Making Money as an Author: A Mathematical Breakdown

Making money as an author is easier said than done. After all, what percentage of today’s authors actually make a profit from their writing? It’s miniscule. And yet, some would argue that it’s certainly possible. You just have to make the right business decisions.

As a baseball fan, I am very aware of the concept of “Moneyball.” There was even a movie made about it. That concept — which has to do with basically doing a mathematical analysis of a business and making decisions accordingly — can be applied to just about any industry. And now, it’s being applied to publishing.

See the chart below, which was put together by Andrew Rhomberg, the founder of Jellybooks, a reader analytics company based in London. The idea for his business is pretty simple, actually. Much like we have television ratings that let us know how many people watch a full TV show or fast forward through commercials, Jellybooks goes above and beyond just seeing who is downloading e-books. It is tracking how people are actually reading these e-books.

According to the NY Times, Jellybooks (with the readers’ consent, of course) tracks, “when people read and for how long, how far they get in a book and how quickly they read, among other details.” And for those of you who are familiar with the world of the web, Jellybooks uses words like “engagement” and “analytics” to explain their data. In other words, they’re bringing book reading into the 21st century. And this quick peek at their findings are pretty incredible.

making money as an author data
Source: Jellybooks

 

Key Takeaways From This Research

  • Among the readers who agreed to be a part of this study, they actually finished less than half of the books tested.
    • Only 5 percent of the books had a completion rate of over 75%.
    • Sixty percent of books fell into a range where between 25 and 50% of test readers finished them.
  • Those readers who didn’t complete the full book typically gave up in the early chapters (as the chart above suggests).
    • Women tended to stop reading after 50 to 100 pages, men after 30 to 50.
  • Different genres had different completion rates. For example, business books had surprisingly low completion rates.

Making Money as an Author Off This Research

So why does this research matter, you might ask? If you get someone to buy the book, why should you care if they finish it? Well, that’s what this study seeks to help explain. Here are a few reasons you should care. After all, your likelihood of making money as an author may depend on it

You could spend a boatload on book marketing, but the truth is that word of mouth — be it on social media, at work, or at a dinner party — is the strongest marketing tool out there for authors. In other words, there’s nothing that will help your book be successful more than a group of loyal readers who love the book and recommend it to their friends. And, as I’m sure you can figure out, a reader is pretty unlikely to recommend a book to a friend if he or she chose not to finish it. In other words, these statistics can clue you in as to both how good your book really is, and how likely it is to be recommended to other readers.

And publishers are listening. After all, that’s mainly who all this Jellybooks data is geared to. The professionals in the publishing industry are deciding which books to put marketing efforts into — or even which books to publish going forward — by analyzing this data.

Much like how moneyball is being applied to major league baseball today, publishers are now analyzing books by genre, the age group it appeals to, gender appeal and more. They are comparing those potential books to others that are similar in previous studies. If those had good completion rates, the publishers are more likely to put time and effort into similar books going forward. If not … well, you may not be in luck.

If you’re an author in today’s world of moneyball publishing, it would behoove you not to study up on this type of data. Understand completion rates, analytics and more. It may make the difference between becoming a bestselling author and a struggling writer.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *