My 2015 Author Earnings

by Molly Greene, @mollygreene

PotOfGold+Rainbow_OpSince 2011, I’ve been blogging about self-publishing and my journey through it. I released my first title, Mark of the Loon, in May of 2012, but didn’t publish Book 2, The Last Fairytale, until late 2013. Book 3, Paint Me Gone, came out mid-2014. And so on, until, by the end of 2015, I’d published seven books in the series.

I waited until I had three titles to promote, but the promos I took on didn’t result in significant sales, not until my first BookBub in late December, 2014. Long story short? My author earnings were more or less nil until 2015.

Now I have something to report.

My 2015 earnings were not nearly what I’d hoped they would be. Income, money, success – these things are relative and I have no regrets, but I did not earn a living wage, and I am a full-time writer. No job to fall back on, no partner to help out. It’s just me. I had to dip into savings. Still, I’m sharing the numbers, and I hope they either inspire you to work harder, or make you feel super because you earned so much more! 🙂

$24,649.83     Total Amazon Royalties (KU + Book Sales)
$2,474.97       Total $$ Spent On Book Promotions
$1,990.00       $$ Spent On Six BookBub Featured Deals

KDP Select

All my fiction titles were in KDP Select throughout 2015. I did not break my Amazon earnings into book sales/KU borrows, but beginning with the KU changes in July, 2015, borrows became apx. half (50%) of my monthly royalty payments. I stayed in Select because my #1 goal was to accrue reviews, free promos are the easiest way to do that, and promos are easy to schedule when books are enrolled in Select.

The BookBub Effect

To my astonishment, throughout 2015 I scored a BookBub deal every couple of months, six in total, until November. At that point, my submissions were pretty much declined across the board. (I don’t know why, other than increased competition.) And then borrows and sales plummeted.

My takeaway? BookBub promos boost backlist sales and help new readers discover you, but they do not necessarily guarantee continued sales and success. That has been true for me. And although BookBub and KDP Select simplified my 2015 marketing, it’s now time to actively seek other methods and processes to sell more books.

My 2016 goal is to double the figure above. I’ll post about how I plan to do that in the next couple of weeks.

Now it’s your turn: Did your 2015 book sales make you dance, or drink? Please leave a comment and share!

All original content by Molly Greene is copyright protected – did you enjoy the article? Show your support by checking out my Amazon Author Page – and hey, buy a book while you’re there! Or, subscribe to this blog to receive weekly posts. Your email will NOT be shared, rented, sold, or spammed – that’s a promise. If you haven’t already, friend me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Mwah! Thank you so much.

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52 Responses to My 2015 Author Earnings

  1. karin gillespie March 28, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    Thanks for this great post. I think you need better covers. I suggest Kim Killion.

    • Molly Greene March 28, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

      Haha Karin … uh, thanks … I think? Mwah. 🙂

      • Jo March 28, 2016 at 6:33 pm #

        I agree about the covers…

  2. Nancy Lee Badger March 28, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    My earnings went way down at every distribution site after Kindle Unlimited was launched. (about 2 years ago) I am an Indie Author after my 2 small publishers folded. (1 with notice, 1 crashed & burned). Trying to ramp up sales, I have tried multi-author boxed sets using backlist books, and those give me time to write new stories while promoting those. I have also decided to write shorter. No more 90,000+ stories that no one wishes to pay $4.99 for. I have no idea how you can afford Book BuB! Try FussyLibrarian. com Seems to work.

    • Molly Greene March 28, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

      Thanks, Nancy. I’ll be cycling through some of the bigger sites this year, and I’ll blog about those results. Fussy Librarian has never done much for me. Best of luck to you!

      • Patricia Sands March 29, 2016 at 9:41 am #

        I haven’t seen good results on Fussy Librarian either, Molly.

      • Patricia Sands March 29, 2016 at 9:43 am #

        Ooops ~ I clicked submit and then had an afterthought! As I do! I like BookBub too, but also ENT (EreaderNewsToday) has brought me great results.

        • Molly Greene March 29, 2016 at 10:03 am #

          Thanks, Patricia! I use ENT, as well, and I’ll be utilizing it more this year. The challenge I see there is that the more often we use these sites, the lower results can be – their lists are smaller and don’t grow as quickly as BB.

    • Laina Turner March 29, 2016 at 11:31 am #

      Great job!!!!!!
      This year (so far) iBooks has rocked for me because it’s now automatically installed on all phones/iPads. My sales on that channel are rivaling Kindle. Freebooksy (and they have promos for not free) has worked well for me.

      • Molly Greene March 30, 2016 at 9:24 am #

        Laina, really good news about iBooks – yaay!

  3. Kim Wenzler March 28, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    Hi Molly,
    Well done (in my opinion). I have the 2 books out and have not spent nearly what you did promoting and it shows. So, 2015 had me drinking…:-)

    Like you, I’m waiting for book 3 before I invest in promotions. I hope I do as well as you.

    As always, thanks for sharing your info. I know you’ll meet your goal of doubling your income.

    • Molly Greene March 28, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

      MWAH! Kim, you are the best, and I know you’ll do well. I’d like to clink wine glasses with you one day!!

  4. Tower Lowe March 28, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    Book Gorilla was a minor success for me, generating a 100 sales or so per promo and some back title sales. BookBub is still turning me down, but I still have hope.

    I write Amazon reviewers of similar books (who liked the books) and ask for reviews. This generates very useful information and reviews. And a few sales, but not many.

    I tried Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon digital ads but sales from all three were lackluster and money losers. Most sales came through Amazon, but did not pay for ads. However, it could be good for exposure if your sales are good otherwise.

    I am only drinking sparkling water so far, but I do worry that I will have to give it all up soon! I have two more books that will be finished in July, one a new series, and I am thinking that f shopping the new series to literary agents…just for the heck of it.

    Did you have multiple titles accepted by Bookbub? Were they all free or were some 99 cents?

    Thanks a million for your blog and your books full of delightful characters.

    • Molly Greene March 28, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

      Tower, thank you so much! I’ve actually had 8 BB promos for six different titles over the past 14 months. One BB promo often generates 50+ reviews, so I don’t approach reviewers anymore. ALL the promos I’ve submitted for have been free just for that reason: Free brings in more reviews. The big return on free BB promos come through backlist sales.

      Part of the issue I’m up against now is genre: I submit Book 1 to Womens Fiction, and I’m watching BB emails. Rarely do they offer WF freebies anymore, only 99 cent deals. their market is changing, and they’re going with it. So I will begin to submit at 99 cents, but the competition is fierce. The rest of my books run in Crime fiction. We’ll see what happens over time.

  5. Grace Brannigan March 28, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    Nothing to sneeze at! Good going.

  6. Lisa Maggiore March 28, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

    Thanks again, Molly, for being so transparent. I’m not sure how you’re surviving on what you made in 2015 but I give you BIG kudos for remaining a full-time writer. I only have a trad. picture book & indie short story and novel, which are not bringing home much at all. I’ve started driving for Lyft to help with finances until I have more books published. Plus, it offers flexible work hours. And, I’ve been meeting some very interesting people who are helping me form some new characters for my next novel.

    • Molly Greene March 28, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

      Lol! My bills are low (knock wood) and my needs are simple and few, Lisa. And good for you – a wealth of characters at your fingertips!

  7. Edita A. Petrick March 28, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

    I think you’ve done extremely well, Molly. Thank you for your information on your earnings. I recall you did it back at the start of 2015, after having scored your second BookBub spot. I found it extremely helpful and in a way encouraging.

    I agree that it’s not a ‘living wage’ yet but it will be soon. I’m sure of it. My first book came out February 2015 with a small epublisher, and after couple of more (different genre, different publishers) I struck out on my own and thanks to you, do not regret it for a second. As it stands, I will have 10 books out by mid-April. My total earnings for the 10 months in 2015 were just over $5,000. Nothing great. I’m finding it hellishly hard to gather reviews. Maybe because I write several genres. My thriller-suspense with supernatural elements is my series that is moving off the shelf, albeit slowly. I scored ONE BookBub promo in 2015, for my publisher-pubbed Book 1 of the series, and that’s where most of my 2015 earnings came from. Since it is with an e-publisher, I only receive 50% of royalties. So you can actually ‘add’ couple of thousand to that total that went to the publisher.

    I find that BookBub (horrendously expensive that it is) stands head and shoulders above any other paid promo outfit out there. Thanks to my day job and bonuses, I was able to spend nearly $3,000 on promo last year, mostly testing every promo source there is to see how it performs. I have to say, none came close to BookBub. ENT was second best but where ENT brings you few dozen downloads, BookBub brings you thousands. Digital Book, Fussy Librarian, People Reads, BookGoodies, Kindle Book Promos, GenrePulse, Goodkindles and many more brought me on average 3-5 paid downloads on the day of the promo. KindleNation wasn’t much better, and neither was BookGorilla. I had a website built as well, with a built-in blog and I’ve started evaluating each of the many, many promo outfits that I used, all of them more than once to make it a valid observation. I hope you don’t mind if I give a link to your blog here. I think your earnings will serve as inspiration to many indie writers out there. Thank you again.

    • Molly Greene March 28, 2016 at 5:38 pm #

      Thanks so much, Edita! You’re right, and it’s widely accepted: BookBub promos are head and shoulders above the rest. The little $15 promo sites are not really worth the time and trouble, and BB pays its way a hundred times over. I suppose I was wishing that a couple runs would garner me enough readers to raise my titles up in the rankings over the long term, and that has not happened yet. But it still could!! And yes, I welcome your link. Thanks for he lovely message, and best to you in all you do.

  8. Rick Beckrich March 28, 2016 at 5:40 pm #

    You go girl! sez the old dude from Maryland.

    Great post. I look forward to your blog.

    • Molly Greene March 28, 2016 at 6:11 pm #

      I will, and thanks for your support, Rick!!

  9. Joe Campolo Jr. March 28, 2016 at 7:08 pm #

    You are doing very well, Molly. Good going and thanks for the info.
    My experience so far is that being a writer is like being a farmer…you keep at it until the money’s all gone.

    • Molly Greene March 28, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

      … or until the crop comes in, Joe 🙂

    • Jai March 29, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

      Or like owning a sail boat, you might as well stand in a cold shower and rip up $100 notes.

      You’re doing well, Molly. And I quite like your book covers.

      • Molly Greene March 30, 2016 at 7:24 am #

        Ha, true! And thank you so much! re: the covers, Jai, BookBub seems to find them acceptable …but everybody is welcome to their opinion. Keep on plugging, right?

  10. Tom March 28, 2016 at 11:15 pm #

    This is great information and a real help to the likes of me (I’m just starting out with one set of short stories self published and a novel out in May. I wondered how you folks’ email list building is going? Every online course I look at, from Jeff Goins to Tim Grahl say it’s the holy grail of self-publishing as it’s not subject to the whims of Amazon algorithms and social media shifts. Also, I’d like to recommend Mark Dawson’s site/video courses on how to use Facebook advertising to massively boost sales. He offers a lot of his advice for free and has a great community of self publishers you can bounce ideas off. He’s specifically geared to authors, unlike many general social media gurus out there. Thanks for the post.

    • Molly Greene March 29, 2016 at 7:42 am #

      Thanks, Tom, and thank you so much for your helpful suggestion re: Mark Dawson, etc. Yes, email list building is hugely important, a constant concern, and an ongoing thing. That’s about all I can say, other than “Just do it.”

  11. Graham Downs March 29, 2016 at 3:46 am #

    I brought in ZAR250 or so (about $20) in royalties, in 2015, and spent just over ZAR1000 on book covers, editing, and promos.

    Nowhere NEAR ready to think of giving up my day-job yet, but that’s still up from 2014, which was up from 2013, which was up from 2012. 🙂

    • Molly Greene March 29, 2016 at 7:44 am #

      … and that’s what we want, Graham: onward and upward!!

  12. joybelle2012 March 29, 2016 at 3:47 am #

    I don’t even want to talk about my mingy earnings, mostly because I have not even received them due to a hitch with the bank here in South Africa and the fact that my papers for an ITN in the US were lost for the 3rd time by our lousy postal service here. Feeling totally disgruntled at moment.
    Good for you Molly, at least you made some money!
    I don’t know what the answer is, but I suspect that if there were less writers willing to give their books out for free, there would be more money to go around for people like us.

    • Graham Downs March 29, 2016 at 4:17 am #

      Hey, a fellow South African! 🙂

      Molly, may I advertise our South African Indie Authors Facebook Group?

      Well, I guess I just have, haven’t I?

      @Joybelle, if you’d like to join, we’d love to have you! Please visit and request entry. I’ll be happy to approve. 🙂

    • Molly Greene March 29, 2016 at 7:29 am #

      So sorry to hear about your troubles with the post, Joybelle. Yes, I feel grateful that I made some money, and I’m sure this year will be better for both of us!

  13. Jennifer Jennings March 29, 2016 at 5:35 am #

    I have found that Bookbub is becoming very selective, I assume because the competition is so crazy now. The only way they will accept me is because I offer free box sets to promote. Sure, giving away three books in one fell swoop seems drastic, but I have 18 books in the series. The books are novella length, though, approximately 40,000-45,000 words per book. I would suggest grouping your books into box sets, or at least the first few, to make the offer more attractive to Bookbub. Just a thought. Good luck and keep writing. I really like your main character.

    • Molly Greene March 29, 2016 at 7:39 am #

      Thanks, Jennifer, for the positive suggestion – I have a box set in the works, right now, and I agree. Are you saying you group your 18 books into different sets of 3, and offer those 6 sets every other month on BookBub? Brilliant!

      I’ve also put together a more diverse marketing plan, one that is not so BookBub-centric. It’s just a LOT of work, as you know … and along those lines, somethings I want to do is put together a small group of mystery self-pubbers who are willing to crosspromote. I tried to look you up on Amazon – why don’t you have an Author’s page?!

      Also, Huge congrats on your earnings!! An inspiration.

  14. Jennifer Jennings March 29, 2016 at 5:43 am #

    Since you had the guts to post your author earnings, I will do the same. 2015 was a banner years for me. This year, so far, is shaping up to be the same. I try to put out a new book every three months. However, I’m taking some time to develop a new spin-off series.

    my total amazon royalties for 2015, including KU= 89,000.
    Bookbub and ENT advertising=3,000
    Editing and other associated costs=2,000

    Most of the promos on Bookbub were for free box sets. I had a promo going every other month on average.

    • Molly Greene March 29, 2016 at 7:47 am #

      … and check this out! I just opened my BookBub email and one of your sets is free today. I downloaded it!

      • Jennifer Jennings March 29, 2016 at 7:53 am #

        I have an author page on amazon. If you ever want to talk about teaming up for mystery
        anthologies, you can email me.

      • Tower Lowe March 30, 2016 at 8:28 am #

        Hi Jennifer/Molly…I just downloaded Jennifer’s free box set, too. Thanks for the box set idea…I have been thinking of converting my anthology to a box set…From your comments, Jennifer, it seems like there is a chance it will market better that way.
        Look forward to starting the mystery series!

        • Molly Greene March 30, 2016 at 9:26 am #

          Tower, good to try different avenues – look forward to hearing how that works for you. Good luck!

  15. susan Jennings March 29, 2016 at 7:32 am #

    Molly, thank you for this post, I’m a newbie, one novel published, the second out in the next month and a third coming this fall. My sales are very poor but I am sticking with my resolve not to worry until I have three books out in the series. What I have read here I find encouraging. I’m expecting 2016 will be a big improvement over 2015.

    • Molly Greene March 29, 2016 at 7:56 am #

      Thanks, Susan, keep the faith. And yes, that’s the way I’m looking at my returns – my first real year out there trying to sell. Sales increase as the backlist increases. Let’s get writing!!

  16. cindy March 29, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    Molly, you did great. The one time I used Book Bub, in 2014, I noticed a big bump in sales. Could have used them in 2015 when my sales dipped to low five figures. Very low. Like maybe saying I earned $1000 is exaggerating.

    • Molly Greene March 29, 2016 at 10:00 am #

      Thanks for saying that, Cindy. I think we all hope to earn a wage that makes us eager to get out of bed in the morning. Since that didn’t happen for you and I last year, we’ll fall back on good ‘ole perseverance. Thank you so much for sharing!

  17. Terry Palardy March 29, 2016 at 11:34 am #

    Well Molly, I have eight books self-published on Amazon (via CreateSpace) and only for the most reent have I chosen Kindle Select. Maybe because the thought of limiting publishing to one site made me nervous, and that is the requirement of Kindle Select. Truth be told, I average about 3 to 5 dollars a month in royalties via Amazon, Smashwords and my website. So I’m going to give this new one a try. We’ll see!

  18. Clare Kauter April 6, 2016 at 6:22 pm #

    I’m incredibly jealous – I get excited when my sales tip into three figures! Haha.

    • Molly Greene April 7, 2016 at 7:58 am #

      Thanks, Clare – it’s all relative, isn’t it? Here’s hoping we’re both into six figures by this time next year 🙂

  19. Christopher June 15, 2016 at 1:46 pm #


    Thanks for honestly reporting your experience here. As a new indie author myself, I’m just starting the journey and it was very helpful to have some realistic numbers to look at by someone a bit further down the road than I am. I hope you are well on your way to reaching your 2016 earnings goal.

    Take care,

    C.L. Wells
    Author of Utopian Day (2015)

    • Molly Greene June 18, 2016 at 7:31 am #

      Christopher, thank you so much and best of luck in all you do!


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