The Most Important Aspects From The Latest ‘Author Earnings’ Analysis

Author-EarningsIt’s been six months since Hugh Howey and his unnamed sidekick went public with the publishing numbers from Amazon. Up until then it had been a closed shop with Amazon reluctant to share any of the data they hold. Using clever data mining and assumptions it’s now possible to view the publishing landscape as it currently stands.

Since the first release, there have been two subsequent snapshots, the most recent being last week. Each view has led to some pretty major headlines and this time it’s no different. All in all, the message comes back loud and clear… it’s a great time to be a writer and the publishing industry is in a revolution. I’ve highlighted the most important points from last week’s analysis below.

38% of best-selling ebooks are indie published

This compares with 16% which are published by the Big 5 publishing houses and the majority of 45% which are from small and medium publishers. This number’s increasing as self-published books become gradually more successful.

The argument though, which is often levelled at this statistic, is the amount of shit which is included in self-published books. Firstly, this number comes from the best-selling charts only and also, they’re not just languishing in the bottoms of these charts.

36% of unit sales come from indie published books

This means that over a third of the books sold are from indies. This number is increasing every 3 months and, as self-publishing becomes more acceptable, a tipping point is bound to be reached.

Okay, so indies are doing well with sales but that’s because they’re almost giving their books away, aren’t they?

Indies only make up 20% of the total dollars

More startling is the fact that the Big 5 make up 53% of the total dollars. So, out of the 16% market coverage from the Big 5 they collect over half of the dollars. Indies definitely look like the poor relations here. Low pricing from indies is a contentious issue but there’s no doubt as well that the Big 5 charge a lot for ebooks because they have to.

So, as an author, surely it still makes sense to seek out a book deal?

Indie published books now make up 41% of dollar revenue to authors

Hang on a minute. This is where the main kicker is. This is the headline. This is the revolution, right here. The Big 5 published authors only amount for 37% of the author revenue. In other words, the publishing houses cream a large chunk of what they make in order to keep oiling their machines. Self-published authors on the whole now earn more than the authors who have landed the big publishing deal.


Self-publishing is growing while traditional publishing is shrinking. Fact. As a new author of fiction, it’s becoming almost impossible to be taken on by a traditional publisher and, even if you did, the likelihood is that you’d earn more on your own anyway.

On average, you are more likely to sell more books and make a much bigger royalty if you indie-publish. For the first time in history, the world of publishing has opened up. This is undoubtedly the most incredibly exciting time to be a writer. Don’t waste your time querying publishers, get it published yourself and then get on with writing your next book instead.


4 responses to “The Most Important Aspects From The Latest ‘Author Earnings’ Analysis

  1. Gwen Stephens

    Fascinating data. Thanks for sharing this concise summary.

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