Author Earnings – The State of The Industry #MondayBlogs #amwriting

There’s only one truth in the publishing industry: change is constant. Whether it’s the development of the Kindle, the closure of a bookstore chain or the latest groan-inducing tweak in the Amazon algorithms, change is constant, and the pace of it ain’t slowing down.

So what’s a gal to do to keep up with the latest trends, and data?

Last week I wrote a post that details a few ways to learn how to market and keep up with current trends, but for now, you should also read the latest author earnings report.

I’m going to highlight a few of the most salient trends and things I thought were worth noting.

Data Guy and Hugh Howey are the engines behind Author Earnings, their analytics run in real time capturing data on over a million top-selling titles on Amazon. There is nothing more up to date or more comprehensive than this data.

Although, like any good little data girl should do, there are still caveats to apply. Like the fact this data only covers America. But before you snub that pretty lil’ nose of yours at me, that’s still a tidy $1.3 BILLION in book sales.



We all know that physical bookstores are struggling, we only have to nod to the fact there have been so many closures to know that. But what I found most interesting is the fact that while ‘by units sold’ ebooks are king, paperbacks are still reigning champs on total $$. Of course, part of that is because physical books are much more expensive, but also because academic books are having a resurgence that skews the figures.


Overwhelmingly ebooks are now dominant for adult fiction. Data Guy reports that over 90% of romance books purchased are eBooks and a similarly high figure (75%) for science fiction and fantasy.


We all love a bit of spike marketing. Anything that lodges a firework up my book’s butt and shoves it firmly into the ‘orange tag’ arena is fine by me. But spikes don’t last. And a good marketer will try to create a perennial seller, something that when the launch chips are down, is still bringing in the dosh.

That’s what eBooks do according to Data Guy. With no significant difference in units sold throughout the year, eBooks just keep on selling. Paperbacks, however, not so much. The ol’ academic books strike again, creating an enormous spike over the summer.


2017 saw a lot of rumors, indie’s losing market share, a decline in book sales etc etc etc. But Data Guy puts it all to rest. Indies grew, again by 2.1% compared to 1.1% growth in the trad industry.

Data Guy also happened to comment that the indie superstars who surfaced with the rise of self-publishing no longer make the top 50 best sellers – and that a new ‘guard’ of indies, a quieter less ‘evangelical’ bunch are taking the top spots. Quite the controversial statement. All I care about is the fact my indie brothers and sisters are still smashing it.

The thing I find most encouraging are these little statistical beauts:

  • “7 of the top 100 selling ebook authors in the US were self-published indies
  • 50 of the top 250 selling ebook authors in the US were self-published indies
  • 121 of the top 500 selling ebook authors in the US were self-published indies
  • 284 of the top 1,000 selling ebook authors in the US were self-published indies
  • 102 of the top 1,000 selling ebook authors in the US were published by Amazon imprints” Author earnings report, Data Guy, and Hugh Howey


The report is rich with information, but it’s Data Guy’s report, so I won’t talk about his findings much more. Just read it. But the last item I will raise is the price point.

For a LONG time, there’s been debate over whether free and 99c books were bringing down the value of books, that authors were losing money and not being paid fairly. But the data is showing another picture. While I agree that the price of books did dip. I think it is beginning to rise again.


Amazon Ebook Dollar Spend By Price Point – Table created by Data Guy for the January 2018 Author Earnings Report.

Amazon Ebook Units Sold By Price Point – Table created by Data Guy for the January 2018 Author Earnings Report.

While 99c might still be the most popular price point for turnover of units, 3.99, 2.99 and 4.99 respectively are hot on it’s heels. It’s no longer necessary to continuously discount your books, because even on the dollars table, 99c isn’t top. And sure, at 99c you’re only taking home 35% royalty, but the point is, even the turnover of units doesn’t offset the income from the higher price points (at lower sales).

The lesson here? Use 99c sales for spike marketing, sure, but don’t feel obliged to keep your books on sale. It’s neither necessary or needed to sell books. That being said, a writer friend said something to me last week that struck home – ‘rules are there to be broken’. Well A-Fucking-Men folks. And that’s sort of the point, no matter what the data says, no matter what bullshit rules there are, the only thing that’s needed is a marketing plan, experimentation with advertising, grit and a whole lotta perseverance. But that’s a topic for another day.

There were also items in Data Guy’s report on audiobooks – which are still growing and a ton of other insightful trends.



You might also want to look at: 

Written Word Media’s trends for 2018

Joanna Penn’s trends

and Jane Friedman’s post who rounds up a few articles discussing upcoming trends.

If you liked this post, why not get even more awesome writing tips in the book 13 Steps To Evil – How to Craft Superbad Villains. Click this link and just tap the logo of your device or regular bookshop and it will take you to the right page. You can also get a FREE villains cheatsheet by joining my mailing list just click here.

Read Keepers, the first book in my Young Adult fantasy series nowOr to hear more about the release of the sequels as well as get regular CogMail updates you can do so here.

You can also find me on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterestGoodreads



Leave a Reply