Gloom & Silver Linings in Self-publishing Market Stats

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Market trends shift all the time and indie-publishing is no exception. Stay ahead of the curve: forewarned is forearmed. Keep reading for some Indie publishing statistics you have to know about!

You may have heard these dismal numbers before, and they probably bum you out, but they are worth examining nonetheless.

  • Most self-published/Indie books will not sell more than 200-250 books in that title’s lifetime. (A large Indie publisher reports a number less than 50 lifetime sales per title on average).
    •At least 1 in 5 indie authors report no income from sales (most give away more than they sell.)
    •Every year almost a million books are published. This is your competition. The majority of those are independent titles; Amazon says that only 40 Indie authors have ever cracked their threshold for success (1 million books) which says a lot about those people hawking their online programs to “sell a million books in three weeks.”
    •Romance accounts for about 1/5 of all fiction sold (more than all nonfiction, childrens, and lit fiction combined,) and self-published romance book sales make up a little more than all other sales combined (fiction and nonfiction.) If you’re not writing dirty books your percentage of the Indie market-share just plummeted.
    •Your book has less than 1% chance of being stocked on a bookstore shelf. Most books only sell in the author/small publisher’s communities.
    •Barnes & Noble’s sales declined by 6% in 2016, and sales from mass merchandisers (Target, Walmart, etc.) also declined
    •Overall book sales are down (ebook/print combined)

As authors, we can’t do much about those above stats. However, we can recognize the factors present in the Indie market and still make a plan for success. There are three things that affect us:
1. The glut of books—there is a huge level of supply. Everyone is publishing a book. There isn’t much you can do about that. We cannot control this.
2. Quality control—most of those books are abysmal piles of trash that were put out by a person who has no idea about editing, cover design, industry standards, etc. I may sound rude, but I’m right. The fact that many people pull punches in order to “be nice” about authors (or half-assed Indie publishers) who shirked it are the reason that overall sales are down (market confidence has dropped). It’s also why predatory self-publishing companies are able to continue existing. We can control this.
3. Lack of marketing—this may be because of a lack of funds or a lack of time, but it’s something that solid planning can have a significant impact upon. We can (and should) control this.

With thousands of writers choosing to self-publish every day, it’s easy to see why there are so many predators out there. Smart authors know that there is a need to rise above the flood of new books and do some marketing. Writing is what we do and it’s worth being discovered, our books demand that we do them justice by getting them seen and read. This is an author’s mandate for marketing.

My books always do better during my marketing seasons. Sometimes I let the residual effects of earlier market pushes ride themselves out until my sales taper. That lets me know I need to start a renewed push—this means I need to budget my mental energy for such an effort. It may mean I shift energy away from blogging or writing my next book. Much of success as an Indie is tied to budgeting your time wisely (and not just time, but that mental energy that is the difference between phoning it in and quality time.)

The statistics above may paint a dismal picture of the publishing world, but I’ll leave you with some more hopeful ones, because I truly believe you can rise above the tide of junk bogging down the market (after all, those books aren’t selling and those authors aren’t putting in the work and reading blogs like this one in search of making their mark!)

  • 40% of all ebook revenue is going to indie authors, and self-published books accounted for 31% of all ebook sales in the Kindle Store in 2014. According to the trends in 2016, indie books represent 27% of books on Amazon’s ebook bestseller list.
    •Audiobooks continue to be on the rise with 148% sales growth from 2010 to 2015.
    •Eight of the top 20 Kindle sellers in 2016 were from Amazon’s own publishing imprints.
    •Amazon has an estimated 65 million US Prime members. Prime memberships are now believed to account for $7 billion in revenue each year.
    •Indie ebook sales account for over half the market.
    •Publishing is still a multi-billion dollar global business. The market could drop 50% tomorrow and you’ll still have opportunities to achieve your dreams.
    •Most book marketing today is done by authors, not by publishers… which means that we’re all in this together!

Stay tuned! We’re going to talk about marketing for the next several weeks.

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