & distribution
Kindle Unlimited, subscription schemes, ebook promotions, and author newsletters emerged as potent marketing tools. While social platforms generally had limited impact, TikTok was an exception for specific genres.
Most authors have yet to venture into audiobooks, indicating a missed opportunity.
The findings from the Authors Guild's 2023 Author Income Survey serve as a critical resource for writers navigating the evolving landscape of the publishing world.
Embracing these insights can empower authors to position themselves in the market better, optimize their marketing efforts, and diversify their income streams.
As the landscape continues to evolve, such data-driven perspectives will be essential in ensuring that the voices of all authors, regardless of background or genre, are heard, valued, and compensated fairly.