Book Publishing Continues to Change–the Surprising Statistics from 2015 are Out

Publishing has changed a lot over the centuries, starting with all those carefully hand-written books right to today’s many digital formats. And even bigger changes have happened–and continue to happen–in who’s publishing and selling those books!


This infographic from Search News Media gives you the basics on how we’ve got this far:



The Surprising Changes in eBook Sales

In 2015 many people claimed e-publishing was fading away–indeed, some declared the fad was done for good, and rightfully so, sending all those independently published ebooks into oblivion.

However, that isn’t exactly what happened according to the February 2016 Author Earnings Report: Amazon’s Ebook, Print, and Audio Sales from Author Earnings. Here’s a graph on Amazon sales.

Author Earnings is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. From Author Earnings

Here’s a quick summary of what happened:

  • Big publisher ebook sales took a nose-dive when the Big 5 won the right to keep Amazon from discounting the prices of their ebooks. So, they priced ebooks high as an incentive to book buyers to purchase print instead.
  • Indie published ebooks shot up in sales–and books sold with Amazon product numbers or ASBNs, instead of ISBNs which are trackable by the book selling industry, aren’t included in published sales trends or statistics.

The Genre that Saved Traditionally Printed Book Sales in 2015

As we all know, the 2014 sales in traditional publishing were held strong by young adult and children’s books. That year, trade YA and children’s books increased 22.4% to balance losses in other areas like nonfiction (-3.3%).

Many in the industry expected a similar trend in 2015. They got a big surprise.

The genre that ran away with traditional book sales was adult coloring books–maybe not such a big surprise after discovering that adults buying YA books had a big impact on the year before. This New York Times report at the end of 2015 gives a thorough review of what happened in the traditional world.

Author Earnings reported that in January of 2016, Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that when we took our January snapshot, 11 out of Amazon’s Top 35 Best Selling print books were adult coloring books.

Are Audio Books Going to Save Sales in 2016?

“As of January 2016, Amazon was selling roughly 119,000 audiobooks a day — about $2,100,000 worth — which were generating $204,000 a day in author earnings,” according to Author Earnings. The good news for indie authors is that just like the ebook market, buyers are selecting what they want, and that isn’t always books from the Big 5.

Here’s a pie chart from Author Earnings that gives the breakdown for the top 25,000 audio books on Amazon.

Audio Titles
Author Earnings is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Author Earnings

It’s also interesting to note that J.K. Rowling’s company, Pottermore, takes more than half of the blue Single-Author Publisher wedge, so her books don’t run-up the indie published author category.

As Author Earnings summarizes, indie authors looking for sales should consider audio books.

And the Big News is…Print

Okay, so print is really old news, as you can see from the infographic at the top of the page.

However, there’s a twist to the on-going evolution of publishing. Author Earnings calls it the “the law of unintended consequences.” I call it awesome news for indie authors!

And you’re likely dying to know what happened.

on To compress a long story into a short one, when the Big 5 stopped Amazon from selling their books below cost in ebook format, the balance sheet started to change. Big 5 earnings went down (loss of ebook sales) and Amazon’s went up (no longer subsiding a large segment of the ebook market). That gave Amazon more margin to play with print books, so they discounted them even further. And the result, more print book sales again.

The one thing that didn’t happen though, was a shift back to buyers going to traditional bookstores. Instead, with Amazon’s deep discounts and free shipping, their share of the print market increased.

And with buyers shopping on Amazon shelves instead of down the block, indie published print books are getting a lot more exposure–and increasingly, a bigger share of the market. In fact, indie published print books are almost up to a double digit percentage share at Amazon. That’s a big thing, because traditional bookstores rarely put self-published books on their shelves.

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Author Earnings concludes that: In fact, with lower prices, greater creative freedoms, the ability to publish to market much faster, and the ability to appeal to a wider variety of readers, indie authors have huge advantages online.


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2 thoughts on “Book Publishing Continues to Change–the Surprising Statistics from 2015 are Out”

  1. Lots of awesome info here. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the adult coloring book trend. Lots of industry insiders were predicting they’d be piling up in dollar stores by now but they’re still going strong!


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