Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.
The world of publishing is changing. I think everyone can agree on that without too much fuss. The part where everyone gets their panties in a bunch deals with where and how is it changing the most. The Big Five Publishers, Amazon, B&N, etc. aren’t sharing their sales data, so it is difficult to get a clear picture on the state of change.
Hugh Howey shared their analysis of data that he and an Anonymous Data Guy collected through a “software program that can crawl online bestseller lists and grab mountains of data. All of this data is public—it’s online for anyone to see—but until now it’s been extremely difficult to gather, aggregate, and organize. This program, however, is able to do in a day what would take hundreds of volunteers with web browsers and pencils a week to accomplish. The first run grabbed data on nearly 7,000 e-books from several bestselling genre categories on Amazon.” (He explains it much better than I could.)
One of the most interesting graphs I saw was regarding the percentage of genre e-books (mystery/thriller, science fiction/fantasy, and romance), which accounted for 70% of the top 100 Amazon bestsellers and over half of the top 1,000 bestseller list. If you are a new author or thinking about trying this writing gig seriously, this would be where I’d put down my books roots.
The other graph I would point out is the Amazon top 100 genre bestsellers by format. The Kindle e-book edition makes up 92% of total sales, followed by 4% Audible audio sales (which was a surprise to me). If you expand the list to the top 2500 genre bestsellers, the percentage only drops by 86% Kindle sales.
And for some real fun, go to the bottom of the report and read the author earnings numbers. I’ve said before that I have a hard time wanting to take 25% net sales from a legacy publisher instead of 70% gross sales through indie publishing. Self-published authors are making twice as much profit as legacy-published authors, despite the fact that their books only have half the gross sales revenue!
Check out the data for yourself. Obviously one size does not fit all, but I would be very wary of what the pillars of the legacy publishing industry are preaching. Of course they want to slow down change and deny it as much as possible. That is how all those professionals are employed, and change in the industry could be a direct threat to their livelihood. If authors self-publish, they can’t make any money off of you.
But when authors such as Hugh Howey, Brenna Aubrey, and Chuck Wendig start talking about turning down huge deals to self-publish, their only agenda is to educate and inform other authors. They’ve made their money. Whether or not another author is successful would not put any more money in their pocket. In fact, they could keep their mouths shut and save themselves a lot of effort and aggravation arguing with the legacy publishing machine. But they are sharing their experiences, and for that I thank them and all the rest.
I look forward to continued change in the publishing industry, and I hope you do too.