55 thoughts on “Print vs Digital, Traditional vs Non-Traditional, Bookstore vs Online: 2016 Trade Publishing by the numbers”

  1. I just like the graphic of the Pac-Man and the little Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde ghosts. It just makes the whole chart 🙂 Now to actually read the thing.

    • While indies are eating trad-pub’s lunch, trad-pub is now Amazon’s lunch as they can make or break trad-pub by paying with their discounts.

      Trad-pub can either play nice — or have Amazon drop their discounts altogether.

      • ???

        PBI&C are not ghosts? I’ve had that wrong for all these years? Well! This is like that moment on the playground where my friend informed me the Simpsons were people, not the weird aliens with “paper bag heads” I took them for (Bart’s head looked like the top of a paper grocery bag to me).

        Learned something new today.

    • Why would anyone lynch the messenger?

      He’s telling ’em vital stuff about their business, that they didn’t know.

      That’s why they roll out the red carpet for him now while publicly pretending to be “politely skeptical.”

  2. All the BPH angst over ebook pricing was over control.
    By throttling pbook sales at will in 2016 Amazon demonstrated they have real control over the pbook market.

    That was a dangerous demonstration, politically.
    But useful in establishing that as long as the BPHs rely on volume discounts of pbooks they are at Amazon’s mercy. It also established that unless they reverse course and start actively encouraging ebook sales they will remain at their mercy.

    From recent reports about Vendor Managed Inventory dreams, it seems the manhattan mafia still isn’t willing to admit supporting ebooks heartily is their only hope of reducing their Amazon dependency.

    They’re still looking for silver bullets.

    In the meantime, Amazon only needs to degrade B&N’s market share a few more points to put them in Borders territory. It’ll take at most two more cycles of 2016 type throttling.

    • When Amazon stopped discounting Hachette print books during the contract “negotiations”, and Hachette authors and the publisher pee’d their pants and cried, we all knew who had the control and what trad. publishers really thought of the print market.

      • And they still don’t get it.
        Which is fine. The longer they take trying to fight for control of the uncontrollable, the healthier the ebook ibdustry we’ll end up with.

        • I think the best stuff’s near the end of the preso.

          Like the slides about Coloring Books.
          And the slides about African American fiction.

          • The coloring book slide is one of the best, but not for the reason DG thinks. It’s not just price (although the difference between $5 and $10 is big) but agility. CS producers were able to move interesting and attractive books onto the market quickly without having internal debates about cannibalization and self-competition.

          • The Science Fiction slide is interesting.
            SF is very heavy into the “classics” of the field. Legendary authors and books that molded the field are on the reading list for every serious student of the genre. And they’re almost all (still) tradpub.

            Despite that…
            …44% of all sales are Indie?
            80% digital means very little advantage to being tradpubbed.
            Not a good time to be a newcomer SF writer via tradpub.
            Explains why some BPHs are shutting down entire SF imprints…

            • The fact that the average indie price is less than half the average trad price for Sci Fi might have a lot to do with it.

          • The African-American american market being 4% BPH is all you need know about the Manhattan Mafia. Totally unserved market.

            If you dig into the US hispanic content markets you’ll find a similar situation where most of what you find is mexican stuff. Native born Hispanics? Totally ignored by the mainstream.

            Lots of lip service about diversity but little support for any tribe but theirs.

            • To this day, the only Hispanic American teenage protagonist I recall is Linda Craig, the Scottish-Mexican teenaged ranch girl. She was produced by the same syndicate as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.

              The stories were about her and her palomino(?) Chica d’Oro going on adventures and solving mysteries. Well, the girl solved them, the horse not so much. She and her brother were orphans living with their Mexican grandparents on the family ranch, I think in California or the Southwest in general.

              She may be one of the few Hispanic protagonists I can think of whose stories weren’t about “issues.” At least until Carolina Garcia Aguilera’s PI, Lupe Solano came along …

              … And disappeared with the Great Midlist Writers Disappearance KKR has talked about.

              As for Sci-Fi, I’m not surprised about the classics bias. I’ve been stocking up on ones that writers were always told to study but that I could rarely find. Guess many people are in that boat with me.

                • Maybe the mare was married. 😉

                  Latin tradition had married women adding “De (husband’s surname)” after their own surname. When the husband’s surname started with a vowel, De became D’. I haven’t seen the practice much in recent decades but it endured ibto the 60’s at least.

                • Really? 🙂

                  In PR that has fallen out of usage. Current practice is keeping the (maiden) name. Period.

                • I just double checked to see if I remembered it wrong. But it’s them, not me 🙂 The editors must have realized they goofed, because when the series was revived in the 90s they changed the horse’s name to Amber, of all things.

                  But I enjoyed the exchange on the last names; My Spanish textbooks said the two last names were a custom. I wasn’t sure if that was still true, and for which countries.

            • Perhaps native born Hispanics are being treated like native born Poles? Nobody cares about their ancestors or what language their grandparents spoke?

              • Hey, polish protagonists at least get to eat kielbasa and kopytka. And are shown speaking english, not a mix of english and whatever. Or assumed to be indistinguishable from say, Lithuanians.

                The first I ever heard of Cinco de mayo was after I started work and discovered I was supposed to celebrate somebody else’s glorious defeat.

                My tradition is of the time our peasants beat the crap out of Captain Morgan’s privateers and sent him off with his tail between the legs. Or the time the Catholic Church set up a string of convents all over the country because they had five women for every man on the island. Or the Irish and Corsican immigrants brought over to try to industrialize in the 19th. 🙂

                And, of course, there is the time the Navy brought the US to our great grandparents. There’s many kinds of American heritages.

                • Hey, polish protagonists at least get to eat kielbasa and kopytka.

                  More likely the Poles are at McDonalds. No tacos in books?

                • The lip service about diversity is that it is supposed to give readers characters they can more easily identify with.
                  But as far as tradpub goes, it’s all lip-service.

                  So it’s up to Indies to address the audiences that aren’t just under-served, but totally unserved. There’s money in those tribal pockets.

                • (What the heck… Let’s go there. 😉 )

                  What kind of Taco?
                  Mexican taco, Taco Bell Taco, Jack-in-the-box fried taco, or (totally unfair since I doubt you would’ve seen one), a fried “taco argentino” you might get in Puerto Rico?

                  I’m not talking about “diversity” slice-and-dice political tribalism here, but about marketing and merchandising tribalism. The former is the stupidest way to run a country and invariably leads to civil wars or at least the mess we’re in. The latter, which is what DataGuy’s slides address, is simply good business sense.

                  Juvenile SF or General fiction look abnormally Indie? Unwind the pigeon holing and you find an improper lumping-in of separate and distinct genres. Do a proper slice-and-dice and you uncover an entire market hidden from sight by improper categorization.

                  The lesson DataGuy is trying to drive in is that fine-grained breakdowns of the market can help uncover business oportunities that Indies can exploit far better than tradpub. Because tradpub requires higher sales volume they are at a disadvantage when targetting smaller markets.

                  Me, I’m just adding that you need to understand the market itself, not just identify it. Which, like so many other things Indie, means “Do your homework or you’ll get in trouble.”

                • Heinlein did some of that. But he also did his homework.
                  So Johnny Rico spoke Tagalog at home.
                  It’s not terribly hard to show some respect for character’s culture. You just need to care enough to bother.
                  Might earn some good reviews and added sales.

                  It’s just good modern business practice and has been for decades now. Which means it’ll be another century before the BPHs catch on.

            • Underserved by BPH, but not indie as much. Mostly, people just don’t notice the protag’s ethnicity as anything different, which is *awesome.*

              Some readers of mine were actually surprised to realize that Emily (Between Life and Death universe) is half-hispanic. It’s described, her looks reflect it…it’s there in retrospect…but in the end, she’s just an American teen girl caught in the apocalypse.

              Olisa is African from Nigeria, Karas Quick is part hispanic (as are most of her compatriots, though they have no real idea of it), Silo 49 peeps all have Filipino blood thanks to Manny. Upcoming Portals series has a part-Indian protag.

              It’s not a ploy or specifically to improve diversity. I think it’s just natural because that’s who the characters are. And I think indies are *able* to embrace letting the characters be who they are better than those getting through BPH wickets simply because there are no focus groups, no weighing of reader demographics, no hints that a character might play better if they were white or what-not.

              But seeing those really low numbers by BPH is saddening. I would have thought there would be more by now and that the old ideas about who buys books and what kind of books they *won’t* buy would have gone by the wayside by now.

  3. I forget: are APub pbooks counted in the tradpub column?

    They should be since APub is simply a kinder gentler tradpub.

  4. Felix, I think Amazon Publishing is counted separately.

    What this means is that as Amazon flexes its marketing muscle to highlight its genre books, they’re eating tradpub and indie’s lunch.

    Now, let’s compare and contrast DataGuy’s conclusions with KKR’s recent post and see where they’re right.

    • How they acquire those books, and what they pay for them, is my current biggest concern.

      So far, I have no idea how they acquire the books, except that you, as an individual author, cannot submit your work to them (I tried – they politely and not even very specifically said ‘we don’t take submissions.’)

      There was a rumor long ago that AGENTS could submit to the Amazon imprints – I have no idea if that is true.

      They could be selecting works or authors which are popular, and proven, and offering contracts, but I didn’t see anything that implied that in the literary books from Little A which appear in my monthly Amazon newsletter – they looked new, and did not have uniformly good ratings, or even many ratings (small sample and memory – not a good combination in my case).

      I’d love to know. It feels even more monolithic than the Big N, and less approachable – if that’s possible.

      • It’s not monolithic but it is low key. They don’t hype it but there are four ways to be considered:
        – they will accept agented submissions but few agents go to them because of the B&N-led boycott.
        – they accept nominations of foreign language books for translation from fans or authors
        – they pick out successful Indies out of KDP to offer contracts to so if you are in KDP you’re technically under consideration. What they seek is books and authors with big breakout potential that might offer a good payoff for the cost of promotion.
        – if you have an unpublished book you wish to draw to their attention you can submit it to Kindle Scout. The terms are fixed and public. Not the greatest of terms but good by tradpub standards.


        They’re very discreet so you don’t hear much about how they make their picks or how many come by each channel. APub is a lot like Fight Club. 🙂

        • Drawing their attention to a book by putting it in Kindle Scout – on the off chance their editors might like it – is not the same thing as submitting.

          And agents? When anyone can call herself an agent? Sounds anti-indie in principle.

        • As someone who won Scout, I’m pretty happy with it. A few authors have been moved over to Montlake and 47 North. However, I have not been offered anything. I do move a decent amount of books for a first-time author, though. I really love Kindle Scout, but your mileage may very.

      • As Felix said, literary agents can submit to Apub imprints, however many consider them a “light” publisher because their print penetration is far less due to the bookstore boycott. But their contract terms are much better (especially for ebook royalties), and they have the Amazon marketing mojo behind them.

        • Trade-offs, trade-offs, life is all about trade-offs.
          Or as they say, you can’t eat your cake and have it too.

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