Are you looking for a publisher for your book? It can be hard to decide which publisher will be the best — and even harder to decide if self publishing would be a better option for you and your books.
So, here are some insider secrets, like the ones I share in my Publish and Share Your Ebooks course, to help you decide.
How to Find Out Which Publishers are Selling Best on Amazon
Let’s start with a hypothetical situation. Say, for example, that you’ve written a romance. You tried submitting to the top traditional publishers with no interest at all. So, you submitted it to a few small romance publishers and two of them have responded immediately that they’re interested. The question is, though, do you go with one of them or self publish?
(Note that you can apply this strategy to every category of publishing, not just romance!)
There are literally hundreds of small publishers, often mainly publishing and marketing ebooks, that are focused on romance or have romance lines. Let’s look at two that have been around for awhile that I found on this 2021 list of Romance Publishers: Soul Mate Publishing (established 2011 by Deborah Gilbert) and Boroughs Publishing (around for at least a decade according to this discussion thread).
Next, hop on over to Amazon.com. Select Kindle Store. Then type the publisher name in the search box. Finally, select Sort by: Av. Customer Review. Why that sort? It stands to reason that the titles that have been read the most and have the most reviews (regardless of star ratings) will be the most popular and have the highest sales.
However, you’ll also want to see how their latest titles are doing as well, in case the publisher got off to a slow start. So, you should also do a search for the publisher’s titles based on a sort by Publication Date. That will let you check out the newest releases.
Okay, now you’ve got some titles to investigate.
How Do You Find Out a Book’s Popularity on Amazon?
Start by selecting a publisher’s most popular title. For Boroughs Publishing, that was Echoes in Time (Esterloch Book 2), as you can see in the screen capture above. And for Soul Mate Publishing (note that I had to put quotation marks around “Soul Mate Publishing” to get only titles from that publisher, instead of titles with Soul Mate in the title or subtitle or keywords), that was Emergence (Voodoo Butterfly Series Book 2).
Once you’ve located a title you want to investigate, scroll down the Amazon product page to Product Details. Check the information on the Publisher line to be sure it corresponds to the publisher you’re checking out. Then scroll down to Best Sellers Rank to see the book’s overall standing in the Amazon Kindle Store.
Now, you have two best sellers ranks to compare on a specific date and time. Amazon best seller ranks are updated throughout the day, however, if a book is selling consistently the differences in rank will range by a few hundred numbers rather than thousands.
So, from this test, I learned that Emergence from Soul Mate Publishing ranked at 833,466 in the Kindle Store, and Echoes in Time, from Boroughs Publishing, ranked at 2,384,973 in the Kindle Store.
Publisher popularity is easy to figure out comparing these two titles, isn’t it?
Check a Number of Titles and Compare Publishers
When comparing their most popular titles, it’s clear that Soul Mate did better than Boroughs on the first title examined. Clearly, you’d want to check a few more of the popular titles to see how those comparisons go, then select a few of the newest releases by using the Publication Date sort. However, remember to scroll down to books that have actually been released rather than being listed for preorder.
In this case, the newest Boroughs title didn’t have a main listing under romance, but just to show publisher popularity, it did have a Best Sellers Rank of 51,344. Soul Mate’s latest release had a main listing under the hot new niche, Paranormal Angel Romance, and a Best Sellers Rank of 917,487.
To finish my comparison, I compared two more latest releases and two more titles with highest customer reviews, to come up with the average Best Sellers Rank of six titles with each publisher (just add up all of the best seller ranks and divide by six).
And here are the results: Boroughs Publishing – 1,265,826 average best sellers rank over six titles, and Soul Mate Publishing – 564,561 average best sellers rank over six titles.
Finally, to see if these results are skewed because of the number of titles put out by the publishers you’re comparing, check the total number of books. How? Sort by Publication Date again and check the results in the top left corner where it says 1-16 of X results for “publisher name.”
That shows us that Boroughs Publishing had 517 titles out when I did this test, and Soul Mate Publishing had 734 titles. The conclusion? Soul Mate has a 44% higher average best sellers rank over 40% more titles.
The Big Question: How Much Do Authors Make?
So much for the publishers. Let’s jump into what you really want to know.
How much do authors make? The answer to that question is never an easy one — indeed, the most common answer is “it depends.”
That said, the first thing to look at is how much publishers are going to pay you out of what your book sells for, or its list price. Unfortunately, neither Soul Mate or Boroughs posts a contract on their website for authors to review in advance. Nor did my searches locate a royalty rate listed elsewhere on the Web.
However, we can take a look at a Writer’s Union article comparing 25% (common offer from traditional publishers) and 50% (typically the highest available from a hybrid publisher) royalties for ebooks. Just click here to understand royalties you’ll receive from a publisher.
What about royalties from self publishing? Well, you make, of course, the full amount that established publishers make. The major retailers pay publishers a 70% royalty (Amazon only pays 70% on ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99, and deducts a delivery fee from the 70% royalty), so let’s work with that.
First of all, let’s assume that your book will reach the average sales established in our two samples: Boroughs Publishing – 1,265,826 average best sellers rank over six titles, and Soul Mate Publishing – 564,561 average best sellers rank over six titles.
Now, let’s convert that to how many actual copies of a book are estimated to sell in a month based on a free Amazon Book Sales Calculator from TCK Publishing.
- Boroughs Publishing – 2 ebooks sold per month.
- Soul Mate Publishing – 5 ebooks sold per month.
If you priced your ebook at $3.99 and got a 25% royalty, you’d earn every month through these publishers:
- Boroughs – $2.00 monthly income
- Soul Mate – $4.99 monthly income
And if you were self publishing and received your 70% royalty (note that in text only ebooks delivery fees on Amazon work out to a few cents on each copy, so I haven’t deducted it here):
- Personal sales at the same Best Sellers Rank as Boroughs – $5.59 a month
- Personal sales at the same Best Sellers Rank as Soul Mate – $13.97 a month
How Hard is it to Self Publish Your Ebook?
As you can see from this example of romance publishers, publishers aren’t making a lot of money on your books. While romance has been the hottest category on Amazon for more than a decade, many small romance publishers just plain aren’t raking in great amounts of income for themselves or their authors.
So, unless you find a publisher that you REALLY, REALLY, REALLY feel is going to do an amazing job of getting your book out and marketing it, you’ll likely make more money by self publishing. Since most small publishers rely on you to build your own readership through your own marketing (as you can see, they aren’t making enough money to do it for you), most of the work is going to be your responsibility no matter which way you go.
And writing is a lot more rewarding if you’re making some money at it!
That said, how hard is it to self publish an ebook and jump into the marketplace? There are various publishing paths with $0 outlay if you can do your own editing, formatting, and cover design (note that depending on the type of publisher you select, you may be doing/paying for all of this anyway). Draft2Digital is the easiest if you don’t enjoy formatting and Smashwords, along with Amazon’s KDP, gets you into the most markets.
If you’d like to explore your options, and learn everything you need to know to quickstart your marketing, join me online in Publish and Sell Your Ebooks this month through your public library (if it offers Gale courses) or through your community college.