Note: start reading this thread on Amazon sales data with Scraping the Gorilla – Picking data off of Amazon
Much has been written about the merits of indie versus traditional publishing, whether it be with a Big 6 imprint, large press, or small press. While factors such as creative control and royalties push writers to one camp or the other, in actuality very few writers have the luxury of choosing. Those writing for niche markets or with styles that may not be widely appreciated, may find it difficult to gain the enthusiasm of agents or publishers who are hunting for the next NYT Bestseller. It is, nevertheless, interesting to ponder just how sales differ between the various publishing routes.
To that end I analyzed the 13,000 Kindle titles contained in lists of the top 100 sellers in the 195 subcategories within Amazon’s genre categories of mystery, romance, fantasy & science fiction, and teen & young adult. (Yes, 195 x 100 is 19,500, but many titles appear in more than one list, and some lists have fewer than 100 titles because there are fewer than that number in the subcategory.) Here I use “Big 6” to refer to the various publishing arms of the following six corporations: Hachette, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. These companies comprise over 300 imprints. “Large” is 20 or more authors among the 60,000 titles examined. “Small” refers to a publisher with between 3 and 19 authors . “Self” means that either the publisher has only one author, the author’s name appears in the publisher’s name, or that this author appears to own the publisher’s DBA. The “Unknown” publisher is an imprint for which I could only identify one or two authors. In most cases I imagine these are indie published, and may include an additional pen name. Likewise, some of the “small” presses may be indies with multiple pen names. “Amazon” refers to their twenty or so publishing imprints.
First, let us look at how many titles on these lists are assigned to each publishing category.
Clearly indie publishing is a major player here. One might be tempted to think that Amazon is a minor player. When one looks at units sold, however, Amazon takes on a larger stature. Below is the total number of units sold per day by the different publishers. Amazon has managed to sell a disproportionate share given the few titles it represents. Continue reading