In the world of self-publishing, one critical component that's been missing has been reliable data about how self-published books are selling. Last week, the self-published author Hugh Howey released some data on 7,000 ebooks on the Amazon bestseller list, from the mystery/thriller, romance, and science fiction genres. He posts his report here:
The other eye-popper here is that indie authors are outselling the Big Five. That’s the entire Big Five. Combined. Indie and small-press books account for half of the e-book sales in the most popular and bestselling genres on Amazon.
Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller's Futurebook blog, provides the following caution here:
The truth is there is nothing wrong with the data, so long as its limitations are understood. Helpfully, Howey provides an excel download, so if interested parties wish to interrogate it further, they can. They can even produce their own analyses.
But the conclusions drawn from it are a stretch, and probably a liberty. As Howey himself admits: "It’s worth noting that our own report is also limited in that it’s looking only at Amazon—chosen for being the largest book retailer in the world—but we acknowledge and state this limitation, and we plan on releasing broader reports in the future."
The danger, as Jones sees it, is that Howey's numbers are drawn purely from Amazon - not Kobo, B&N, indie platforms, etc. Furthermore, the data are only drawn from a 24-hour period, not over an extended period of time. So these numbers don't represent the entire universe of sales, and there may be aspects to the narrative that Howey is building that are not supported by numbers that haven't been gathered yet.
Blogger Sunita at DearAuthor.com also breaks down Howey's report, with many of the same caveats Jones cites. Her conclusion?
If you pushed me for a recommendation based on what I see in these data, I would say, after reminding you of the insurmountable shortcomings contained within it: If you plan on selling ebooks solely or primarily at Amazon and the opportunity cost of your time is greater than zero, you might want to sign up with submit to (and hope you are offered a contract by) an Amazon imprint. Because Amazon books do extremely well and the cut they take may well be worth the time you save doing all your own production and promotion. Somehow I don’t think that’s the takeaway the authors intend, but that’s an obvious one for me.
At SelfPublishedAuthor.com, we'll be keeping our eye on these efforts.