Self-published e-books outselling big publishing on Amazon

Amazon is notorious for a lack of transparency when it comes to e-book sales, leaving many to do their own guessing about what exactly goes on inside the black box.  While some authors have tried to pry their way in by releasing their own numbers, it’s never been enough to really put together a sense of how big the market is, genre share, etc.

Until now. And while Amazon hasn’t handed out the keys to the box, someone’s essentially jimmied their way in.  Hugh Howey, author of the best-selling indie published Wool, found a way to crawl Amazon’s bestseller lists and determine the breakdown of share across publisher type, genre and format for roughly 7000 total books.

And I have to say, the numbers are pretty enlightening.

Maybe the most surprising is just how dominant e-books are relative to other formats  and how well self-published authors are doing relative to the big-5 publishers.

First let’s take a look at the self publishers compared to the other publishing channels.

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 2.31.37 PM

The chart above shows the daily unit volume for e-books in the top genres by publisher type, and the biggest overall category is self-published, or indie, at 39%.  This compares to 34% for the big 5. Also interesting is Amazon’s own imprints account for 15%, almost half of the big-5.

So you’re asking, how much are e-books in terms of total volume within these genres? Let’s take  look.

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 2.40.51 PM

As can be seen above, e-books account for 86% of the top 2,500 e-books in terms of format for the big-three genres. And while genre fiction is likely tilted towards e-books more than general fiction or non-fiction,  since genre readers are by far the most voracious of all readers, the writing on the wall for all books.

Lastly, it’s worth looking at the daily revenue breakdown for the top 7000 genre books by publisher type.

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 3.30.39 PM

While it’s clear that the big 5 publishers still bring in the most revenue (because prices are, on average, much higher) the amount of revenue that goes to authors is higher both in absolute and relative terms.

I’m not sure if Howey is going to update the data on a regular basis, but I hope he does as it is pretty eye-opening. I’d suggest you check it out yourself if you want more charts and data as well as Howey’s analysis.

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Michael Wolf

Chief Analyst NextMarket Insights

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