Home » Amazon, Bestsellers, Big Publishing, Self-Publishing » Looking Back at 2016: Important Publishing Developments Authors Should Know

Looking Back at 2016: Important Publishing Developments Authors Should Know

3 January 2017

From Jane Friedman:

The market for adult fiction is primarily a digital one

It’s commonly said that in the United States, overall trade book sales are divided about 70-30 print-digital, and that ebook sales at traditional publishing houses are flat to declining. (You’ve probably heard the celebratory and misleading claims that “print is back!”)

But the latest analysis from Author Earnings shows that when you factor in “nontraditional” publishing sales, the digital share of overall US consumer book purchases changes significantly:

  • 45% of all books purchased in the US in 2016 were digital
  • In adult fiction, sales in the US are roughly 70% digital
  • 30% of all US adult fiction purchases are books by self-published authors

“Nontraditional” sales include self-published work, Amazon’s own imprints, and other sources outside of big trade publishing.

. . . .

Amazon’s market share is growing—across all formats

Industry consultants such as Mike Shatzkin observe that Amazon now has at least 50% of the overall book retail market across print and digital formats. When you study industry reports of print’s buoyancy, and look closely at where the sales are happening, it’s fairly clear that Amazon is stealing away print market share from bricks-and-mortar retailers like Barnes & Noble. And of course Amazon continues to dominate ebook retail, especially as Nook ebook sales continue their decline.

Furthermore, Amazon owns Audible/ACX—the No. 1 audiobook retailer in the US—and has been putting more investment behind the marketing of audiobooks and original audio programming. Over the last couple years, audiobooks have been the top growing format for trade publishers, with about 20-30% growth year on year. Amazon is primed to take advantage of this growth, whether the content comes from traditional publishers or self-publishers.

Finally, there’s Amazon Publishing. Amazon now has 13 active imprints and is the largest publisher of works in translation. In 2016 alone, it’s believed Amazon Publishing will release more than 2,000 titles. (Remember: This isn’t their self-publishing operation—it’s their traditional publishing operation.)

A data point that is unlikely to surprise anyone with knowledge of Amazon: eight of the top 20 Kindle sellers in 2016 were from Amazon’s own publishing imprints.

. . . .

There wasn’t a new blockbuster for publishing in 2016

If you look at the overall bestsellers from last year, many of them weren’t even published in 2016, such as The Girl on the Train. The dry spell was noticed as far back in July, by Publishers Weekly, who pointed out that no new novel had cracked the top twenty print bestsellers in the first half of 2016. Industry observers speculate that current events (the election cycle, terrorist attacks) may have squeezed out book coverage, but also that the division of sales between print and digital formats may be a factor.

But what about the new Harry Potter book, you might ask?

The release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lifted sales for its US publisher, Scholastic, as expected. While the power of Potter is real enough and undeniably impressive, what makes this less than boffo news for publishing is that, as Michael Cader writes, “the Potter gain was more of a movement of inventory dollars from new adult books rather than any kind of overall boost to the trade.”

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

Amazon, Bestsellers, Big Publishing, Self-Publishing

8 Comments to “Looking Back at 2016: Important Publishing Developments Authors Should Know”

  1. When they go and reference ‘Mike Shatzkin’, you know their numbers and facts might need checking … 😉

  2. I like Jane’s blog, and knowledge, quite a bit, but this little gem did have me shaking my head:

    “Over the last couple years, audiobooks have been the top growing format for trade publishers, with about 20-30% growth year on year. Amazon is primed to take advantage of this growth, whether the content comes from traditional publishers or self-publishers.”

    Perhaps they are primed to take advantage of that growth, because they single handedly created it in the first place?

    • I know it might seems so, but to us old timers and I mean really really old, lol, amazon didnt single handedly create audiobooks. They come very very late to the party. Simon and Schuster, Sounds True, Hay House, Harper Collins and others have been at it since the mid 1980s and made huge money off it. Audible used to be free standing, then was bought by AMZ I believe, a few years ago.

      • The bulk of audiobook sales these days are digital.
        For some reason they are cheaoer and more accessible than tape or CD. Or vinyl.

        Yes, I remember audiobooks on vynil. I was but a wee lad but I remember the floppy vinyl audio books that came in books and magazines. I understand some audiobooks for the blind rand at 16 2/3 rpm.

  3. It would also help to note another silent bias: Ms Friedman is a founder/principal of Open Road Media, and that tinges both her perceptions and her data. Somewhat. (So, too, does her prior history in publishing, but that starts to careen into potential ad hominem argument — whether favorable or otherwise.)

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