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.