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This is the fourth chunk of data and analysis from the 2016 Novelist Income Survey.

For this part, I wanted to look at whether the hours spent on marketing, promotion, and outreach correlated at all with how much money our authors made last year.


I used net income again, which means I removed data points where the authors hadn’t reported their expenses. I also eliminated two data points where respondents said they spent over 1000 hours/week on promotion and marketing. (If I’m wrong and those two authors have been using a TARDIS, I’d ask them to email me. And also to let me borrow their TARDIS.)

This left us with data from a total of 371 authors.

I then did a bit of Excel self-teaching to figure out how to use the correlation function. (In the previous section, I simply graphed out number of books and net income, and inserted a trendline. Calculating the actual correlation is more accurate, and I’ll be doing that for the previous part as well when I do the final write-up.) Yay, learning!

A correlation of 1.0 would be a perfect positive correlation. Likewise, -1.0 would be a perfect negative correlation.

Finally, in addition to analyzing the overall data, I also broke it down by authors who were primarily indie, small press, and large press, because I had a feeling there’d be a difference there.

Overall Results

Looking at all 371 authors together gives us the following graph. The trend line suggests a slight correlation.

Marketing and Net IncomeExcel gives a correlation of 0.16. That’s a very small positive correlation. Is it a significant correlation? I’m not enough of a statistician to say for certain, but it’s on the low side.

Subgroup Results

So let’s look at the correlation scores for different groups of authors.

  • Large Press: 0.06
  • Small Press: 0.13
  • Indie: 0.36

In other words, the strongest correlation between promotion/outreach/marketing and net income is for the indie authors. Which shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

On the other end, the amount of time spent on marketing and promo had pretty much no relation to overall income for the large press authors.

Removing the millionaires increased the correlation for large press slightly, and decreased slightly for the indies. But the correlation remained noticeably stronger for indie authors than for large/small press authors.


Does this mean the time and money I spent last year as a large-press author traveling to signings and conventions and doing online promotion was completely wasted? Not necessarily. We’re looking at overall trends, and any individual data point might buck a given trend. (Also, correlation =/= causation. I think I’ve said that on every post so far.)

There’s also the question about how you’re spending that time. 20 hours spent standing on a street corner wearing a BUY LIBRIOMANCER! sign probably wasn’t as effective as 20 hours spent researching reviewers and sending out targeted review copies of my book.

That said, I think the data supports the general wisdom that if you’re self-published, it’s a lot more important to spend time on marketing and promotion. Whereas if you’re with a large press, there’s a good chance your marketing efforts won’t have much of an impact on your bottom line.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 23rd, 2017 10:44 pm (UTC)
I also eliminated two data points where respondents said they spent over 1000 hours/week on promotion and marketing. (If I’m wrong and those two authors have been using a TARDIS, I’d ask them to email me. And also to let me borrow their TARDIS.)

???? Even if I go with my first instinct and say they just hit the 0 key one time too many . . . there are only 168 hours in a week. That's basically every waking minute spent on promo.
Feb. 23rd, 2017 10:52 pm (UTC)
If I had to guess, I'd say they misread and put down how much money they spent on promotion/marketing.
Feb. 23rd, 2017 11:39 pm (UTC)
That would make more sense, yes.
Feb. 24th, 2017 12:18 am (UTC)
Is your dataset robust enough that you could break this down into how long authors have been publishing? (Or how many books they've published, if you don't have timeframes.) Meaning: is the correlation stronger/weaker for debut and relatively new indie authors? Or for indie authors who have been writing and publishing for a while?
Feb. 25th, 2017 03:44 pm (UTC)
I wondered this too. In particular, I wondered if the points along the left axis representing high marketing / low net income were mostly startup authors who were promoting the heck out of their first book or two without having had time to develop a reputation or have their marketing efforts pay off yet.

I also wondered about the relationship between hours spent marketing and number of books published. There are only so many hours, and those spent marketing are not spent writing. Somewhere there's probably a tradeoff.

I am by profession a social scientist data geek, and I can speculate endlessly about this stuff. You have been warned.

As far as whether the correlation matters or not, there are two ways to answer that question. One is whether it is statistically significant, which can be answered numerically; the formula takes into account both the size of the correlation and the size of the sample, basically assessing whether you'd be likely to see that much of a relationship by chance (if you've got 10 people, a lot can happen by chance. 1000, less so). The other question is whether the correlation is of practical significance. Is there a strong enough relationship that it's worth making decisions about your actions based on it? There are ways to calculate an "effect size" but as a rule of thumb, correlations below about .3 are usually considered small. But, in practice, it would also depend on the costs of taking the action. Which gets back to my question above. Increased time spent marketing looks like it increases income, especially for indie authors, but it's probably not a good strategic choice to spend so much time marketing that you don't write any new books.

You could use a simple regression analysis to calculate the average net gain in income from each additional hour per week of marketing. The variations around it would be large, but it would give you a way to eyeball how much it matters.

If you want to visualize the difference between the types of authors, I would suggest eliminating the outliers on both axes (so, incomes over $1 million and perhaps marketing over 40 hours/week) so that you can see the core section of the chart more clearly, then asking Excel to use a different symbol or color for each of the 3 types of authors.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines

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