From Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler:
Joe sez: Yesterday, the Guardian reviewed aspects of the latest AuthorEarnings report in an article called, Self-publishing Surging to 31% of Ebook Market, Claims Report.
Barry sez: I’m a big Guardian fan and think it’s great that they’re covering the data AuthorEarnings has been crunching — data that contradicts a lot of misinformation and legacy industry propaganda. I also think it was entirely sensible for them to reach out to Philip Jones of The Bookseller and Nicola Solomon of the Society of Authors for a contrary view.
Joe sez: Maybe they also could have reached out to you for a supporting viewpoint, since you have written for the Guardian. Maybe they didn’t have time, or see the need. But I see this as a biased piece questioning AuthorEarnings data.
Barry sez: Well, we can always argue about “balance” or whatever in these matters. In general, I like to see a contrary view. My concern about Jones’s and Solomon’s views isn’t about whether they were pro or con; it’s more that they weren’t very coherent.
. . . .
Guardian: According to the Bookseller editor Philip Jones there are “large question marks” about Howey’s data.
“This is a very narrow selection of a particular type of market at a particular time,” he said. “Most people who’ve looked at this in any depth say you can’t extrapolate from bestseller rankings on the Kindle store to a picture of the wider market. Howey sees an ice-cube, and shrieks ‘iceberg’.”
Barry sez: Wait a minute… “a very narrow selection of a particular type of market at a particular time”? They’re tracking over 100,000 titles! But hang on, let’s ask Data Guy himself…
Data Guy sez: The Author Earnings reports are cross-sectional studies of Amazon ebook sales.
The raw data for each is obtained by a custom-coded Java web Spider software program that crawls the thousands of Amazon category Best Seller lists page by page and then “reads” the Amazon product pages for each of the 100,000+ listed books, extracting each book’s title, author, publisher, price, overall Amazon Sales Rank, review counts and scores, and DRM info. It works by parsing the raw html of ebook product pages, following links through all the main and then sub categories. Anything on a product page can be pulled into a spreadsheet cell.
The methodology involves an interplay of four factors: 1) The known overall rank of each title on the Kindle store. 2) The estimated daily sales for those ranks. 3) The sales price of the ebook. 4) And the royalty paid to the author.
1) Is known. 2) Has been compiled by dozens of indies, who note their daily sales at varying ranks, and these rates match up and are regularly re-checked. 3) Is known. 4) Is known for self-published titles and well-estimated for all others.
You can tweak (2) and (4) as much as you want and not break the conclusions found in our reports, which is that self-published authors have taken sizeable market share of ebook royalties on the largest bookseller in the world.
Joe sez: I believe the only way to deny the results of the AuthorEarnings data is to say that Amazon sales rank doesn’t correlate to the number of books sold. Which is VERY presumptuous. When Amazon sneezes, a thousand indies check Jeff’s pulse. If Amazon was tampering with rank, someone would be able to show it.
Almost all media sales follow a power curve. Looks like a hockey stick. You can adjust this curve all you like, but since the distribution of indies to traditionally published authors is even and consistent, it doesn’t change the results. Move a legacy book up in sales by its rank, and the neighboring indies go up. Move an indie book down in sales per rank, and neighboring trad books go down.
What Data Guy discovered, in essence — by looking deeper into the data than anyone had before — was three things:
1) It isn’t just indies in the top 100 taking up 25 – 30% of slots; it goes all the way into the top 100,000+ titles on Amazon.
2) It isn’t just 99 cent works selling at high clips; it’s a range of prices.
3) The difference in royalty rates (5.6x) more than makes up for the difference in price and ranking.
What is the opposing argument? I haven’t heard it from Jones or Solomon…
Link to the rest at Joe Konrath