2021 Income Sources

In 2019 and 2020, I published posts on where folks buy my books. People seem interested, so I’m doing it again for 2021. I suspect that covid is skewing the data, but perhaps this is simply the new normal.

My income still comes from writing books. I don’t consult. I don’t generally accept speaking fees. (I did make a couple hundred bucks speaking to a lunchtime crowd at a big tech firm this year, but that was a rare event and I have no particular desire to do it again.) I desire to make my living as an author, creating and licensing intellectual property. For the writers out there, I’m a hybrid wide author. I want my books available in every channel that offers reasonable terms.

How did 2021 look?

  • Amazon – 33.94%
  • Royalties – 17.74%
  • Direct sales – 15.63%
  • Ingramspark – 8.15%
  • Kickstarter – 6.38%
  • Patreon – 4.68%
  • Sponsorships – 4.42%
  • Direct patronizers – 4.24%
  • Gumroad – 1.91%
  • Apple – 1.05%
  • Kobo – 0.61%
  • Aerio – 0.57%
  • Google – 0.32%
  • Draft2Digital – 0.27%
  • tips – 0.13%
  • Barnes & Noble – 0.07%
  • Redbubble – 0.05%

Everything that’s listed here is part of my deliberate publishing strategy. My minuscule affiliate income and other minor streams are excluded. I use them, and every so often someone drops fifty bucks in my bank account, but they are not part of my strategy.

Amazon is still my biggest single distributor. I do not prioritize them, or use their exclusive programs like Kindle Unlimited. Indeed, I want to reduce the amount I sell through Amazon and increase other channels. This percentage is basically unchanged since last year. It appears to be the natural floor. Next year might be different, though. OpenBSD Storage Mastery will be on Amazon in print, but not on Kindle. Kindle users will be able to buy Kindle versions in lots of places, just not on Amazon.

Royalties are traditional publishing income. This is slightly up from last year, thanks to me selling short stories to Fiction River as well as the Absolute books going into Humble Bundles. Can’t knock that.

Direct sales are up a few points over 2020, which was up a few points over 2019. Good. Disintermediation remains my primary goal. Increasing this share makes me happy. I will continue to improve my bookstore to make this easier.

On the other paw, my IngramSpark share is down. IS handles non-Amazon print sales. People are not visiting bookstores, so this is not a surprise.

Kickstarter is a new category for me. It worked. This category is a little weird, though. While the other channels are raw income, this bucket includes the money I must spend to print and ship books. I plan to experiment more with Kickstarter, and perhaps even offer Kickstarter-like functionality on my own store.

At first glance, it looks like income from my Patronizers has plunged since 2020. Look a little further down, though, and you’ll see the share of income from my direct patronage makes up for it. My experiment in offering direct patronage sales hasn’t quite broken even, but it’s been successful enough that I’m willing to give it another year and see if I can grow it. Even if I can’t boost that any further, diversifying patronage sources and disintermediating roughly half of my backers is inherently worthwhile.

My Patronizers get a horrid deal, by the way. I don’t recommend it. But I appreciate every single Patronizer.

Sponsorship income is down, but I only had one book on sponsorship in 2020. If I want more sponsors, I must write more. That’s a goal for 2022. I’ll be using pre-scheduled Internet blocking software to reduce distraction.

I’m not going to go through the other channels one at a time. I will quote Blaze Ward in saying, “them nickles spend.” My comments on all of these are basically unchanged from previous years. I do wish Barnes and Noble would rise from the dead, though. I fondly remember wandering through their shelves, and deciding I would rather read a favorite author’s new book than eat.

So, to sum up:

  • If I lost any one channel, I would endure (yay)!
  • Disintermediate. Sell as directly to your customers as possible.
  • Try new things. Like Kickstarter. Or dropping Amazon Kindle as a distributor for a new book.

What else is coming up in 2022? More books. Print price increases. Gelato. Staying home, making words, and avoiding unclean idiots who choose to not get vaccinated.

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