This post originally appeared on Author Earnings on 5/19/14.
Three months ago, we released our first full report on Amazon e-book sales and author earnings. Our goal was to look at unit sales and earnings by various publishing paths in order to help authors make informed decisions in this rapidly changing publishing environment. The results were eye-opening, but it was merely our first data point. Our long term goal has been to pull data every quarter to see if we can spot developing trends.
A quick recap on our methodology: Using a custom software spider, we can crawl every Amazon bestseller list and pull info from each book’s product page html. This data goes into a spreadsheet, which gives us the price, ranking, average review, and much more for every ranked e-book on Amazon. Using established ranking-to-sales data from numerous bestselling authors (including our own works), we are able to present author earnings by title and publishing type. As with our past reports, all the data has been anonymized and is available for download at the end of this report. And just like with past reports, any reasonable numbers entered for the power curve of the product rank-to-sales ratio reveals the same overall picture. That is, our conclusions are not dependent on our estimates but are borne out of the freely available data.
The exciting thing about pulling this data is that we have no idea what we’re going to find. Our conclusions since the last report might need rethinking. Our advice on what an author might want to do with a manuscript today could very well change as the publishing industry takes another swerve. My partner and I debated what we expected to see from this second round of data. We both predicted no more than a 2%-3% swing from any one publishing path to the other over such a short period of time. I wagered we’d see a 2% drop in self-publishing titles, offset by an increase in Amazon imprints, as the latter continues to snatch up high performing e-books and put more marketing muscle behind their own authors. My partner thought we’d see a 2% hike in self-publishing at the expense of traditional publishing. We bet a dollar on the outcome.