Episode 167 – Whispersync, Six-Figure Authors, and the New KDP Dashboard

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Question of the Week: When you see that six-figure authors have an average of 30 books written, does that motivate you or discourage you? What do you think you would have to do to get that many books on your backlist?

Bryan and Jim absolutely brought it on an episode featuring a survey of six-figure authors and discussions about Whispersync and the new KDP Dashboard (hint: Jim doesn’t like it). After thanking their patrons Sanyare: The Rebel Apprentice, The Thing Speaks for Itself, and Dark as the Grave, the sommeliers of self-publishing took on tips about BookBub pre-order announcements, Goodreads email notifications, and keyword research. Top stories included Penguin getting into merchandise, BookFunnel getting into bundles, the new KDP Dashboard, Amazon increasing Whispersync prices, and the six-figure author survey from Written Word Media. This week’s Question of the Week: When you see that six-figure authors have an average of 30 books written, does that motivate you or discourage you? What do you think you would have to do to get that many books on your backlist?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How a new feature from BookBub can boost your pre-orders
  • Why Goodreads Giveaways could be worthwhile after all (with the help from a new feature)
  • How to use your customer reviews to enhance your keyword research
  • Why Penguin is getting into the shirt business
  • What we think about BookFunnel trying out bundling
  • Why Jim thinks the new KDP Dashboard already needs a re-do
  • Why Bryan thinks Whispersync is upping its prices
  • What attributes six-figure authors tend to have in common
Question of the Week: When you see that six-figure authors have an average of 30 books written, does that motivate you or discourage you? What do you think you would have to do to get that many books on your backlist?

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  • Lavie Margolin

    It motivates me. As an author, part of my job is to write (and to market). Writing one book gets me in the rhythm to write one and then the next. I will have far more than 30 when things are done and hopefully have a book income of 6 figures one day.

    • Bryan

      Good to hear, Lavie!

  • C.E. Martin

    Hearing that 6-figure authors have 30 books does absolutely nothing for me. I’ve got 35, and my sales are lower now than when I had half that number. I’m also not worrying about 6 figures: my goal is to hit 5 figures in annual sales again–I’ve only done it one of my five years of writing (2014).

    I’d rather hear how much of those six figures those authors are reinvesting into their writing, or how many figures they had to put into their writing to reach this level of sales.

    • DarcyPattison

      If you read the article, they also point out that these authors are using advertising.

      • C.E. Martin

        I wouldn’t believe it if they weren’t advertising. My point is that how many books isn’t as important as how much advertising is being spent. That would be helpful to know–what’s the percentage of those “6-figures” going into advertising?

    • Bryan

      Good points, C.E. More books doesn’t always mean more sales.

  • Kendall Hanson

    Motivational. Just 21 to go to be average. I agree with C.E. Martin. How much of their six figures are they reinvesting? And is 30 books an average or a median?

    • Bryan

      You can do it!

  • Abraham Benguigui

    It’s motivational to an extent because I think its awesome to be able to show 30 books that you have written. The more you do something, the better you get at it. That being said, I think of this as a marathon, not a sprint. In three years, I’ll prefer to have 5-6 solid books with good editing, covers and marketing. Also, if you focus on building your email list and get more “Evangelist” writers from the start, then the books that you write later on will have a higher impact on your sells.

    • Bryan


  • Blaine Moore

    It seems like common sense to me, so it doesn’t really motivate or demotivate me. It just is. Granted, I pay attention to things like Author Earnings and listening to a variety of publishing podcasts, so it just seems like a common theme that is repeated.

    • Bryan

      It is what it is :).

  • Chris Syme

    I believe there is a danger here of thinking that if I write 30 books I will automatically reach six figures. With surveys like this, there is really no measurement for book quality. If I write 30 mediocre books and invest little money in marketing, I probably won’t get there. If I can write 15 good book books in a popular genre and invest some of that money back into marketing to get new readers and retain my loyal readers, I think I have a good shot. To me, the writing number is just one piece of a puzzle with a lot more pieces.

    • Bryan

      “To me, the writing number is just one piece of a puzzle with a lot more pieces.” Great point, Chris.

  • So is that average 30 books or 30 good books? But it does motivate me because it’s more evidence that the goal can be achieved.

    • Bryan

      I imagine many of those authors think their books are “good” :).

  • It seems like 90% of the comments are arguing the price of a good edit, when those editors are missing the point. Many 100k or great authors have barely edited their books at all, at least from the ones I’ve read. Their readership doesn’t demand it, and sinking an extra $2000-4000 into editing probably will never be made up in sales.

    On the flip side, some $10k authors could probably make $100k if they only spend $2000-4000 more on editing. 😉 Some genres demand good edits.

    • Bryan

      I think those edits early in a career can be extremely helpful. That $2k-$4k once or twice on book 1 or 2 may be the difference later on of not having to spend that much on developmental editing and learning of craft :).

      • Laura Martone

        Not that we’re such a bastion of success yet – with our one little space opera novel – but to be quite frank, Daniel and I edited our own novel… and since publishing it, I’ve only discovered one typo (which I will fix this week). I’m not saying that hiring editors is bad – I just don’t think it’s the only way. In fact, I’ve often encountered more mistakes and problems in the drafts RECEIVED by editors (even reputable ones) than GIVEN to them. So, not being able to afford $2K-4K for professional editing on one’s first few books should never bar someone from publishing. Just a few extra eyeballs from beta readers can often help a lot! 🙁

        • C.E. Martin

          Well said. And I’ll note that the one novel I have paid for editing on, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference in sales as compared to self-edited books. X+Y doesn’t equal Z in publishing. There’s no set formula for success, only things to increase your CHANCE of succeeding. But it’s still all a matter of chance, or luck.

  • I wish they would have looked at genre so we could see the combination of indie/trad, 500/100k, and their genres.

    • Bryan

      I’m guessing they didn’t have enough folks responding to get that kind of data.

  • DarcyPattison

    I think you missed the point of the KDP dashboard changes. If you look at the spreadsheet you can export, they have separated out the KENPC, the pages read, into its own tab, and given paperback books its own tab. It could be part of the move toward pushing everyone from Createspace to KDP for paperbacks. They are getting the backend straightened out so that when they do it, the accounting is straight.

    • Bryan

      But was it just for KDP Print? Seems like a lot of trouble to go to. Thanks for the thoughts, Darcy.

  • Six figure author ques – It motivates me. I love this data. Doesn’t mean I’ll be able to write 30 books. Doesn’t mean when I do I’ll make six figures. But it does give me information that appears to prove out a threshold for success. In this relatively new business landscape of indy publishing, I think we could use all the paved roads of success we can get.

    • Bryan

      I completely agree, Pete!

  • The big factor about surveys like this is how they are presented. Saying here’s how other people have done it is far different from saying you must do it this way. What you’ve presented is a series of guideposts I may find useful if I choose to work in that direction, and possibly even if I choose to take my writing elsewhere. That gives it value the Must Do presentation squanders.

    • Bryan

      “A series of guideposts I may find useful” I completely agree, Edwin.

  • Karen Fraunfelder Cantwell

    I was absolutely motivated! I’ve hit five figures in years past with far less than 30 books, so this news made it very real for me that I just needed to put the pedal to the metal and pump out more novels. In fact, after hearing your podcast, I went home and planned out my next twenty books.

    • Bryan

      Congrats, Karen! Your next 20 books?! Wow, so glad this story could be so motivating for you!

  • Laura Martone

    Hearing that six-figure authors have an average of 30 published books definitely motivates me to get my butt in gear – and crank out (a phrase I used to hate when I was a snooty literary writer) all the books Dan and I have currently planned… which, to be honest, amounts to more than 30 books. That said, these kinds of surveys can be suspect as they don’t always take into account specific genres, the length of said books, and advertising dollars spent.

    • I’ve been thinking about how the math works when it comes to coauthors OR multiple authors under one pen name. Basically, how much will each make when two authors each write 15 books each vs two authors writing 30 books together and splitting the money.

      All story, genre and other things being equal, will the 30 books by ‘one author’ make more money than the 15×2 books by two authors after the money is added up?

      • Assuming it’s true, that the 30 books by one name makes more, would the same hold true for 30 books with two names on the cover?

        Then, assuming the pen name makes more for the two authors, does the number of books ‘factor’ continue even over 30 (or 40, 50) books? Is there a point when things level out again?

        • Laura Martone

          All good points, Roland! And while I’d love to serve as a case study for such a hypothesis – after all, most of what we plan to write will say “Laura and Daniel Martone” on the cover (and be quicker to write and publish BECAUSE there’s two of us), but lucky for us, we live together – so our expenses are a bit less than, say, two co-authors who aren’t married! Meaning… we’d be perfectly okay making the same as one six-figure author writing 30 books!

      • I ask the question because I believe that speed and the number of books does matter. If two authors together can get a series or two out faster than one author alone it might be worth the collaborations for that alone.

        • Bryan

          Good questions to ask, Roland. Might be worth hitting up Michael Anderle and Craig Martelle to ask :).

  • Crissy Moss

    QOTW: I find that encouraging. I currently have 23 books out. While most of them are short stories I do have several novellas and novels,and several more novels on the way. This is encouraging because it means if you stick with things and don’t give up you’re more likely to eventually succeed.

    On the short story front; I don’t make much money from them but I have found that if I put a short story up for free on the weekends I get a lot more sales and KU reads of my novels. When I don’t have free short stories up I don’t get as many reads. Plus putting up a book for free is always a good excuse to email my list and say “remember me?” if I didn’t have so many books out it wouldn’t be as easy to do this.

    • Bryan

      Gotta do what works for ya!

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