This is the time of year when those who are so inclined start posting their reports of income for writers during the previous year. The news is never good. Writers are used to that, and most of us don't expect a report that tells us something at odds with our own experience. Some of us read the bad news for comfort. "Aha! I'm not the only one barely breaking even on this venture." Or we read for signs of hope. "Oh, look! Four people out of 790,299 made money last year in this obscure category I've never heard of before. Maybe I should try that." Or we're depressed and misery loves company. "I knew it! We're all going down the tubes." But his month came a report that knocked me off my usual tolerant perch.
According to Amazon, as reported in Claude Forthomme-Nougat's blog, only 40 self-published authors can be considered a success. Only 40? Yup. Because only forty writers have made money. Really? Yup. Only forty writers have sold more than one million e-books in the last five years. Are you hyperventilating yet?
My usual reaction to this kind of statement is, Are you nuts? But what I really want to say is, Amazon has lost all perspective and so has anyone else who believes this statistic is worth anything. That measure for success is meaningless. It's the same as saying the best selling book in the world is the Bible (which is actually correct), so all the rest of you guys with a computer or typewriter or pen and paper might as well quit and find something else to do.
Claude goes on to point out that most writers make enough to live below the poverty level, which most of us already know. He also discusses what this means for legacy publishers--they're losing market share. We know that too, and so do they.
The problem with these kinds of reports is that they tap into the competitive streak in most human beings, and that emotion blinds us to what we would be taking away from such reports--nothing. Such reports lack enough depth to be useful or informative. They are designed to get a little quick attention, stir things up, and point out how important Amazon is. Okay. We got that.
But for working writers, those striving to improve their work and reach an audience, such reports are at best confusing and distracting and at worst debilitating. They capture the ambitious new writer who wants to know how to do the same, and can lead him or her down the proverbial rabbit hole. This is a huge waste of time.
In my view such statistics are simply not worth taking seriously. They have more to do with Amazon's business strategy and might be better reserved for a private staff meeting. For new writers and established writers trying to find a path through the changing world of publishing, I think it is better to focus on what has always been the key to success--write a good story or a good book. When it's done, take on the task of selling it, which can be as arduous as writing it. And then keep writing. There are no shortcuts for most of us, and good fortune or luck taps the shoulder of those who are ready.
To read the article, go to