Posted on 2014-Feb-13
Now that Hugh Howey’s self-publishing and eBook sales stats are out, not only they crashed his recently built site, authorearnings.com, tremendous feedback has poured in from several websites that criticize, analyze, and opinionate on the findings. There has got to be something in the charts and interpretation that gets authors talking. For many, the statistics serve as the building block for authors to study the data and allow them to voice either their agreement or disagreement. However, it has its strengths and weaknesses to focus on eBook sales on Amazon where the data is measured. It is time to find out why the data shows how indie authors’ eBook sales are prospering. For your self-study, you can also download the raw data in an Excel spreadsheet that displays all the graphs and data in full details.
Data Presenter’s Motives
In light of how the report was developed, Hugh blogged the motivation in his website how he obtained the data and was even chosen to be the presenter. Despite admitting that he was underqualified, his contribution to the report is seen, praised, investigated, and questioned by many in the industry. The findings that have been the talk of the town stem from some data his programmer comrade had pulled from Amazon’s bestseller lists. Regardless of your publishing status in the industry, this report is worth a close look to catch a glimpse of how independent genre novelists have made their living out of eBook sales. While it is equally important to see how Big Five published authors are continually releasing their bestselling titles and earn a laudable status, several graphs signify the increasing popularity of eBooks not only published by indie authors, but for the ones done by small or medium publishers, and Amazon imprints. In several comparisons, indie published books command a high percentage of eBook titles inducted into bestseller lists. Looking at the daily unit sales, it is probably surprising to many that the indie-published eBooks outperform Big Five published ones (39% vs. 34%).
eBook Sales Pushing the Limit
Apart from information that may have escaped several experts, eBook sales are not generally slowing down as has been speculated. One top reason remains that the distributors seal their mouths shut to reveal any hard numbesr for the public to gasp and marvel. It is not likely that self-published eBooks are counted merely s 25% of overall book sales. Arguably still, print sales are not dissolving anytime soon since there are certain categories (e.g. textbooks, academic books, children’s books, etc.) that still do better in print. Based on Hugh Howey’s estimation, eBooks may already account for more than 50% of current sales. Tthe analysis of the overall Amazon Top-100 and Top 2500 genre bestsellers lists reveals an intriguing finding how the painfully obvious sales of eBook format (aka Kindle edition) almost eclipse the entire existence of the remaining formats. Other formats include audible audio edition, mass market paperback, hardcover, and paperback. eBooks are definitely the definitive format that pushes sales and signify the increases rather being accused of flattening out.
Actual Author Earnings
If all the talks have been about how the industry plays out, authors who are the original creators of content in the first place would need a direct reference to see which publishing method works best for them. Before getting into the colorful pie charts, Hugh dedicates three paragraphs to stress the importance of hard work and strict self-discipline for a self-publisher. Out of the daily gross bestselling titles that are selling on Amazon, it is not a surprise for Big Five published titles to strike back demanding 52% of overall sales. What is more surprising is if we look at the daily revenue to authors, the earnings based on indie-published titles combined with Amazon, and uncategorized single-author publisher significantly downplays the previous champion of gross sales in the previous chart. Hugh provides a reason that the difference all boils down to the royalties all authors are receiving. While the former is entitled to 70% payment, the latter earns 25% of net revenue. To illustrate the payment, another chart shows how much authors earn in their daily revenue. While the Big-Five published works make money, the author gets a small share of what the publisher makes regardless of how production costs are lower to produce eBooks to sell on Amazon.
In terms of authors’ yearly earnings in different brackets ranging from $10,000 to $1M, despite releasing fewer titles to the market, indie authors significantly make money even among midlist group who earns $10K p.a. While the last chart does not conclusively include earnings, the number of published titles signifies that indie authors do not necessarily have to compete in the number competition. Even with small catalog, they manage to earn the fair share of earnings based on their works rather than the frequency of their publishing schedule.
Information-wise, what he and his undisclosed companion have come up with seems to set the stage for a clearer picture of how indie authors are making their living based on writing digitally and independently. While the influential self-publishing gurus start to voice their thoughts on what data can be utilized, the commenters respond to the massive chunk of information with nods and disbelief. To say the report only appeals to indie authors might be an understatement when Joe Konrath confirmed the site crash and therefore “duplicated the entire report” to appear on his site and analyze it together with his mystical “Legacy John” who is created to counterbalance Joe’s immense support. Barry Eisler, best-selling thriller author and one of Joe’s best pals, puts it nicely how the most “penetrating, groundbreaking, explosive article about publishing in memory” is fashionably done not by a publisher, an agent, or even an industry analyst, but a self-published writer.
Speaking of the pro-Hugh Howey camp, Chuck Wendig, thriller authors of several books, voices his early thought of the report that does not agree with the entire reasoning schema. Due to the exclusive selection of distributors which is the leader in eBook distribution, the report will not represent the entire landscape of “bookselling in general.” However, one could look at the data as useful information about eBooks and digital publication. According to Chuck, he begs to question the use of data from a single day’s rankings to represent annual earnings. While questioning its credibility, he reveals the dark side of the industry that even Bookscan numbers are incomplete and the publishing industry is where “nobody has vital information.” With data heavily focused on best-selling titles, the report leaves out the ones being excluded from the bestseller lists but it is worth noting that indie authors score well in that regard. He further begs the question different ways how authors can monetize their books apart from eBook sales (e.g. foreign rights, film and TV rights). Better still, he sees the report as a starting point for others to follow. Perhaps, Chuck’s prediction rings true as his commenters chimed in and said how they are either expecting to see what comes next or bring the analysis to light by digging deeper a.
Universal Independent Spirit among Creatives
Back to Hugh’s original stance on his chosen career path, he said:
“Self-publishing is not a gold rush. It isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. There are no short cuts, just a lot of effort and a lot of luck. Those who do well often work ludicrous hours in order to publish several books a year. They do this while working day jobs until they no longer need day jobs... The beauty of self-publishing is the ownership and control of one’s work. You can price it right, hire the editor and cover artist you want to work with, release as often and in as many genres as you want, give books away, and enjoy a direct relationship with your reader. It isn’t for everyone, but you’re about to see a good reason why more authors might want to consider this as an option.”
Indeed, aside from the charts, attached links between the lines deserve to be seen and heard because these provide the backstory how it has led to the report he has chosen to advocate. Undoubtedly, there is room for improvement as he promises that a broader analysis will follow. If you think self-publishing is just a fad that comes and goes, likening it to the success in film, stand-up comedy, and music indicates that success had better be discussed and shared openly and proudly.
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