Fake News! EBook Sales Falling!

Fake News! EBook Sales Falling!

by J.C. Murdak on December 3rd, 2018

If you’re like me and you just glance at titles, you may have missed the real story behind eBook sales. Most publications run scary titles like “eBook Sales Dropping!” or “eBook Sales Fell 22%”.

Before going any further, lets define an indie writer. What is an indie author? If you are the creator of your books, from concept to completion, then you’re indie. You don’t approach publishers begging for validation and you control your marketing and distribution.

These gloomy sales numbers come from the traditional publishers associations, like the American Association of Publishers, and the Independent Book Publishers Association. The surveys are done on their members numbers and don’t include the sales of eBook publishers and of indie authors/publishers. According to the AAP, which tracks sales data from about 1,200 publishers, overall revenue for eBooks declined 4.7% in 2017. For its part, NDP which represent about 450 publishers saw a decline in sales of eBooks of 10% in 2017.

NPD and AAP are traditional publisher associations and don’t measure indie sales. Their conclusion is that eBook sales are plunging and that they are immensely unpopular.

This eBook decline happened while overall publisher revenue was essentially flat in 2017. This is only possible if other kinds of book formats that AAP watches, like hardback, paperback, and audio books went up while eBooks went declining 16 to 19 % in 2017.

And now, the good news for eBooks is that these results are only from traditional publishers and give a limited and partial image of the market. A better source of numbers for online book sales, including indie eBooks, is the website “Author Earnings.” They are of the opinion that traditional publisher reporting is “now missing two-thirds of US consumer eBook purchases, and nearly half of all eBook dollars those consumers spend.”

According to “Author Earnings” figures, pure “indie” publishing made at least 38 percent of all categories of eBook units and 22 percent of eBook dollars in the last nine months of 2017,not including micro presses, Amazon’s imprints, and what it calls “single-author mega imprints” (think J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore).

They also mention that, “Ninety percent of all romance purchases are eBook,” while “science fiction and fantasy, with roughly 75 percent of sales as books and audio, are not that far behind.”

“The indie share of the entire US eBook market now looks like what the indie share of Amazon alone used to be,” Author Earnings estimated. “In other words, far from losing ground, the overall indie eBook market share has grown.”

It’s hard to get a clear picture since “Author Earnings” doesn’t track physical bookstore sales, and NPD and AAP only track traditional publisher sales.

Jeff Bezos, whose Amazon is the major player in the distribution of independently published eBooks, made it a point to note to shareholders that, “Over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.”

Why are authors shifting to indie publishing? It’s all about the control and the money. “In traditional publishing, the writer only gets a sliver of the profits — 5-15 percent,” SFWA President Cat Rambo explained. “In small press publishing, that number goes up significantly, and indie writers get to keep the biggest portion of the pie.”

Another reason behind the decline of traditional publisher’s eBook sales is their own greed. Their marketing strategy has been to price their eBooks almost at the same price as the printed books, and in some cases, even more. Losing the price advantage of eBooks steered a lot of readers toward the printed copies. Also, this high price strategy might have led some readers to buy less-expensive indie-published books.

According to Frank Catalano from GeekWire, “the future of eBook publishing may increasingly belong to the independent author (indie), especially as traditional publishers shift more marketing weight onto the writers while charging a premium for their traditionally published product.”

Today, with the click of a button, any indie author can start selling any title simultaneously in 12 country-specific Amazon stores, 36 country-specific Kobo eBook stores, and over 40 country-specific Apple eBook stores. If your book is a quality product, it is sure to find buyers.

EBooks will eventually find their natural sales level and be a substantial part of the book market. Their future is bright.

Now, Let’s look at this February 2017 table from “Author Earnings”. The table is at the bottom of the page.

Our focus, however, is always take-home author earnings, rather than gross consumer dollars. Authors take different publishing paths and want a better share of the dollars consumers are spending on their titles–ranging from 17.5% to 70%depending on how they chose to publish.

This analysis was done with:

the top five English-language countries:

the fifteen largest eBook stores.

the 750,000 top-selling eBook titles, in all genres and categories.

all of it calibrated against 700,000 points of raw, unfiltered daily sales data, from over 20,000 distinct eBook titles across all 15 stores.

When they were done, they were looking at the most comprehensive international picture of English-language eBook sales available anywhere. And now, they’re excited to share it with authors everywhere around the world.

Taken all together, Amazon accounts for more than 80% of English-language eBook purchases, Apple another 10%, Kobo 2% and Nook 3%.

It’s fair to conclude the eBooks are still growing and will be an important part of the book market. Selling eBooks should be the cornerstone of the marketing plan for all indie writers.

J.C. Murdak, author

Material for this article comes from the following sources:

Traditional publishers ebook sales drop”, by Frank Catalano on May 19, 2018 on GeekWire, https://www.geekwire.com/2018/traditional-publishers-ebook-sales-drop-indie-authors-amazon-take-off/

February 2017 Big, Bad, Wide & International Report: covering Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo ebook sales in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. A report by “Authors Earnings”.