14 February, 2014

Satisfaction: Traditional vs. Self-Published

A few weeks ago I came across this article on Digital Book World about a study into the satisfaction levels of traditionally published authors and self-published authors. 9000 authors were interviewed last autumn about various aspects of their writing careers. The results were interesting but perhaps not surprsing. The headline fact drawn from the study is this: writers are never satisfied. I find that a bit sad.

Can you guess what authors (of both types) were least satisfied with when it came to publication? I bet you can. That's right - the amount of money earned. Satisfaction for this category was almost identical - 4.5% (self-published) and 4.8% (traditional). At first glance this might make writers appear either a) mercenary, or b) unrealistic. I'm sure there are authors out there who are either or both, but I suspect it's mostly a product of the way the questions was phrased. After all, there's a difference between not being "very satisfied" with your earnings and only having written the book for money in the first place.

I'll leave you to study the table yourself if you're interested (it also includes hybrid authors), but here's a little list of whether traditional or self-published authors have higher levels of satisfaction:

Higher for Self-Published Authors
  • Book pricing
  • Royalty rate
  • Amount of creative control
  • Cover of the book

Higher for Traditionally Published Authors
  •  Number of copies sold
  • Personal costs (not sure if this is financial or emotional!)
  • Amount of time required to edit/prepare the book
  • Amount of professional help received
  • Overall marketing and promotion
  • Quality of finished product

Please! I'm a writer.
The highest levels of satisfaction for traditional authors was for the quality of the finished product (41.1%), and for self-published authors it was the amount of creative control they had (61.8%). Neither particularly high!

I haven't published anything yet (though, that's soon to change) so I can't really add my own experience. How about you? If you have a published book, which areas would you say you are "very satisfied" with? Does anything surprise you about this study? I wonder if there was a study comparing satisfaction of authors about to be published (excited and enthusiastic) with authors one year after publication (realistic!) whether the results would be different.

One thing I'd have liked to see included is overall satisfaction with life. When moving away from the material and into 'fulfilment' I'd like to think writers are more satisfied than most. What do you think?


  1. I'm fairly satisfied with my writing and publication at the moment (self-published) as it's been a period where I've been able to learn my trade and coalesce my thinking and reasons for writing. I've also learnt that I do have more than one book in me.

    I'm far from satisfied with what I earn as I'd like to make a living from my writing, but until that day comes, I'll be satisfied with each step forwards.

    1. Thanks, Martin. I think you epitomise what I meant - writers who work hard at their craft and get their work out there to be read I would think are mostly quite satisfied with life. Whereas when you break writing down into figures and technical aspects, there's always room for improvement!

  2. I concur with Martin's comments. One thing that has surprised me, while creating my own humour ebooks, is just how much thought has to go into the cover design.

    I'm very satisfied with the opportunity writing gives me to enter into my own imagination and then produce something on the page.

    1. I think I might be about to have to have some imput into my novel cover design and the thought scares me!

  3. I must first of all concur with both Martin and Derek. Before going any further; like all writers, I'd love to leave the day job, although I only do it three days a week now.
    I have two eBook novels self-published. My first was the romance, '10 Days in Panama' which I published over a year ago - sales in double figures, but no big deal. A few good reviews, but nobody knows me - yet.
    I published my crime novel in November last year; 'Beyond The Law', which I set in my hometown of Glasgow (not where I live now). It sold about 50 copies in December, then by mid-January another 50, so although I'm pleased with it, I'm not about to sign over film rights. LOL
    In summary, nothing in the survey surprises me. I would agree that when it comes to fulfilment - writers are more satisfied than most. I've had two previous careers of 20+ years so I feel I can say that writing is a lot of things, but it is more fulfilling than most other careers, however you get published.

    1. I think for most writers, that's the dream. You're doing so well to have sacrified and arranged things in order to be able write even two days a week! I'm glad writing is so fulfilling for you :)


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