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Don’t buy the myth about ebook slump

6 January 2014

From The Irish Times:

Since late summer 2013 dozens of articles have been written about how ebook sales have peaked or are plateauing, maybe even falling back. The major source for the speculation has been American Association of Publishers (AAP) data showing a softening of ebook sales since the first quarter of 2013 when compared with 2012.

. . . .

There’s only one problem with the trend story – it’s wrong. Ebooks have no more peaked than digital music or social media usage has peaked. While it is certainly true that some publishers have seen a softening of sales in 2013, that is mostly because 2012 was such a huge success in ebook terms, especially for certain titles like Fifty Shades of Grey and The Hunger Games. Sadly no titles have quite grabbed readers like those record- breaking books did, so sales have suffered.

What’s more, the AAP data does not capture sales by the self-published or indie author market. This segment makes up 25 per cent of Amazon’s ebook sales. Such sales are also increasing for other retailers such as Kobo, despite the much publicised recent controversy over self-published ebooks of questionable taste (and questionable legality) that appeared on Kobo’s catalogue.It has since purged the offending titles.

One of the problems is that ebooks have become so large a market, more than $1 billion in the US alone in 2013, and have grown so quickly, that even large increases now appear quite small in percentage terms, and modest increases seem tiny. Ebooks outside of the US continue to grow – markets such as Ireland, France, Spain and Germany are only now beginning to see the growth that the UK & US markets experienced two and three years ago. That growth has not been factored into AAP figures. If it had been, there would have been no pieces about falling ebook sales.

Link to the rest at The Irish Times and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

Mrs. PG has had very nice ebook sales during the holiday/post-holiday period. How about other indie authors?

Ebooks, Non-US

35 Comments to “Don’t buy the myth about ebook slump”

  1. Congrats to Mrs. PG!

    We’re doing really well, too – in the very high four figures since August. Oh, and that’s with no ‘best sellers’, just hard work and regular output.

    Isn’t indie life grand?

    • I love hearing this. Can’t wait until stories like yours are the headlines, because every media outlet in the world is missing out on what’s going on behind the scenes.

      • They get more clicks when ‘the sky is falling!’

        An even better story that will never make headlines: my mother wanted to be an author. I’m fairly certain she never wanted anything else, but she never got picked by the gatekeepers. Now, at sixty, she’s writing and publishing and thanking the stars that she was overlooked back then, because now she can do as she pleases, make the money she wants, and love every minute of it.

        I think those stories are even more important. Self-publishing is changing lives in quiet and meaningful ways that no one could ever have imagined.

  2. Amazon.co.uk finally realized I exist so that’s very nice.

    • That’s where nearly all of my sales have come from since September, and they’re growing month by month. It’s awesome. =)

      • Likewise – slow but steady growth on .uk for the past few months. Still selling the most at .com, but the money all spends the same. 🙂

        Although depositing checks from a German bank headquartered in Lichtenstein denominated in pounds is kind of surreal.

  3. Not so much. Better than the year before but not grand

  4. I saw a surge, but I also released a new book and a Christmas story so those may be bumping my numbers more than the holidays did.

  5. December was my best month ever, mostly due to people buying my trade paperbacks as gifts (I’m republishing Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers novels with additional material).

  6. Yes, far better this year than last. Indie books are a market that shows no immediate signs of slowing down, and of course none of this data ever enter into AAP reports or the thinking of big publishing or its newsletter, the New York Times.

  7. For some reason, I did not do near as well as last year. I actually did horribly. Quite a let down. But I plan on a bunch of new releases this year, so I’m hoping that helps pick things up.

  8. Kudos to Mrs. PG. Stray Dog Press, Inc, the imprint my wife and I started to publish my books, had it’s second best month ever in December. It was good enough to require bigger set-asides for taxes. Much credit for the increase goes to KDP Countdown promos.

  9. Very slow right now. I had a good release with my last novel, in late October, but things have dropped off again. I’ve got another standalone novel coming out in a few months, and then later this year I’ll start releasing my first series. Hoping sales will pick up as I get this series out.

  10. Mine have slowed considerably in the later half of 2013. It’s hard to predict these things but I think growth will be slower and steadier from now on.

  11. Like Viv, mine sort of fell off a cliff in the July/August time frame, though they fared somewhat better in December after a three day pre-Christmas promo on both books. So far in January they’re doing better than the last half of 2013, but not nearly as well as last year. However, book three will be out this month, so that should help. Other thriller writers I swap numbers with are generally reporting similar experiences.

  12. Slow on my side, despite new releases. I did not see a December holiday burst in sales, but then, I never have in the past, either.

    However, it has picked up a little bit in the first part of January. That part is normal for me. January to May I usually sell better. Latter half of the year, including December, not so much.

  13. Mine went up by a factor of 6, though that was due mostly to a Bookbub campaign.

  14. It’s been an awesome fall for me, steaming ahead into January. Amazon UK and Kobo numbers went way up for me in December.

    I also had 2 new releases (one romance short story, one fantasy novel) that have done well and given the usual bump to my other titles.

    My income has quadupled from a monthly number that had been pretty steady for over a year, despite new releases. This uptick is due, in some part, to being part of a top-selling indie fantasy bundle. But the romance titles under a separate pen name have also picked up. 🙂

  15. I’ve had a slow decline in sales every month since my really fantastic month of May, but December sales will still pay the bills. I expect January sales to be better, if only because I’m finally putting out the last book in my series. I have a bunch of new books I’ll be releasing this year so I expect great things to come. =)

  16. I’ve had a good steady year in general, adding books to a five-part series, and just released the omnibus. I definitely saw a slump in copies per title sold, but that was mitigated by the additional books I had to offer. I publish others as well; one author had a debut book out in the summer which was not selling much, but when she put out the second in the series and we did a five-day free run, she gave away 13,000 copies of #1 and suddenly #1 and #2 are selling robustly. Getting sales in Japan! Cozy mysteries with dogs on the cover = magical results.

  17. Since you ask, yes my sales improved during the holiday buying season. I did no special promotion but I have more books available this year than last.

  18. My 2013 sales nearly halved since the previous year. I had five releases in 2013, one of them a 187,000 words novel (third volume of my science-fantasy trilogy), a novella and three short stories. Neither sold very much.

    I’ve posted my numbers here (sorry, in french): http://emmanuelguillot.over-blog.com/2014/01/bilan-2013-et-bonne-ann%C3%A9e-%C3%A0-tous.html

    In my case, my sales are heavily relying on my signing sessions, so while I wrote more, I did less signing sessions, which had a direct consequence in sales.

    So why, when my sales halved, did I take a year off from my dayjob? Go figure…

  19. Theresa Ragan has been tracking her daily book sales against where her books rank on the Kindle overall bestseller list. On her website, she’s been generously sharing that data with the author community. She updates it every few months:


    Daleo, you’ll like this especially 🙂

    I plotted Theresa’s data from January 2012, March 2013, and December 2013, and then added my own data (Sept-Dec 2013):


    You can draw your own conclusions…

    • Very useful, Paul! Thanks!

      How is it that in your diagram, Teresa’s sales seem to have hit 5000 a day in march 2013, and she did not reach the n°1 (or at least one to 5) Kindle sales rank? This seems a bit contradictory with the figures on her blog.

      • Hi Alan,

        Teresa deserve the thanks, not me 🙂 I just graphed her data.

        She updated the figures on her blog in December. The March curve comes from the data she had on her blog in March.

        Based on my extensive experience tracking similar mobile App Store charts, I can say with some certainty that at the very top of the chart, sales of the top 1-2 bestsellers will vary wildly from day to day–even by a factor of 2 or 3, driven by movie tie-ins and other massive marketing spikes. But lower in the curve, sales/day tends to stay semi-stable, aside from a small pattern of Monday-to-Sunday and holiday variation, while the whole curve drifts up or down over time to reflect the overall market.

        Here we can see the red curve from December indicates substantially more sales per day than the blue curve from March at every rank measured between 5 and 200.

        Below 200, it appeared to dip below, but my data from sales of my own book Sept-Dec didn’t agree with the dip at those lower ranks. During Sept-Dec, Theresa’s books were living in the upper reaches of the bestseller chart, anyway 🙂 – so she might not have had much data to go on for the lower part of the curve. However, during that same time, my first book started down around #30,000 and rose as high as #44, spending most of that time ranked in the hundreds and thousands, so my data for those less lofty ranks (the green curve) is quite accurate.

  20. Congrats to Mrs. PG!
    I sold well early in the month with a 20% decline the week of Christmas. Things picked up directly after and I’ve had strong steady sales since.
    The last 5 months of sales are at a level high enough for me to consider quitting the day job. I’m the primary wage earner in my house, so that’s a big move for me. I’ll probably wait another 3 months just to give me a cushion though. It will be so nice to not have 2 full time jobs!

  21. I took advantage of Scalzi’s post to promote oneself, and a very disappointing October and November passed into a quite pleasing December. Much better than last December. Not as good as the prime of my sales, but quite credible.

    It’s giving me impetus to get the next book done quickly!

  22. Excellent article. Good to see a media report about this that’s sane, intelligent and willing to look reality in the eye.

    Congrats to PG and all the other indies who made money this holiday season! 🙂

  23. Congratulations to Mrs. PG from me as well.

    As for me, I had a lag from August to the middle of October, when it started to pick up again. Sales now slow but steady. Since I am fairly productive (I publish a new book on average once a month) it can be a little tricky to compare YOY sales. Not only do I have more books, but having more books seems to increase sales in a nonlinear and somewhat murky fashion.

  24. Congratulations to Mrs. PG and kudos on her holiday sales!

    Sales during the holiday period ramped up for me, too, and are going strong in the New Year.

    My story is the hidden story of indie publishing. Five months after the release of my first book, I am now earning a good living wage from my writing.

  25. I know the author – Eoin. A really good guy who knows and understands the new publishing world.

  26. My 13 items for sale (8 of which are e-book only) didn’t have a single sale Dec 18-31.

  27. I have yet to see a single sale in January. Oh well, I suppose that means I need to continue writing to the best of my ability and try to bring better fiction to market!

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