Writing Wild!


Join fellow writers to experience the ancient ruins of Walnut Canyon, respond to writing prompts, and share your writing if desired.

June 27, 2024
9:30-10:00 Rim Walk (Optional)
10 a.m.-11:30 Writing Together
11:30 Brown Bag Lunch and Exploration of history of peoples who lived in the canyon from C. E. 600-1400. (Optional)
RSVP: Barbara@WisdomSeekersAZ.com

3 Walnut Canyon Rd., Flagstaff
Meet at Picnic Area

$20 Park Entrance Fee per vehicle, Senior Pass, or Car Pooling Available

Bring a hat, sunscreen, water, and laptop or pen & paper.

Traditional vs. Self-Pub Part II

In Part I we discussed the differences between Traditional Publishing and Self Publishing. This post will take a more monetary approach.

What Does the Publishing Competition Look Like?

Based on a post from Dean Talbot in Feb 2022 4 million books are published globally each year. That's:
  • 11,000 books a day
  • 457 books an hour
  • 8 books a minute
2023 Stats reveal that the American slice of this pie is comprised of:
  • 10,000 books from the major North American publishing houses
  • 500,000 self-published titles from the US (1370 books a day).
  • Market revenue for 2023 was around $14.16 billion.
  • For the first time in history more than half of book sales were made online.
Clearly, the appetite for reading and storytelling remains as strong as ever.

Now Let's Consider How Each Type of Publishing Pays

Unfortunately, this is like comparing apples and oranges. The two types of publishing use different methods to make their money. Traditional publishing is all about copies sold. The biggest money maker in self publishing is Kindle Unlimited which pays authors based on words read.


Sometimes authors get an advance of $5,000-$10,000. Other times there is no advance. The advance is the publisher's best guess how much your book will earn in a year. You must earn enough from the book to pay off the advance before you get any royalties from the book. Most books don't ever "earn out" of their advance. Those that do, don't usually earn out until they are over a year old and considered the publisher's "backlist." Frontlist books are less than a year old and the publisher is still actively promoting those books.

Once you have earned out your advance, you receive royalties calculated off the retail price of the book as follows:
      1. Usually around 20-25% for ebook and audio book.
      2. 5-7.5% for trade paperback.
      3. 5% for mass market paperback.
      4. Around 10-15% for hardcover.

Don't forget, the agent will see the check first and take 15% of the royalties off the top. Whatever's left is yours.

Most publishers expect one book a year from their authors.


First you have to invest in your book. According to Miblart an average novel of 80,000 words would have the following expenses if published in digital format only in 2024:
    • Self-editing – $0-$15
    • Developmental editing – $2,400
    • Copyediting – $1,600
    • Line editing – $3,200
    • Book formatting – $0-200
    • Custom book cover – $35-700
    • Illustrated book cover – $120-380 (if applicable)
    • Illustrations – $10-$150 (if applicable)
    • Proofreading – $1,600
    • ISBN – $125
    • Marketing – $0-$10,000

Self-publishing takes place on an online platform. Here’s what to expect from the best self-publishing sites:
      1. Amazon KDP: Up to 70% royalties for books between $2.99 and $9.99. 35% if below $2.99.
      2. Kindle Unlimited thru KDP Select: Approximately $1,000 for every 10,000 pages read.
      3. Apple Books: Up to 70% royalties for most books.
      4. Google Play Books: Up to 70% royalties for most books.
      5. Barnes & Noble: Up to 70% royalties for ebooks. 55% for prints.
      6. Kobo: Up to 70% royalties for books priced more than $2.99. 45% if below $2.99.

Most self-published authors do better if they release several books a year, particularly if the books are connected to each other in a series.

So, In Theory, If We Compare the Two

So if a self-published author can sell a decent amount of books, they can make more than a traditionally-published author. That's always been the case. Self-published authors on average make less money because they have difficulty getting their books into marketing chanels monopolized by major publishing houses. Or at least that's how it has been. But wait--things have recently changed.

How Much Do Authors Make in Each Type of Publishing?

It's hard to compare traditional and self-published incomes based on books sold because that's not always the way self-published authors get paid. However, you can look at the average income for both groups.

The Authors Guild, the leading professional organization for writers in the United States, in collaboration with 36 other organizations including Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Ingram, B&N Press, PEN America, African American Literature Book Club, and many others, has conducted the most comprehensive author income study to date in the United States. Though this is not a scientific, double-blinded study--the participants were volunteers and not randomly selected--it does give us some insight into a professional author's income.

"A total of 5,699 published authors participated, and the survey sample was meticulously divided, with representation from both traditionally published and self-published authors, making it the most representative author income survey to date as well."


Among all those who completed the survey, 80% considered themselves professional authors, but only 35% considered themselves full time.

For full-time authors whose books are in commercial markets (i.e, excluding academic, scholarly, and educational books), the median book income was $15,000 and median author-related income was $25,000. Book income includes advances, royalties, and fees from licensing and subsidiary rights. Other author-related incomes includes work such as editing, blogging, teaching, speaking, book coaching, copy writing and journalism. That means half of all full-time authors continue to earn below minimum wage in many states from all their writing related work, and well below the federal minimum wage of just $7.25/hour from their books alone.

A significant racial and sexual disparity still exists for authors. For example, full-time Black authors earned a median of only $2,412 from their books, as compared to a median of $10,985 for white authors. Black authors median total earning is $15,250 and white authors $20,000. 38% of white authors are traditionally published compared to only 28% of black authors.

The median book income for all authors was only $2,000 for 2022, and the median total writing-related income was $5,000.


The median income for full-time self-published authors in 2022 was $12,800 from books and $15,000 total from all writing-related activities. Full-time self-published authors who had been publishing since at least 2018 reported a mean income of $24,000 compared to $13,700 in 2018, a 76% increase. Longevity significantly increases self-pub income.

Kindle Unlimited was particularly effective for self-published authors, who earned 67 percent more book income from that platform than traditionally published authors make on book-earnings alone.

Audiobooks are dramatically underused by both traditional and self-published authors, with 55 percent of traditionally published and 64 percent of self-published authors having no books published in audiobook form.

Full-time authors of romance and romantic suspense had the highest median gross income from their books, out-earning mystery, thriller, and suspense writers by over three times and literary fiction authors by a staggering nine times.

Book Promotion

Though author incomes are still low, experienced self-published authors have nearly doubled their earnings since 2018, with the help of effective marketing efforts.

While social media and blogging were typically rated least effective, TikTok was a particularly effective platform for romance and romantic suspense authors as well as authors of African American fiction, poetry, YA fiction, new adult and erotic fiction.

But How Many Books Does the Average Author in Both Categories Sell?

I started this journey looking for the average number of copies sold in both categories of publishing. I discovered that information is almost impossible to access and it is likely irrelevant anyway as the two types of publishing pay using different units of measurement. However, I thought I should finish up with my best attempt at answering the original question.


Kristen McLean, lead industry analyst from NPD BookScan, tried to come up with more accurate numbers. She included the frontlist sales for the top 10 publishers by unit volume in the U.S. Trade market (Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Scholastic, Disney, Macmillan, Abrams, Sourcebooks, and John Wiley). Frontlist books are less than a year old, the book converts to the backlist on its 366th day in print. Collectively, 45,571 unique ISBNs appear for these publishers in frontlist sales data for the last 52 weeks thru week ending 8-24-2022.

NPD BookScan looks at ISBNs not books. 

  • Remember every book published in multiple formats (trade paperback, hardcover, mass market, audiobook, new cover, movie tie-in, etc.), has a new ISBN and the units sold is artificially decreased in terms of how NPD tracks it. In other words, if my book sells 1,000 copies in paperback, audio book, and ebook each, I would think the book sold 3,000 copies. BookScan sees that as three different books only selling 1000 copies each. 
  • Most self publishers don’t bother with ISBN for ebooks so they aren't even represented in these numbers.

Copies Sold

“More than”

No. of Books out of 45,571 Titles in 2022

Percentage of Books Sold in a Year

































From this graph we can see the actual number of print books from traditional publishers that sold less than 12 copies is actually closer to 15%, not the 50% that the DOJ lawyer in the Penguin Random House antitrust case claimed. BUT 66% of print books from a traditional publisher sold less than 1,000 copies over it's first year, and less than 2% sold more than 50,000 copies. So the average traditionally published book sells less than 1,000 copies!

Ms. McLean did the same analysis on the 487K new books published in 2022 which would include small presses and independently published titles. She found that 98% of books sold less than 5,000 copies. She admits, though, that data does not include direct sales from publishers. It does not include sales by authors at events, or through their websites. It does not include eBook sales which are tracked by a separate tool, and it doesn't include any of the reading going on through platforms like Substack, Wattpad, Webtoons, Kindle Direct, or library lending platforms like OverDrive or Hoopla.

But that's not the end of the story. Print books are about 50% of the market right now. So if an author sold 1000 print copies, they may well have sold 1,000 or so ebook copies with the higher royalty for a total of 2,000 copies. All the numbers in the above graph can be assumed to be doubled.


That means that the major publishing houses are surviving off of the top 8-10% of new best sellers plus the 70% of sales coming from their backlist (books more than a year old). Publishers have managed to survive in this worsening marketplace by shifting more and more marketing responsibility to authors. Publishers still fulfill important roles in helping craft books to succeed and making books available in hundreds or thousands of sales channels, but whether the books move in those channels depends primarily on how authors support their own books.


In the old days DIY authors had limited access to distribution channels, publishing data, and book professionals like editors or cover artists. Vanity publishing arose as an industry for those who couldn't get their books into the traditional publishing houses. But vanity publishers had a reputation for publishing without regard for quality. They mainly made money off of the desperation of unpublished authors.

Self-published authors have had to endure a lasting perception of poor quality from those days as well as the very valid criticism that some self-publishing authors, eager to rush to market, overlook essential steps like editing. They flood the market with poor quality books that cause reader dissatisfaction.

But, oh, how times have changed! Fast forward a few decades and self-publishers not only have access to what traditional publishers do, but in many areas, including outreach, they can outperform them. --Shannon Clark, SelfPublishing.com

Promotion is Key

The thin margins in the industry, high complexities of the business, intense competition, severe supply-chain disruptions, churning of new technologies like AI, and rapid growth of other media lead to constant turmoil in bookselling and publishing.

Crucially, self-publishing provides authors with greater control over marketing strategies, enabling them to tailor their approach to their specific audience. This control can be a boon for those who intimately understand their followers’ preferences and behaviours, ultimately increasing the chances of a book’s success.--Suswati Basu

Whether you are self-publishing or traditionally published, the success of your book relies on what you do to promote it.

With self-published books competing with those from traditional publishing houses, authors needed to be more strategic and creative in their marketing approach to stand out.--Joel Mark Harris of Ghost Writers and Co.
If you want to make more than minimum wage as an author, you're going to have to embrace marketing.

Need Help Marketing Your Book?

Join the 

Pub Club.

Did you know Flagstaff Writers Connection hosts a free, online group to help you build platform, get published, and market books?

Members meet monthly for support, accountability, and education. Members take turns presenting a topic related to the business of being a writer. Both traditional publication and self-publication are discussed. Handouts and worksheets are kept in a Drive File accessible anytime.

Email PubClub@FlagWriter.com to join.

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing Part I


How Many Copies Does an Average Book Sell?

I attended the Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc. Conference early in May. One of the lectures compared Traditional Publication to Self Publication and gave some rather shocking numbers revealed in the 2022 Penguin Random House/Simon & Shuster vs DOJ monopoly case. For those of you who don't keep up on modern courtroom drama that doesn't involve an ex-president, here is a brief description of the case from Rachel Neumeier:

In 2022, Penguin Random House wanted to buy Simon & Schuster. The two publishing houses made up 37 percent and 11 percent of the market share according to the filing, and combined they would have condensed the Big Five publishing houses into the Big Four. But the government intervened and brought an antitrust case against Penguin to determine whether that would create a monopoly.

The judge ultimately ruled that the merger would create a monopoly and blocked the $2.2 billion purchase. But during the trial, the head of every major publishing house and literary agency got up on the stand to speak about the publishing industry and give numbers, giving us an eye-opening account of the industry from the inside. …

I think I can sum up what I’ve learned like this: The Big Five publishing houses spend most of their money on book advances for big celebrities like Britney Spears and franchise authors like James Patterson and this is the bulk of their business. They also sell a lot of Bibles, repeat best sellers like Lord of the Rings, and children’s books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. These two market categories (celebrity books and repeat bestsellers from the backlist) make up the entirety of the publishing industry and even fund their vanity project: publishing all the rest of the books we think about when we think about book publishing (which make no money at all and typically sell less than 1,000 copies).

During the trial the DOJ’s lawyer collected data on 58,000 titles published in the last year and discovered that 90 percent of them sold fewer than 2,000 copies and 50 percent sold less than a dozen copies.

Wait. What? A dozen copies? That's family and friends. I could sell that if I self-published. Sure, I would have to spend money up front on an editor and book art for the cover, perhaps even someone to help me format the text. But I came to the conference to pitch to agents. Not an inexpensive endeavor. Needless to say, I freaked out when I heard these stats.

Spoiler Alert: In case you are also freaking out, those numbers are likely incorrect. No publishing house could survive if half their titles only sold a dozen or so copies. And none of the people who analyze book sales for a living can figure out where the lawyer got the 58,000 book number. What slice of the book industry was he looking at? It was said to be "all frontlist books published in a year by every publisher" but Kristen McLean, lead industry analyst from NPD BookScan, said on a reply in the Countercraft Substack that number should be more like 487,000 titles. 

Okay, competing with half a million titles a year is also a freak out number.

Looking at these numbers, I realized I should know this stat. How many books does the average traditionally published book sell and how many books does the self-published book have to sell to make the same amount of money as a traditionally published author? Is it really worth it to go through the query/editor/publisher process? What are the differences in Self-Pub and Traditional Pub?

Unfortunately, those stats are more difficult to discover than the numbers on our nuclear arsenal. So the remainder of this post and the next week's post will be my best shot at coming close to answering those questions.

Traditional vs. Self-Publication

First lets look at the major differences between traditional publication and self-publication.

Next week I'll discuss the monetary differences between the two types of publication.

Need Help Marketing Your Book?

Join the 

Pub Club.

Did you know Flagstaff Writers Connection hosts a free, online group to help you build platform, get published, and market books?

Members meet monthly for support, accountability, and education. Members take turns presenting a topic related to the business of being a writer. Both traditional publication and self-publication are discussed. Handouts and worksheets are kept in a Drive File accessible anytime.

Email PubClub@FlagWriter.com to join.

2024 AZ Authors Literary Contest


AZ Authors Association Literary Contest and Awards

Unpublished                                                                 Published                                                                              

Poems                                                                                                Fiction
Short Stories                                                                                     Nonfiction
Essays/Review                                                                                  Children (Under 12)
Novel, Novella                                                                                  Teen/Young Adult
                                                                                                          Oldie but Goldie Fiction
                                                                                                          Oldie but Goldie Nonfiction
                                                                                                          Oldie but Goldie Youth

One Grand Prize of $500

Three First Prizes of $200
Three Second Prizes of $100
Three Third Prizes of $75
Three Fourth Prizes of $50
Eleven Best-of-Category Prizes $25

Unpublished Poetry and Short Story Best of Category will be 
Nominated for the Pushcart Prize


Two-page evaluations available for

unpublished works and

self-published novels and memoirs!

All winners will be featured in the 2024 Arizona Authors Literary MagazineSince it began in 1978, the Arizona Literary Magazine has launched the careers of many authors.

>>>DEADLINE: June 1, 2024<<<