Home » Amazon, David Gaughran, Ebooks, Nook, Self-Publishing » Self-Publishing Grabs Huge Market Share From Traditional Publishers

Self-Publishing Grabs Huge Market Share From Traditional Publishers

14 April 2013

From David Gaughran:

The Kindle’s share of the US market is far larger – with most observers pegging it at between 60% and 65% (most of the rest is split between Apple and Barnes & Noble, with Google, Sony, and Kobo combined perhaps getting around 5%). But how much of that have self-publishers grabbed?

Amazon is famously tight-lipped about such matters, so we have to put the pieces together ourselves. As such, the method is necessarily crude, but it’s the best I’ve got.

. . . .

In August 2011, Amazon launched the Kindle Indie Store, which showcases hand-picked work in a variety of genres from KDP authors. It also has a Top 100 list, ordered by Sales Rank, just like the regular Kindle Store Top 100.

By comparing the position of self-published work in the Kindle Indie Store Top 100 with it’s overall Sales Rank, we can get a pretty accurate idea of what proportion of the top-selling books are self-published.

When the Kindle Indie Store first launched, I tracked the Indie Top 100 for a few weeks. Invariably, the book that was #100 in the Indie chart was around #400 to #500 in the overall Kindle Store – meaning that, at the time, roughly 20% to 25% of the top-selling items in the Kindle Store were self-published e-books (and those numbers held up throughout the list).

. . . .

Today, you’ll see that the book at #100 in the Indie chart is #346 in the overall Kindle Store – meaning that 29% of the top-selling items in the Kindle Store are self-published e-books – and that proportion has been stable enough recently.

The Kindle Store contains more than just e-books, with things like digital subscriptions to the New York Times, magazines, blog subscriptions, and games regularly appearing in the Top 100. If you were to subtract all of those, and try and isolate e-books, that figure (easily) goes north of 30%.

This staggers me. 30% of the top-selling e-books on Amazon are self-published, beating out the biggest authors from the largest publishing houses in the world – as well as titles from Amazon’s own imprints (which aren’t included in the Indie Top 100).

This roughly tallies with the limited data we do have from Amazon, who recently announced the top-selling Kindle Books of 2013 (January to March). Seven of the Top 20 were self-published (and that’s not counting formerly self-published work, or Amazon imprint books).

. . . .

Now we can start putting the pieces together. When we factor in the respective market share of Amazon and Barnes & Noble (and Kobo), that leads to the following estimate (which might be conservative): self-publishers have captured 25% of the US e-book market.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital

Amazon, David Gaughran, Ebooks, Nook, Self-Publishing

21 Comments to “Self-Publishing Grabs Huge Market Share From Traditional Publishers”

  1. David’s 25% figure for self-publishing share doesn’t surprise me at all. What surprises me is distributors other than Amazon protecting their customers from indie books (I know someone who bought a Nook for that very reason). Yes, I’m sure Theodore Sturgeon–were he alive today–would be telling us that 90% of indie books are crap, “…but then,” he would add, “90% of everything is crap.” Add in that crap is to some degree in the eye of the beholder, and you have a lot of lost sales in sales channels who maintain an “indie-free” appearance. I read the first couple of pages of 50SoG on the book’s Amazon page, and declared it crap. Didn’t stop it making its author and RH millions.

    And hooray for all the indies out there whose take is adding up one sale at a time. If it allows you to quit your day job, congratulations. If it pays your car payment, or a utility bill, or buys you a couple of large pizzas, congratulations. You’re a success.

    • Right now, the small amount I’m earning from my sales is helping me pay the bills after I’ve been downsized to part-time at my day job. So thanks, Bridget, I’m a success! 🙂

    • “If it allows you to quit your day job, congratulations.”

      No it doesn’t. Writing becomes your day job. One job replaces another, that’s all.

      • Peter, I’ve had a lot of day jobs and I’ve been a full-time freelancer. They’re not the same, or not to me anyhow. Writing full time, making your own hours, and controlling your own career is a far cry from holding down a desk chair and drawing a paycheck. If it weren’t, why would we bother?

  2. There’s an Indie Bestseller List? Where?

  3. Well, that explains the $2.99 ebooks from the BPHS.

  4. And hooray for all the indies out there whose take is adding up one sale at a time. If it allows you to quit your day job, congratulations. If it pays your car payment, or a utility bill, or buys you a couple of large pizzas, congratulations. You’re a success.

    Loved this, Bridget! Agree 100%!

  5. I would add to this:

    Kindle may be big, but with indie publishers, I suspect a part of that is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    I made more money from the Smashwords partners than from Amazon last year. And before that, I probably made a third or 2/5 (a lot more than that “only 5% combined” that people tout). This year, so far, I’m probably back to the old percentage.

    Of course, I’m not a best seller — but then, I suspect that there is a lot of money being made and books being bought that never see any of those best seller lists. (I’m heavy reader. The books I like are almost never on the best seller lists.)

    Given how many of of those steady-selling but not best-selling books are backlists for which authors have finally got their rights back — I suspect that the numbers OUTSIDE the best seller lists are much more heavy on the indies.

  6. This, like all of David’s article, is truly excellent.

    And very important information.

    I actually wish Amazon would be more forthcoming. There is nothing like safety in numbers, and I really don’t think people realize just how much of an in-road indie publishing is making.

    • It’s in Amazon’s best interest to not let its suppliers know their relative importance. That’s not a slam at Amazon. Just that they are better off if Penguin or another publisher doesn’t know their percentage share (even if dollar sales are steady) has dropped.

  7. 25% going to indies puts them higher than the combined Random Penguin Solutions… and bigger than the other BPHs.
    Not a bad start…

  8. Woohoo! Slow and steady wins the race.

  9. I too wish Amazon were more forthcoming. The title of this article is a little disingenuous “Market Share” tends to mean revenue, and none of this takes into account actual money. I think the biggest tell would be knowing the percentage of eBook revenue that is going to self publishers rather than publishing houses. At the moment it is hard to tell whether the high eBook prices charged by publishing houses is working out for them, and whether or not self publishers could get away with charging a little more for their work. 10,000 sales at 99c with the 35% royalty rate, may not be working out that well for authors compared to 5,000 sales at $9.99 with publishing houses 25% of net.

    • 10k sales at 99 cents = 3500-4000 dollars (Apple, Kobo, and B&N pay a higher royalty rate than Amazon, so unless you assume all the sales are from the Zon, do inch that figure up a little).

      Here’s how the math works for retail, and I’m pretty sure this is what the publisher are back to, post-agency: the retailer gets 50% of the profit. Maybe 40% depending on how things are structured. So, best-case scenario, that 9.99 book is making publishers $6.

      Now let’s talk about net. My trad publisher uses a third party distributor to get all their titles up at the retail sites. Yes, you heard that right. Granted, it’s a smaller NY publisher, but trust me on this, the big pubs do this as well – and they take that expense off the gross. (Even if the ‘distributor’ is a subsidiary of their own publishing house…). Publishers are going to do anything they can to whittle down that ‘net’ – which is why it’s such a bad, bad idea.

      Most authors (I am one, Kris Rusch is another, and has publicly blogged about this) get between 9-15% of their cover price, on average, from their digital sales. But wait! Those probably were sold through an agent. SO take another 15% off of whatever the author gets.

      Following this, from a 9.99 cover price, the author will see, best-case, 1.30 per sale. And at the low end, around 80 cents.

      So, those 5k traditional sales will bring 4000-6500 in to the author’s pockets.

      Tradpub comes out ahead… unless you have an author who, as many now do, price their novel from 2.99-4.99. Now, indie is looking a lot better. At 2.99, the author only has to sell 3,250 copies of their title to make the UPPER figure that 5k sales brings in from a traditional publisher.

      Of course, the traditional publisher may be able to sell some foreign rights – $450 for the Thai translation of my second novel, minus the 25% publisher cut and then the 15% to the agent… So there may be some extra money there (a whopping $286 on that Thai sale). Or not.

      • Thanks Anthea, most informative . It would be interesting to see how well indies are doing as a share of revenue in the marketplace, though. Knowing how much money is being spent on eBooks on how that is split would be useful for all authors. But unless Amazon change their policy, I doubt we will get to find out.

        • I’m with you there, Robert. It would verrry interesting info indeed. 😉

          In romance, at least, I know of a dozen self-published writers who will make upwards of $500,000 this year. And I’m sure there are more out there.

          Me? I’ll make a fraction of that. 🙂 But it’s still paying the mortgage~

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