Monday, April 14, 2014

Ebook Sales Favour Indie Publishers.

For a while now, I, like many other writers, have been wondering how well independent or self-published authors are doing in the ebook market compared to those who use traditional publishers. There is so much secrecy in the publishing industry that it is hard to tell. But I have just read a report, written by Hugh Howey, that suggests indie ebook authors are doing very well when compared to those who use traditional publishers.

For those who don’t know, Hugh Howey is a science-fiction author whose self-published Wool series has sold millions of ebooks. He was offered a million dollar deal to sign with traditional publisher Simon and Schuster. The original offer was to distribute Wool to book retailers across the US and Canada and included the ebook rights. But Howey decided to keep the ebook rights and took a six figure deal instead.  

Howey recently wrote a report based on data he obtained from a software program that trawled the web for information on ebooks sales. The data he uses in the report is from nearly 7,000 ebooks in several genre categories (including science-fiction and fantasy) on Amazon. The report is simply titled the 7K report and is available at

The report has several very interesting graphs like the one above. It shows that over half the ebooks in Amazons bestseller genre lists were indie or self-published. Howey says the pie chart suggests that the major publishers are not publishing enough genre fiction, including science-fiction, so the slack is being taken up by indie and self-publishers.

This is great news for a science fiction writer like myself who is repeatedly reading that the science fiction readership is decreasing. It looks like it might be actually increasing, despite traditional publishers best efforts to ignore it.

The report reveals many interesting details about ebook publishing on Amazon. For example, it really pays to be published by Amazon themselves (on 47 North or equivalent). The pie chart above show Amazon publishers accounting for only 4% of the titles in the genre bestseller list, but another graph in the report shows those 4% of ebooks accounting for 15% of the daily ebook sales in those genres.

If you were wondering how Amazons ebooks sales compare to their sales of hard backs, the above pie chart is astounding.  It shows that 86% of the top 2,500 genre bestsellers in the Amazon store are e-books.

The above chart helps Howey conclude that genre writers who indie or self-publish are financially better off than authors who go with traditional publishers, no matter what the potential of their manuscripts is. If you are a fiction writer, you have to read the report.   


greenspace said...

I thought by "indie publishers" you meant small press - independent publishers not owned by conglomerates.
but it looks like you're using it to mean authors who self-publish?

interesting article.

Graham Clements said...

Most authors who self-publish prefer to be called independent publishers. They create their own publisher name to publish under. Writers who don't create a publisher name are usually refered to as self-published. One of the reason self-publishing authors prefer to be thought of as indie publishers instead of self-publishers is that self-publishing used to be very much associated with vanity publishers, who had a reputation of ripping off naive authors and publishing unedited rubbish. But since Amazon created Createspace, a self-publishing platform, and other free self-publishing platforms like Smashwords came into existence, vanity publishing seems to have nearly disappeared.