Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

02/15/2014

A Current View of the Publishing Revolution


It’s always been extremely hard for the outsider analyst (or any other uninitiated person of interest) to gather unit sales figures for books — Why? Simply because book sale data are secret. This nontransparency is not true of any other media outlet – only books.

However, some book and publishing industry entrepreneurs (and authorpreneurs) have devised their own analytical models based on certain assumptions and have produced some fairly logical conclusions RE unit book sales.

Now enters an author and publishing pro with a high level understanding of advanced programming who has designed software that supposedly grabs all this secret unit sales book data from online bestseller lists. With this data, more accurate charts with some interesting numbers can be produced (such as the one at left).

Let’s dive into these figures a little more with tonight’s great source reference article published on io9.com with exceptional links and comments from readers (sorry, I can’t link this site. Just paste io9.com into your address bar):

This chart ought to make the publishing industry very nervous

Wool author Hugh Howey has been beating the drum for self-publishing for a long time — but now he claims to have data to back it up. His new report on author earnings contains some startling figures, but none more so than the above chart showing indie authors beating traditional publishers on unit sales.

As Howey himself admits, the data in his new “Author Earnings” report is incomplete at best, because publishers and booksellers (including Amazon) don’t release raw book sales figures. You can find out exactly how much a movie made in its opening weekend, and how many people supposedly watched last night’s TV shows — but book sale data is secret.

According to Howey, this new data comes from “an author with advanced coding skills who had created a software program that can crawl online bestseller lists and grab mountains of data.” The data all appears to be just for Amazon, which means you have to trust Amazon’s accuracy on top of the accuracy of crunching the numbers. And there’s also the fact that looking at unit sales is possibly misleading — if you sell 1,000 copies of a book at $1 each, you might be getting way more unit sales than an ebook going for $10 each, but the revenue will still be low.

But Howey also includes some charts that claim to break down author income by publishing type, and they show a number of self-published authors making hundreds of thousands, or even over a million, dollars per year.

Howey adds:

Research article continues here

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4 Comments »

  1. There have been a lot of comments on this report. The overall summary sounds to me like so:

    1. This is a fabulous resource, and we’re all very glad to have it. Kudos to Hugh Howey and his digital guru for getting it done!

    2. It looks only at the top fraction of 1% of all ebooks on one day. It ONLY looks at Amazon data. The data may or may not be typical for top ebooks, and they’re may very well be atypical of less popular ebooks.

    3. It looks at fiction (1/4 of the publishing pie) as if it’s the whole, and at genre fiction at that (1/8 of the pie). We already know that genre fiction is very different from other types of publishing. That’s why very few self-publishing success stories occurred in it before the Kindle revolution, despite that fact that self-publishers were regularly and frequently very successful in other parts of the business.

    4. Authors who have been successful at self-publishing e-only or e/POD releases, and then also successful with a traditional house, point out that most of their sales with a traditional house did not come from within Amazon.

    In other words: it’s great, but it’s only a start.

    And my own reaction, as usual: publishers are not one big lump. There were 100,000 active companies and imprints in the US BEFORE the ebook revolution.

    Each one has always had intense competition for its books. It doesn’t really matter whether the competition comes from a big house, a small house or a self-publisher. What matters is how many readers are interested in your book.

    Now the total number of books released in genre fiction has sky-rocketed. The number of print copies sold of the bestsellers has dropped. But the total number of copies sold hasn’t. So, I’m not seeing that there’s a problem.

    And, in fact, most publishers are seeing their profits rise.

    Self-publishing is not killing publishers. It’s adding readers to the mix. It’s good for all of us.

    Comment by Marion Gropen — 02/15/2014 @ 11:58 am | Reply

  2. Reblogged this on Thriller Writing Help for Authors.

    Comment by Uday Satpathy — 02/16/2014 @ 12:27 am | Reply


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