If you want to sell books, then it’s not enough to just be good at writing anymore. In fact, being good at writing doesn’t really mean shit, (something I hate, but I can’t argue with the truth).
I watched a Chandler Bolt from Self Publishing School tutorial and he recounted a quote, from (I forget who), some big named best-selling author who was talking to a newbie about to publish.
This young author asked how the best selling author did it, how he sold so many books. To her disgust, he said it wasn’t about writing good books. He freely admitted he wasn’t the ‘best writer’ in the world. His accolades didn’t say “Best Quality Writer” or “Most Like Shakespeare” oh, no. His accolade said “Best-Selling Mofo” the only thing he (and subsequently the newbie writer) needed to be good at was selling.
I’ve talked about Author Earnings before, it’s a report on the whole book industry from Data Guy and Hugh Howie, something that I like to ponder on regularly. If you’re taking book selling seriously, then I think studying the industry is important. You don’t want to establish yourself as a writer and then get side slammed because one of your platforms for selling books closes. I look to the future a lot, and I talked about the debate between the indie and traditional publishing routes back in September, but today I am pondering the latest Author Earnings report, and what it might mean for us writers.
You can find the latest Author Earnings: Big, Bad and Wild International Report here. (note: this is the report I refer to throughout although I shorten to just Author Earnings report)
In Data Guy and Howie’s latest report they show the total annual ebook sales by country.
Not a great surprise that the US is in the top spot for annual ebook unit sales. But what does that actually mean for us as writers?
It means that as a UK writer (or even if you’re US), I have to decide where I’d rather target. I could target the UK, write with UK-isms and ignore the American preferences, but is that really sensible given the size of their publishing-pie? And if you analyse your blog stats what do they tell you about where your audience is? 50.5% of all my views come from America. While that might not make my fiction audience American, it certainly says something about my non-fiction.
But, Amazon is only King in America and the UK, if you look at the Author Earnings next table, it shows that for Canada and Australia, Apple books has a substantial chunk of the market.
This comes back to the age ol’ question of whether you go wide across publishing platforms, or stay exclusive to Amazon. It’s a tricky question. Stay exclusive to the rainforest beast and you see significant benefits of Amazon’s added advertising favouritism for it’s exclusive authors and that makes a big difference to sales. But the downside is that you’re at the peril of their whimsical decisions, as they chop and change amount you earn from page reads and affiliate commission. I’m not bashing Amazon, I love them. But they, like all the other conglomerate beasts are just that – a corporate giant that could buy presidents if they wanted… So if they decide to screw indies, we are all fucked, but especially those writers who are exclusive.
There was a wobble in the market last year as indie sales took a turn for the worse when it came to percentage of market share (which may or may not have been linked to less reading in election years and Amazon’s own imprint growth). While I’m no analytics expert, I can read a table. From the looks of Data Guy’s report, the market seems to have settled. The light blue bars at the top are largely uncategorized indies, who say, publish under their own imprint.
When you take that into account, indies hold anything from 30-40% of the market share, and we’re still gaining ground and still squeezing the trad publishing share. And actually, as you read through the report, Data Guy even says:
“*As a side note, in comparing these new US retailer market-share breakdowns to our data from October 2015, indie market share has grown a little since then at Apple, Kobo, and Amazon (even after Amazon’s sharp 2016 May-Oct indie drop). At B&N, However, indie share has actually contracted (leaving indies there with a reduced slice of the now much-smaller B&N pie).” Data Guy Author Earnings Report: Big, Bad and Wild International Report Feb 2017
And on that note, Data Guy discusses this very question – Wide or Exclusive?
While the total payout to authors who are exclusive to Amazon is over three times the size of payouts to those who are wide, half of that payout is from KU, NOT actual retail sales, and the thought of that makes me sad because I want to sell books not pages.
There are a few things to consider being exclusive, like the impact of the downturn last October when Indie sales on amazon dropped by nearly 10%. If your entire salary is from Amazon then a drop of 10% is never good.
And what of the impact elsewhere? If your indie and exclusive, you limit your ability to get Bookbubs, as well as your ability to market in other countries – Canada and Australia are smaller pies yes, but still not insignificant, and if you aren’t selling your books on the platform half of the country reads on, you’re only limiting your sales potential.
BUT, we can’t ignore exclusivity because as Data Guy says:
“KindleUnlimited has grown into a Top-3 ebook retail channel in its own right; KU is now paying indie authors twice as many dollars as Barnes&Noble’s Nook is paying to all publishers combined.” Data Guy Author Earnings Report: Big, Bad and Wild International Report Feb 2017
Does this answer the question as to whether you should go wide or stay exclusive? Umm, no.
I think I’ll try a combo, some titles wide, some exclusive and tailor that to what I think will do best for each of those strategies. At the end of the day, we can only learn through trial and error. But it’s a difficult decision and one I still don’t have the sodding answer to.
Are you exclusive? Or are you wide? and what’s the reasoning behind your decision? Let me know in the comments below.
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