Despite several articles declaring a stagnation, if not decline, of the ebook market, we have seen 8-percent growth in earnings for a cohort of publishers.
These publishers are a representative set and cover a range of company sizes and title-counts. The sales data generated by this cohort of approximately 200 publishers show that growth has been possible—and has in fact been accomplished—during this new phase of the ebook market.
These publishers stand out for not allowing their ebook function to be a passive add-on to their print houses. Instead they have regularly reviewed their global sales data and taken various actions such as targeting specific markets, experimenting with price promotion, and dedicating their time to finding the right price point for specific book-types in specific markets.
Interestingly, this 8-percent growth has been achieved with an average earnings-per-unit-sold figure that rose in the first eight months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. The net impact is that publishers are garnering more earnings with less volume. For example, in May 2015 this group of publishers sold 8 percent less in terms of volume, but earned 21 percent more in earnings compared to May 2014.
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Although coming from a low base, the growth experienced here cannot be ignored. Consistent monthly growth has yielded a 45-percent increase in year-on-year earnings. Average earnings for sales in South America are less than 70 percent of the all-country average for these publishers, indicating a lower general price point. However even at 70 percent of the overall average, the average earnings figure in South America has actually risen year-on-year.
As for what types of ebook are selling, the growth seen has primarily been driven by fiction, especially Spanish-language titles. But there is also an appetite for English classics, reflecting the desire to learn the language.
Sales down-under have yielded a 17-percent increase in 2015. The average earnings figure for Australian sales has risen marginally this year, and the figure is also slightly higher than the all-country average, an indication that Australia is able to absorb a higher price point.
Fiction is unsurprisingly popular in terms of ebook sales, in particular titles dealing with family life. And a number of old-fashioned family sagas have done well for this cohort of publishers. But there has been extremely strong growth (58 percent) in the biography & autobiography classifications, albeit at a lower price point than the overall average.
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Similar to South America, the earnings figures are off a low base but have shown consistent growth and are currently 44 percent up on last year. The growth is driven mainly by volume but there has also been a 10-percent increase in average earnings. However, unsurprisingly, the average earnings figure for India is still much lower than the all-country average (60 percent of the overall figure).
The two leaders in terms of genre for this cohort of publishers are self-help and business & economics. And looking at the self-help genre in more detail, it is worth noting that books classified as “personal development” perform the best.