Home » Author Earnings/Vanity Presses » After two and a half years of quarter-over-quarter growth, Indie eBook market share shrinks significantly

After two and a half years of quarter-over-quarter growth, Indie eBook market share shrinks significantly

12 October 2016

From Author Earnings:

Two and a half years. Ten quarterly Author Earnings reports. With each one of them, we learned something new and unexpected about our rapidly changing industry.

But this October surprise flat-out blindsided us…

After two and a half years of quarter-over-quarter growth, Indie eBook market share shrinks significantly

  • Indie ebook market share drops all the way back to early 2015 levels.
  • Traditional publishers regain a little lost ebook ground.
  • Amazon publishing imprints grow a lot.

To help put this sudden reversal into context, let’s look at the 32-month market share trendlines.

In unit sales terms, we have:


During the five short months since May, it seems that indies have somehow lost their market share gains of the preceding 18 months. This has been counterbalanced to a limited extent by a slight uptick in traditionally-published unit sales: both Big Five and Small/Medium Traditional Publishers have each gained roughly 1% in market share. But most of the lost indie market share seems to have instead gone to Amazon Imprints, who have gained a whopping 4% in market share.

A couple caveats apply when it comes to measuring the market share of Amazon Imprints (*1):

Due to their relatively small number of titles, Amazon Publishing’s sales are generally the most volatile from report to report. And this data snapshot was collected early in the month, when Amazon’s six KindleFirst titles held all 5 of the top 5 overall best-seller slots, and 6 of the top 7. But still, the KF titles made up only 2% of overall Amazon Kindle sales, or half of the increase we see in Amazon Imprint market share. The balance came from growing sales in the rest of their catalog.

Let’s next look at the 32-month trends in gross consumer dollar ebook spending:


In consumer spending terms, the May-to-October drop in indie title dollar market share parallels the drop in their share of unit sales. For the first time since Q1 2015, readers are spending more money on ebooks by Small/Medium Publishers than they are spending on indie ebooks. Despite the Big Five’s slight uptick in unit-sales market share, their share of consumer ebook dollars has continued to drop–albeit less steeply than in previous quarters.


The share of overall Kindle author earnings going to the Big Five has finally gone up a little. Although at 23% it still remains below its January 2016 level, Big Five authors have regained a little of the ground they lost between January and May. But the biggest recent winners seem to be the Small/Medium publisher authors, whose share of total Kindle author earnings has surpassed 20% for the first time.

Amazingly, when it comes to author earnings, Small/Medium Publisher authors as a cohort are now running neck-to-neck with the Big Five. Even a year or two ago, such a thing would have been unthinkable: back in early 2014, Big Five authors were outearning Small/Medium Publisher authors by a factor of more than 2.5x, and only a year ago–in September 2015–total Big Five author earnings in the Kindle store were still 2x those of all Small/Medium publisher authors.

But for us, it’s the drop in indie author earnings that triggers the most questions.

In May 2016, verified self-published indie authors were taking home nearly 50% of all US Kindle author earnings. Now, as of early October 2016, the indie share has fallen below 40%. What happened?

. . . .

[PG note: the following is much farther into the AE report]

In 2015, more than 40% of Nielsen Bookscan’s 652 million total reported annual US print sales–and the majority of Nielsen’s Retail & Club sector–were online print sales from Amazon.com, rather than brick-and-mortar bookstore sales. 

The fact that Nielsen Bookscan reports only 5% growth in the “Retail & Club” sector, when Amazon’s half of those “Retail & Club” numbers is up 18%, can only mean one thing:

The other half of the Bookscan Retail & Club sector, US physical bookstore sales, must be down by at least 8%.

The math is inescapable.

For traditionally-published authors, especially those whose books are not receiving front-table co-op in bookstores and airport outlets, Amazon is not only the source of most of their digital sales, it accounts for an increasing percentage of their print sales, too. In most cases, Amazon will make up the majority of them. And as we’ve seen in the data for newer traditionally-published authors, high ebook prices mean those authors are far less likely to find an audience and build a word-of-mouth fanbase. Which is probably why newer traditionally-published debuts, saddled with those sky-high ebook prices, nowadays aren’t really selling all that many print books, either.

Link to the rest at Author Earnings

Author Earnings/Vanity Presses

77 Comments to “After two and a half years of quarter-over-quarter growth, Indie eBook market share shrinks significantly”

  1. I wonder if this relates at all to very wide-spread claims of KU page reads being severely under reported. Mind you, I do not feel that *I* have had under-reported page reads and in fact my sales and page reads are up, but the complaints about non-existent page reads are pretty massive and from extremely reliable sources.

    Unreported page reads certainly impact rank and I know a lot of indy authors who are choosing to put off publishing new works until it is fixed which also impacts what is on the Top 5 or 10.

    My guess is that this is exactly the explanation. There are some very angry authors out there at the moment.

  2. Anecdotally, a lot of my friends and I have been sharing sales figures and wondering what happened to us this year. It’s not ‘fall off a cliff’ bad, but it’s definitely been a bad ten months. It’s a little startling to have this report show up, thus.

    • There have been a lot of authors on the KDP forums wondering what’s happened the past few months, because many are seeing sales slow and drop, or even stop completely lately.

      In fact, I just helped another indie out to check if his sales were being reported (they were) because of a drop a few days ago.

      Based on personal experience, my last series title (released July 18, 2016) didn’t do/isn’t doing as well as the previous six series titles. I’d assumed it was because of the length (novella, versus the others being novel length). I’m sure that had some bearing, but now I’m wondering how much. That release fell off “the cliffs” at an accelerated pace. 🙁

      On the other hand, while still barely a drop in the bucket compared to Amazon (even with the drop), my sales at B&N, Kobo, and Apple have increased this year. More than doubled for B&N and Kobo.

      Now I’ll actually go read the report. 🙂

      • I’m one of those, Scath. Despite people e-mailing and tweeting they’re buying my indie books, my sales for the last few months have been zero.

      • > More than doubled for B&N and Kobo.

        Ditto. Sales at iBooks up, sales at Kobo up, sales at Google Play up, and (to my astonishment) sales at Nook up.

        Meanwhile, sales at Amazon continue going down, down, down. My KDP dashboard has gone from being my happy place to a red room of pain.

        It would be great if Hugh and Data Guy could do an Author Earnings report that looked at indie earnings at the other retailers. It might solve this mystery. I think it’s quite possible that indie market share hasn’t been lost — it simply moved elsewhere. When Amazon changed from being a level playing field to “go exclusive or go home,” many indies shifted our focus to growing our sales at the other retailers, and those efforts are paying off.

    • My sales are steady, but not what they should be given the growth I’d seen over the past few years. I suspect 1) election year distractions combined with 2) weak economy and general sense of uncertainty are making people reluctant to spend. Coupled with 3) Amazon’s problems with scammers and 4) the page count mess, it is not helping me, or a lot of other indie writers.

      Note that I’m K-Select and I don’t advertise aside from two blogs (mine and another writer co-op type blog). Why no ads? Costs, not using social media (no FB ads), and job-induced restrictions on publicity. No advertising means my sales are going to be relatively low compared to others.

  3. I hate the “pages read” system, verses the old way of being paid per borrow. There’s no accountability or transparency. My books are assigned page counts far below what they actually are in their paperback layouts; then, there’s the question of underreporting pages read…

  4. Thanks again to Data Guy and Hugh Howey for this new issue of the report, and the data’s detailed analysis.

  5. hmm, the small/medium publisher group jumped drastically. How old are these publishers? and what is the chance that these publishers are the businesses of formerly ‘indie’ authors?

    Is this established publishers growing? or is it new publishers being established and gathering successful indie authors?

    • I’ve been thinking about that as well.

      Because some of the missing sales might have ended up there after authors founded their own businesses and became publishers to market their self-published books. It’s a logical step at a certain size.

      But even so, we do have authors reporting drop offs and low sales, so it can’t be this entirely. (I have had low sales, but that wasn’t a surprise considering I didn’t manage to publish anything this year… my own fault.)

      It’s quite possible Amazon changed visibility algorithms.

      • I fall under the small publisher section since I have two pen names and a friend who uses my imprint and ISBNs (though she loads the books herself). Other than the past few weeks post-Bookbub promo, my income has continued to drop all year to record lows for the past several years. I’m really hoping this is temporary, but I’m going back to having my books on the other sites as they come out of KU because even though my page reads are great post-BB, I made more money on my last BB promo going wide to all sites. I’m seriously hoping this slump is temporary because I released five books this year and I’m still not seeing overall numbers as nice as I had before.

  6. There are thousands of indie authors and millions of customers. It is very unlikely a change this abrupt (if real) is the result of crowd behaviour. Much more likely is that one or more of the big influencers has done something that changes the options available to the crowd.

    (I said “if real”. It is possible, as stated above by several people, that at least some of this drop is actually internal miscounting at Amazon.)

    • I’ve seen significant dropoff this year as well, after five years of modest but steady sales.

      Amazon’s putting their thumb on the scale. As is their right.

  7. I think the election is keeping people from reading the usual amount of books. When real life is nuttier than any novel… it’s hard to compete.

    Hopefully things will move back to normal after November 8

  8. My sales are way down this year, but that’s because it has taken me all year to finish a book that should have been out in March or earlier. Part of that was family changes (we took in a foster baby in January). I’m expecting a nice end of year bump once I get this book out… and two more coming right behind it…

  9. Interesting, considering this article I saw a couple days ago: http://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2016/amazon-ebook-sales-explode-in-september/

    Is that the Amazon imprints?

    • It says the ebook increase was fueled by digital sales of “The Girl on the Train: A Novel” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”. It also says sales of paper books dropped by more than half during the same month, which is so shocking I suspect someone messed up reading the data or reporting it. (On further thought, maybe textbook sales created a spike in August?)

      Amazon sells roughly half of the paper books sold in the US, so a drop of more than one half would be a drop in total paper book sales of around 25% all other retailers had steady sales. (Most reports say most other retailers are losing sales.) That’s massive.

      An ebook increase of 73% coupled with a paper book drop of more than half with paper books remaining ahead of ebooks at the end means paper books would need to have been around 4x ebook sales in August. More, since paper book sales are still substantially ahead of ebook sales by other people’s figures.

      One Click Retail reports that the 73% growth in ebooks equals $30M. They do not report a dollar figure for the drop of more than half in paper books. They report that books (presumably paper) fell from 1st rank to 5th rank in overall sales, but do not report what overall sales rank ebooks hold. Since they state “the gap between physical and digital books narrowed significantly in September,” it is presumably lower than 5th.

      They also report that costumers bought over $50M of paintball equipment in August and September “in preparation for the hunting season,” which conjures up images of varicoloured deer bounding through the forest. (Don’t eat the mushrooms.) Since September’s ebook sales were 73% greater than August’s and that 73% is ~$30M, we can calculate that August and September’s combined ebook sales were ~$112M or a little more than double paintball sales. What will happen to American culture if we lose our paintball stores?

      One Click Retail’s numbers seem a little hinky, but they don’t provide enough detail to check why.

  10. I’m wondering if some of the overall drop is due to all the scamming going on with KU. Those scammers have taken millions away from legitimate indie authors. That has to have some effect on sales/income.

    As for me, I’m about the same income with more books out. I would expect income to increase, but I’m at a plateau.

    • Even with KU scammers, I’d think the readers wouldn’t do but a few pages before realizing it was a scam and closing it for another, unless you think the readers ‘gives up’ after a while and doesn’t find anything they’d like to read.

      • The thing about the KU scam, from what I understand: The so-called readers are in it with the scammers. It isn’t about ripping off readers with fake books, but ripping off Amazon (and its legitimate suppliers) with fake reads of fake books.

        • This. The KU scammers hire KU click farms to download their “Super Mega 30 Bonus-Book Boxed Sets” and click to the last page, so the scammer gets credit for 3K “pages read” on each download. They’re actually hoping real readers don’t download the books, because real readers discover pretty quickly that it’s just a bunch of junk copied-and-pasted off the internet and complain.

          Amazon tries to stop it, but the scammers just change names and publish again and again and again.

    • This is my suspicion re: scammers. My sales went off a cliff in January. I released a new book to ZERO sales, something I never experienced before. In perusing the New Releases lists, I found them crammed with scam “books” for page after page. Nobody’s going to buy your book when it’s buried 20, 40 pages down. This can’t be good for readers, either, when all they see is c**p.

      Until Amazon cleans up KU, I have a bad feeling that this will be life for indies.

      • Amazon needs to fix the browsing. I do actually have to go through pages and pages and pages to get to something, which tells me that they need to refine categories even more. And that’s not even talking scam. Just that there is so much inventory, a huge category (romance, say, or fantasy) needs many, many more subsets for those who browse. What they have doesn’t refine enough. Browsing has gotten a bit vexing.

        • I think this is another reason for the drop in sales: Amazon has given KU books such a huge advantage in the ranking algorithms (counting each free download as a full “sale”) that they completely dominate the store. Readers get frustrated trying to sift through pages of scam books — and they give up and go browse elsewhere.

          One way to solve this: Amazon could provide a click-box in their search options to “Eliminate KU books from search results.” Let KU subscribers find the books they want to borrow, and let readers who aren’t interested in KU find books they want to buy.

  11. I think there are a few possible factors at work.

    I know that a lot of the most successful hybrid authors have gone wide this year (gotten out of KDP select) because they were not happy with the loss of sales that the introduction of KU was producing. If some of the most popular author’s books are no longer in KU, this means that their books are not going to be as visible–since page reads definitely gives a book an edge–hence their sales will be down even more on Amz. However, many of them also report that sales that iBooks in particular (added to Nook and Kobo sales) are in many cases taking up the slack. So only a study looking at ebook sales everywhere would be able to see if the drop on Amz is really just a shift in where sales are happening.

    In addition, my impression is that the success of Amz imprints (which are in KU) is in part because these books are still in KU–and now have less competition from popular indies there, and the fact that Amazon has been promoting their imprints rather than promoting indies with things like Kindle First, etc.

    Whether it is a change in Amz algorithm or the difficulty competing with KU books, it also appears that books that have been promoted that are not in KU, simply do not stay visible as long–ie loss in sales.

    BookBub seems to be shifting away from Indies, with more and more of the books showing up on this site being traditional published books–often back lists.. So harder to get a BookBub, and harder to compete with books that have been NYT bestsellers etc.

    I think that both Amz and Bookbub may be also trying to get indies to shift from using things like Free days and 99 sales to paying for their new ad options. One way to do that is to not give them as many opportunities (BookBub) or promotional Deals (Amz). Problem of course is that most indies who are not making a lot of money (and feel their revenue is going down) are not going to be willing or able to invest in this strategy. It is one thing to forgo revenue for a brief time (by putting your book free or 99 cents) and another thing to actually shell out money for Facebook or other ads–with no guarantee of profit.

    You put all this together and I think that it really has been a much more competitive environment for indies this year. Not impossible (personally shifting to going wide at the start of this year, plus a new publication, has kept my revenue the same–of course with more books available.)

    But as I said earlier…unless there is a way to see if sales of indie books outside of Amz has taken up the slack, we don’t know if it is really a drop in indie sales.

  12. It is distinctly possible that a significant portion of indie earnings have been made by scammers. If Amazon’s recent efforts have been successful at stopping scammers, then the indie share of sales would be down. It may be that legitimate authors have been hurt as well, but a crackdown on pervasive scamming is in itself sufficient reason that indie author earnings are down.

    • Smart Debut Author


      Amazon ebook sales run $2.5 billion a year. Unless scammers were routinely getting away with hundreds of millions of dollars in phony ebook sales, shutting them down would have little overall impact on indie market share.

      • How do you know Amazon’s ebook sales run that high?

        • Smart Debut Author

          Their share of AAP trad ebooks alone is well over a billion dollars, according to the AAP. And trad ebooks, including all non-AAP trad publishers, are only half of Amazon’s ebook $ sales.

      • The total dollar amount doesn’t matter. The question is what percentage of transactions are related to gray and black sales. The drop in indie sales was 5% of the total market. As little oversight as Amazon has been putting on indie books, this doesn’t seem like an unreasonable number. It might be a little high, but it isn’t outrageous for what has been a poorly overseen market.

        Realistically, the fallout from Amazon tightening their grip has negatively affected legitimate indies as well as marketplace cheaters and scammers.

        It’s also curious that small publisher sales had a rebound that exactly matches the indie drop. There could also be a movement by indies (or scammers or both) to establish their own small publisher imprints. The question is how is Author Earnings accounting for the small publishers.

        • Smart Debut Author

          5% of Amazon’s total American ebook market would be something like $125M a year — which would mean that the vast majority of the KU program payouts were made to scammers.

          Maybe you buy that scenario. I don’t. It doesn’t even make sense.

          If nothing else, Amazon’s proven pretty good at looking out for their own interests. I don’t see them giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to scammers. A few millions or tens of millions of dollars over a two-year period, maybe… because to Amazon that amount would be trivial and not worth their effort to chase after.

  13. I appear to be an outlier, as I’m having a great year. I’m also not in KU.

  14. The downtrend started a year ago in September, and it got worst ever since. As for this year most of my eBooks sold only when advertised. This October I sold only one eBook so far on Kindle. Typical sales previous years were 100 to 300 eBooks per month. I’m not on KU and so far I’m selling more on Kobo, iBooks and B&N. I think there could be three issues:
    1-Kindle readers are overloaded with free eBooks. No need for more.
    2-Kindle algorithms are faulty. I had an incident where Amazon informed me that I couldn’t gift my eBooks priced at 99 cents. The Kindle people couldn’t find out what was the problem. To top it all, one of the recipients told me that he received my book, but my digital account doesn’t show the eBook as even being sold.
    3-Amazon is not marketing or advertising the Indie eBooks. I know for a fact that some of my books were advertised by Amazon via e-Mail w/o me paying for it.
    I suspect 2 and 3 are the issues. Anyone has any idea?

    • #3 definitely for me… my latest release (early September) is the first time in a couple of years that Amazon has not sent me an email asking if I’d like them to let my followers know that I have a new release…

      And has anyone else noticed that the Follow Author buttons on the Amazon author pages are gone?

  15. Maybe write a book about the election. I’m joking, but Hillary v. Trump is taking ratings away from the NFL, and primetime TV shows, and talk radio. It wouldn’t surprise me if people just didn’t buy and read as many books this year because they’ve been on social media and the internet more, following the election.

  16. Dean Wesley Smith

    What Anthony said. The election. Historically book sales have always dropped during a contested major election year.

    We are a small publisher in this survey and I have been surprised, actually, that our sales have not dropped during this election. We were expecting it, actually.

    • Sales might fall, but what accounts for the shift in market share? Why does the election have such a greater effect on independents vs others?

      • Hey now, I said it first! lol!

      • Honestly don’t know the actual numbers of sales from the charts. But the category we are in, Small and Medium, didn’t get the hit. So I may be wrong, but it is historical in nature, just as sales in May-July are normally slow every year.

        However, I do believe deeply that KU is one of the most dangerous places any writer can even have one book and going wide respects your readers and lets everyone get your books if you have the patience to let it grow, as many here have said they are doing.

        And almost all small and medium presses have gone wide and thus our books gain momentum from wide readers while those stuck in one place in KU could very well be getting hit with an accounting problem.

        I tend to look to history for answers in publishing. But in this question it might be a combination of discoverability in KU, the election, and a shift in how readers want to find books. (And if it is an accounting problem in KU, well…)

        • The trend has gone down for a year now. We’ll see what happens after the election, but I doubt vampire fans are more attracted to Hillary and Trump. But maybe there is no difference between them and vampires.

          • This is why I’m sitting out an election for the first time since ’78. It’s the narcissistic xenophobic sexist-groper serial-adulterer bloodsucker with bad hair vs the satyr-enabling avaricious Wall-street-suck-up with her pants-on-fire.

            I’ll stay home on Election Day and read or watch something dystopic or apocalyptic to remind me things could be so much worse. 🙂

        • But the category we are in, Small and Medium, didn’t get the hit.

          It’s an excellent report for the small pub category. They maintained their unit market share, yet increased revenue market share by 30% this year.

  17. Amazon screwed something up. They’ve been working on weeding out the most scammers they can, keeping them from getting all star bonuses and trying to keep KU attractive to indies.

    Amazon has decided they own enough of the book market to push indies down so their own books rise even higher.

    There is some truth to the election year thing, though judging from the people I know IRL and online, people pretty much don’t give a crap any more.

    Amazon is busy putting out new programs (music and POD publishing from the KDP dashboard for two off hand), it’s too much for their system to handle and they haven’t been able to plug all the leaks.

    There’s been a pretty massive movement to go wide, going by what I’ve been seeing online, starting with the KUv2 sneak play. Add in the blatant scamming that Amazon didn’t seem too worried about at first, and the dismal payout for KU.

    Any or all of the above, in varying combos, or none of the above and people just don’t want to read any more. Too many free books, too many crap books, too many so-so books. Search makes it too hard to find anything (mostly due to the title stuffers that Amazon again doesn’t seem too worried about).

    Personally, I’m going wide. As soon as stuff comes out of KU, it’s going up everywhere I can get it. I’ve tried to hang with Amazon, because it seemed like I could build a career there, but this is just too screwy. They need to admit they broke it, and fix it. Or they can just sell their own books, those horrible things by people who shouldn’t be allowed near a publishing platform, and those over-priced trad pub offerings.

  18. Eyeballing the chart:

    Small pubs: consumers are paying higher prices for small pub books. Unit market share is constant, but gross $ are up.

    Independents: no shift in prices paid.

    Big-5: lower prices paid.

    Amazon books: lower prices paid.

    I defer to Data Guy and Howey in this. All I have done is look at lines.

  19. Interestingly enough, in France, my Kindle sales are lower than they have ever been. I was ready to put this down to the fact that the few readers in my very small niche had already read all my books (the best performing books are a bit old), and to traditionnally low sales in september/october; but it is confusing since :
    – July was my best month ever, even the oldest titles held their own. August was good enough. September was haflway down the drain.
    – Createspace (ie print on Amazon) are still good for the same titles
    – My KOBO sales are staying good, and, and that’s the most surprising, they are for the first time ever way above my Kindle sales. With the same titles !
    So I don’t know what’s happening since any change that could have affected the US store most probably hasn’t yet arrived here.

  20. I’m honestly not certain which category I’m in. Assuming small/medium publisher, as I own a publishing company that doesn’t publish just my books. (It’s actually a co-op thing, there’s 8 or so of us.)

    Of my group, I’m the only one who sees daily sales and has reached the point of earning a living. Four others see some sales on a semi-regular basis, but to the tune of usually not more than 100 per year (as of our last confab over sales).

    Mine have definitely dropped this year, after 3 years of regularly increasing (and with just 2 releases per year, at that). My last title in my “popular” series, there was a -66% difference in the first 30 days of sales from the previous release. It fell off the cliffs at an accelerated rate, as well. Pretty much hit the 90 day cliff before day 60.

    If I’m lucky, I may end up earning about the same I did last year. Far cry from what I thought at the beginning of the year.

    I know it’s partly my fault. For some reason, this has been a year of writing burnout for me. I have released 2 titles, but one was the first of a different series I had almost completed before the end of 2015. The 2nd was a novella length in my “popular” series about 8 months after the previous release for it (I won’t be writing more novellas for it either after the results I’ve seen).

    I think the combination of having a release for the “popular” series in Nov 2015, plus the release of the debut title for the new series in Jan 2016 carried my sales well enough everything seemed “normal” (well, my particular “normal”) for the first quarter.

    It’s been wacky since. Much smaller “splash” for the novella in the “popular” series, released in July, quicker fall off the cliffs, less of a boost to sales of the other 24 titles I have available, etc. I tried KU with a few titles the first half of the year, and yeah, that didn’t work for me, so no renewing their time in.

    Maybe it is just the election, etc that’s been suggested. All I know is that personally, I’m seeing the fall of sales on Amazon as an indie, even though my books are probably included in the small/medium publisher category.

    It’s not helping my burnout at all, I can tell you that!

  21. While it’s discouraging to see a decline, maybe this will help encourage the narrative away from the idea that the only indie author success stories are the books that have sold a lot of copies.

  22. The fact that 100,000 more $.99 ebooks a day were being sold in October vs May may have something to do with the fall in author earnings. The $.99 category earnings rose while the $2.99 to $4.99 all fell. More books sold, but at less profit.

    • Chuck is likely right. The hot new trend in releasing is to do so at $0.99 and then later raise the price. I can point to several dozen bestselling books that launched that way. The strategy is all about gaining visibility, and then raising the price to make money.

    • Hi, Chuck,

      Eyeballing %-ages off charts is always tricky. I ran the actual numbers.

      99c ebooks were:

      19.7% of all unit sales in May 2015
      20.1% of all unit sales in September 2015
      21.1% of all unit sales in January 2016
      20.3% of all unit sales in May 2016
      22.3% of all unit sales in October 2016

      The proportion of 99c ebooks looks pretty consistent: it doesn’t seem to be much of a factor.


      • Thanks for your reply. But… are you talking about the proportion in all publishing types or only indie published? I’m talking about only indie self published books. Eyeballing changes from May to Oct — unit sales of $.99 books up approx. 100,000 units,(@35% royalties) $2.99 down approx. 43,000 units, $3.99 down approx. 21,000 units, $4.99 down approx. 14,000 units (all @ 70% royalties) Changes like that seem far more significant than a 2% change.

        • My misunderstanding, Chuck — the above is the percentage of unit sales that are 99c across all publishing types.

          When limiting the scope of the data to only indies, I see:

          99c ebooks were:

          36.3% of all indie unit sales in May 2015
          40.4% of all indie unit sales in September 2015
          43.0% of all indie unit sales in November 2015
          37.7% of all indie unit sales in January 2016
          30.9% of all indie unit sales in May 2016
          40.4% of all indie unit sales in October 2016

          While there is a bit more variation from quarter to quarter (and of course, the proportion of $0.99 sales for indies is typically nearly double the market-wide average), the October 2016 hasn’t moved outside of its historic range.

          Still, as you point out, it’s a very suggestive metric.

          Notably, back in September 2015 when the indie market share was lower than it is now even post October 2016 decline, the % of indie sales at $0.99 then was identical to today’s.

          And also notably, the % of indie sales at $0.99 was at it’s lowest ever (30.9%) in May 2016, which is when the overall indie market share hit it’s highest point to date.

          I think you are definitely onto something there…


          • Thanks for the hard data, DG! I would have expected the $.99 number to be edging upwards over time. I really appreciate the work you guys put into bringing such an interesting and complex market to light. It is a very useful service. Thanks again! Chuck

  23. Is there any factor affecting the independent unit volume distribution that would cause independents to fall out of the AE population?

    What factors could result in 1)independent unit volume increases, and 2)that increase is not counted in AE.

    This isn’t a criticism of AE, but if the count delivers surprising results, it’s reasonable to examine how the population may have changed. That examination could point to the ultimate cause.

    Is there a set-1 of independent books that are included in the population, and another set-2 that is not? If so, what could cause a movement from set-1 to set-2?

    Is something at work in set-2 that we are ignoring?

  24. RE: Scammers and their impact on the AE Report…

    Profit here is based on units sold as determined by and price at the time of the spider capture. Books in KU are assigned a ratio of sales to borrows and then a multiplier is applied to the actual page numbers to estimate the KENP. This is done for all books. A scam book is weighed no differently. In fact, those mega-boxes capped at 3000 reads are being credited for half their rank at $12-15 per borrow. Even if readers recognize the scam on opening and shut it after one page, for the purposes of this report, that doesn’t matter; it’s still counted as a full read because this report cannot capture actual page number or profit. It’s all inferred.

    If the scammers are having an impact it would have to be that Amazon is catching more scammers at the source and removing more books and closing more scam accounts.

    Because of the way the $$$ is figured in the AE report, those mega-boxes have actually been INFLATING indie profit (and possibly some of the Uncategorized Small Presses). (DATA GUY, if you’re reading: email me and I’ll give you a couple of names of the scam small presses that are using bots to pop 4-5 books into the Top 20 Free EVERY DAY and then coming off free at good ranks. You can determine if they’re having an impact). Those free books that are botted up the ranks — no matter if no one one reads them — are still counted as Indie or Unc Sm Press profit.

    So, you can’t have it both ways. As far as *this* report is concerned, scammers are not only NOT costing indies profit, they would have been ADDING to the indie profit line in past months (because their accounts and ranks are treated exactly the same as any indie’s account).

    *IF* scammers are in any way responsible for anything in the October report, it’s a verification that Amazon is actually curtailing some of that behavior.

  25. Hi, All,

    A lot of savvy authors have pointed to BookBub as a potential factor.

    And luckily, I happened to have 2 years worth of BookBub deal emails handy, containing over 25,000 BookBub deals. So this morning I wrote a software email “spider” and turned it loose on those emails, and now there’s a brand new section in the AE report, with heading:

    UPDATED October 13: A look at the “BookBub effect”


    We have a pretty definitive answer now, as to whether this recent decline in indie share is BookBub-related. But I will say the chart of the indie share of BookBub-attributable Kindle sales, and how that has trended over the past 2 years, was particularly eye-opening. 🙂

    Rather than rehash it all here without the accompanying BookBub “market share” trend graphs, I’ll just point folks at the updated report.


    • So it’s not BookBub…

      Thanks, DG, this is starting to narrow down the possibilities. From what I’ve read, Facebook has not been a good place for Indies to ‘market’ for a while now. Twitter likewise, so if Bookbub’s influence is minimal as well, the only real possibility left is Amazon itself.

      Lots of variables on the Amazon front, but the two that seem to stand out with regard to timing are the introduction of page-flip technology and the crack down on scammers.

      As many others have pointed out, getting rid of all the scammers would not explain such a big dip. Therefore, unless my logic is faulty, that leaves page-flip.

      Thanks for helping me sort out my options. I think I’ll be giving KU a big miss.

    • Hey, Data Guy, thanks for looking at that. However, I think you’re really underestimating the effect of a BookBub ad across an author’s entire catalog and in the weeks following the promotion. “Day-of” downloads for me are usually followed by at least half that much again over the following week, due to increased chart visibility, not to mention quite a halo effect on the rest of my catalog.

      I think most indies would agree. BookBub ads have an enormous impact for at least a couple weeks after a sale, if not longer, and on more than just the advertised title.

      • Hi, Anthea,

        The Bookbub calculations weren’t just day-of-ad sales for each title, they were for the duration of price promotion. However, as you point out, they do not include the halo effect on other titles in the author’s catalog.


  26. Just throwing this out here:

    How are Kindle Worlds counted? Are they Amazon imprints?

    I have no evidence at all, except I’ve seen successful authors open up their world for Kindle Worlds. And those are only available on Amazon.com, as I found out to my chagrin, so they are probably not entirely under the control of the authors.

    Could they be behind that shift?

    • Hi, Hannah,

      Kindle Worlds represents less than 0.04% of Amazon Kindle unit sales — KW sales volume as a whole is too tiny to be a factor in market share.


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