You know, critics of indie publishing are very fond of pointing out that most indie authors don’t make much or any money. Proponents usually respond that the vast majority of traditionally published authors don’t make much money either — many traditionally published books “fail.” While that’s certainly true, I don’t think it’s the most effective response.
In judging the money-making potential of indie authorship, the real question is this: “How many authors who could publish their books through traditional routes but who choose to publish independently end up making as much or more through self-publishing, compared to what they would’ve made if they published traditionally?”
Books that could’ve gone the traditional route are the only books that can be used in comparing indie success rates to traditional success rates. Why? Because all the other books — all those that were rejected by traditional publishers or would’ve been rejected, had they been submitted — could only ever make exactly $0.00 through traditional publishers. If those “not good enough” books, when self-published, make a single red cent, that’s 100% gravy because they never would’ve gotten the chance to make anything if indie weren’t an option. And boy have some of those “not good enough” books made a whole pile of red cents.
Given the fact that you have to remove all the foolishly-rejected-by-traditional-publishing, Mill River Recluse-type books from the scale before you weigh indie vs. traditional, it seems very likely to me that authors are more likely to make good money as self-publishers, especially if they write in the genres that tend to sell well as ebooks. But we’ll never know for sure because every book that could be traditionally published has to go one way or the other, and it’s impossible to know how it would’ve done if the author had chosen the route he or she didn’t choose.
FYI, this is the weak analysis that ticked me off. Thanks to Kindle Boards for the link.