Earning reports aren’t something many readers actually care about, but in the days following the merger between Random House and Penguin, the spotlight has been focused on the sustainability of traditional publishing. Some (although it was once many) readers only trust novels produced by medium and large-scale publishers, but every day, more and more people are turning towards independent venues, writers included.
Author Earnings has produced a set of three reports readers and writers should take a close look at. Warning: Although these reports are extremely long, they are well worth the read.
Another Note: Due to the length of the reports, the summaries listed below are extremely basic compared to the data presented in the actual report.
This report, written by bestselling author Hugh Howey, takes 7,000 e-books and averages their data out in order to compile statistics on sales, pricing, and average reviews. In addition to this, the report takes a look at the demand of genre fiction (including fantasy) and how it relates to the purchasing power of readers.
After sales figures, prices, and average ratings are discussed, Howey goes on to take a look at how indie-produced titles compare against traditionally-produced titles. In order to show how books are purchased, what titles are most popular, and the success of indie and traditional authors, Howey uses a lot of pie charts and bar graphs to display figures.
If you can wade through the material, there are many interesting facets to this study. This report is the longest to read of them all, so you may want to dedicate an hour or more to reading it.
In short: Indie-produced novels make up a majority of the bestseller lists, with traditional books coming in second in terms of profit and volume for authors.
Like the 7k report, Hugh Howey is back to discuss the sales, reviews, and rankings of the top 50,000 books on Amazon. This report focuses more on pie charts, showing the percentages of market share between indie and traditionally-published books, as well as showing market standings for the different types of books recorded.
An interesting element of this report is the discussions relating to the strengths and flaws of this report. It is recommended that the comments are read in addition to the report.
While the 7k and the 50k reports focused on Amazon sales, the B&N report takes a look at America’s largest brick-and-mortar store and second-largest e-book vendor.
Interestingly enough, the methodology of the three reports is the same, as B&N uses similar ranking systems as Amazon in order to display books to readers. What is more interesting is that all three reports share very similar end results, with a dominance of indie-produced material.
Like the 50k report, the B&N report favors pie charts in conjunction with explanations to show the relevancy of the gathered data.
The Impact of the Reports
Since the launch of the three reports, there has been a lot of discussion on what the impact of these reports means. There have been discussions on the purchasing habits of readers, the impact of profits for traditional writers, and even attempts to defame the reports altogether due to inherent flaws in the system.
That said, it is wise to take these figures with a grain of salt. Fortunately, because all of the data used to compile the charts are provided, the writing (and reading) community as a whole has been given the opportunity to really see the facts and data for what they are.
The Lady Scribe’s Opinion
Will these reports make any difference in the long-term functionality and sustainability of traditional publishers? It’s possible. It’s possible if the publishers take the time to review the reports and look at their operating venues to evaluate how the indie market is succeeding as it is, and apply this learning to its business practices.
The problem, however, is in the fact that traditional publication includes a great deal more overhead than indie publishing. This doesn’t necessarily mean the death blow for traditional publication, but it does represent notable challenges regarding release frequency and quality.
Should independent authors continue to release material on par or better than traditional publications, the landscape of the publishing industry on a whole could see some major, cataclysmic changes — at least for publishers.
Readers may end up finding they have an even greater access to excellent books for lower prices.