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Indie Author Income Survey: Self-publishing income factors

The Big Indie Author Data Drop 2023

In 2023, ALLi commissioned an additional round of research into its Indie Author Income Survey, looking into the demographics and success factors of why self-published authors were earning more than traditionally published authors. The results were fascinating, showing that self-publishing offers a greater diversity of storytelling thanks to the success of women, LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent authors within the community. The survey will be completed every two years to build on our knowledge and understanding of the industry. You can read the report here. You can also visit ALLi's Facts page which contains multiple reports. 

Indie Author Earnings 2023 report cover

Did you know?

Self-published authors earn more than traditionally published authors. 

The Indie Author Income Survey, commissioned by ALLi, reveals that authors who bypass traditional publishing channels see increased incomes from their writing and publishing year on year, against a background of authors with third-party publishers seeing a fall in earnings. The world’s first independent, international survey of the incomes of self-published (“indie”) authors, commissioned by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), found that the median revenue in 2022 was US$12,749. This compares, like for like (gross incomes of “primary occupation authors” who spend more than 50% of their working time on writing and publishing activities), with a median of US$8,600 for authors with third-party publishers. Figures are converted to US dollars for ease of comparison. Most significantly, average incomes of self-published authors were rising, with a 53% increase in 2022 over the previous year. By contrast, previous author income surveys, which have focused on revenues received by authors with third-party publishers, have repeatedly reported falling incomes.

Neurodivergent and ‘cognitively impaired' self-published authors earn more than traditionally published authors. 

The overall median figure for self-published authors was $12,755 (compared to $6-8,000 amongst traditionally published authors). Within this group, however, authors who classed themselves as having ‘cognitive impairments’ (this covered a wide range of issues, from Tourettes to dyslexia, recovery from strokes and more) earned more than the typical author ($19,683) and those who chose ‘neurodivergent’, although lower than the overall median at $9,769, were still above the median figure for authors who classed themselves as having a disability ($4,000) and above traditionally published authors. ALLi followed up this insight with a blog post entitled Time, Space and Grace: 7 success factors for neurodivergent and cognitively impaired authors. The ability within self-publishing for authors to be truly and authentically themselves, to harness their strengths and make adjustments for their own bespoke needs, is part of what has made this particular group do so well financially and speaks volumes about the society in which we live and its need for change.

Women out-earn men in self-publishing. 

Unlike the population of the authors in a survey of traditional publishing models (an almost 50/50 gender split), almost 70% of indie authors are cisgender women. The earnings data also disclosed a reverse gender gap, with cisgender women typically earning considerably more than cisgender men for a difference of 40.94% between these groups: this is almost a mirror reflection of the gender pay gap of 41.4% between cisgender men and cisgender women in the traditional publishing survey. This is a strong indication that indie publishing models may be more enabling, and sustainable for cisgender women, when compared with a traditional publishing route.

Self-published LGBTQIA+ authors are very successful. 

Not only are they well represented in the indie sector (the percentage of LGBTQIA+ indie authors was 13%), they also out-earn self-published heterosexual authors by a significant 19%, with a strong focus on writing for their own community, which just shows that there is an avid audience for their work, which has often been dismissed as ‘too niche' by the traditional publishing sector.

The second round of cross-category analysis was sponsored by the Self-Publishing Formula and carried out by CREATe (the University of Glasgow), who had previously carried out the ALCS author income survey. Over 2000 authors from around the world took part in the survey.

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