Home : Thoughts on “How Authors Really Make Money”

Tim Ferriss posted How Authors Make Money in his blog. It offers some worthwhile insights about the publishing industry.

My only difference with the article is based on the following assertion:

The top-five Kindle selling authors of all-time, over 500,000 copies each, are all fiction writers (including Stieg Larsson, Stephanie Meyer, and others). In the top-50 Kindle bestsellers right now, I counted just three (3!) non-fiction books. If you’re a non-fiction author, I’d think carefully before jumping the gun to all digital.

My challenge, posted as a comment (plenty of excellent commentary on this post worth reading) is as follows.

Great post and excellent commentary following.

I’d like to differ with one perspective. You make conclusions about the fiction vs. non-fiction eBook markets based on statistics for the top 50 books. These are likely to be driven mostly by outside sources such as book reviews. You suggest that since only two non-fiction books are in that top 50, fiction is the better market.

But like local bands who never sign with a record label but bring in the dancers and drinkers night after night, there are excellent opportunities for writers to make decent income well below the #50 slot on the list. It’s not a get rich game, but it can mean decent money and indy writers don’t have to set their sites on the top of a pyramid controlled by mega-industry.

Many eBook selections are made after people search for specific topics, and in these cases, success has to do mostly with your findability on Amazon. My novel is a needle in the fiction haystack, but my One Hour Guide to Self-Publishing shows up near the top on a kindle book search two weeks after being published.

Consider sampling the top 5,000-10,000 books before directing writers towards fiction as their best opportunity. I’m a novelist at heart, but I’m betting my publishing business on nonfiction. Fiction is an art product, while nonfiction provides a solution to a need recognized by a reader in search of an answer. That sounds like a sounder business proposition to me.

All the best and thank you,

Dave Bricker

Ultimately, while anything is possible, the odds are enormously against an unknown writer producing a blockbuster mega-hit. However, indy writers get to keep a much larger slice of their smaller pie. Selling a few thousand books can bring in some nice financial rewards regardless of whether that places you anywhere near the top-50 list, and Amazon searchability has much to do with whether people will find your answer to their problem or not. Nonfiction has a distinct advantage, here.


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