Amazon Trumpets Amazon Publishing Half-Million-Selling Titles

AmazonPublishingEver notice how Amazon only shares sales figures when they make it look good, and doesn’t share any more than it has to? Laura Hazard Owen on PaidContent has gotten ahold of a letter from Amazon Publishing’s VP Jeff Belle to literary agents proudly discussing how awesome Amazon Publishing is, mentioning a few books that have sold a half million copies as of this month, as well as a couple of titles that have sold a few hundred thousand units. (Amazon Publishing is the professional publishing arm of Amazon, which operates like a traditional publisher and puts its own fully edited books out—not self-published.) (Found via TeleRead.)

Owen remarks on the lack of clarity between how many print and how many e-book editions are sold, and notes that print sales figures she heard for Amazon Publishing in 2011 seemed anemic, but in the comments below the piece some of the authors who work with Amazon speak up in Amazon’s defense. “I suspect a [print vs. e-book] breakdown wasn’t given because it’s not relevant,” wrote half-million-selling author Karen McQuestion, noting that Amazon Publishing has welcomed her input on how her book is packaged and are excellent to work with, and are helping her earn a good living from her writing. She’s happy to sell plenty of books at all, whether they’re print or electronic. However, Owen notes that e-books only made up 30% of fiction sales in 2011.


70 percent is a lot. Amazon Publishing may be more clearly focused on ebook sales but physical bookstores are still a key source of discovery for books. If bookstores refuse to carry Amazon titles, as most have done so far, then Amazon has to make up those sales in another way. And it’s a choice authors who work with Amazon have to make: Are they okay with missing out on a certain number of print sales?

But I’m starting to wonder how important the distinction is myself. People can buy e-books from anywhere, or can buy print books from Amazon from anywhere. They can only buy the print books from bookstores if they’re actually in the bookstores. And how many people actually go to bookstores anymore, compared to those who can shop effortlessly from home with one-click purchasing? Even Amazon says they’re selling more e-books than print books these days.

Are bookstore sales really that important? Apparently not to the authors who are happily earning a living from Amazon Publishing. And being told their boycott is irrelevant might just be the bookstores’ indignity.

Chris Meadows

View posts by Chris Meadows
Chris Meadows, Editor of TeleRead, has been writing about e-books and mobile devices since 1999: first for ThemeStream, later for Jeff Kirvin's Writing on Your Palm, and then for TeleRead starting in 2006. He has also contributed a few articles to The Digital Reader along the way. Chris has bought e-books from Peanut Press/eReader, Fictionwise, Baen, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, the Humble Bundle, and others. He is a strong believer in using Calibre to keep his library organized.

1 Comment

  1. Dan Eldridge15 September, 2012

    Hi Chris, thanks for the link — always appreciated! I’m chiming in to respond to the question you posed at the end of your piece: “Are bookstore sales really that important?”

    The answer seems to be a definitive “yes.” Why? Well, while it’s certainly true that e-book sales figures are growing very quickly, print still dominates the market. From what I can tell, the most recent stats available came in the form of a report called BookStats 2012, which was commissioned by the AAP and the Book Industry Study Group.

    That report suggested that e-books only made up 15 percent of all trade book sales in 2011. It also reported that digital now makes up 30 percent of adult fiction sales. (This is from Paid Content, by the way; I haven’t gotten my hands on the actual report yet.)

    Of course, there’s the other side of the coin, and that’s the fact that it’s a bit disingenuous of me to use phrases like, “e-books *only* made up 15 percent … ” Because the truth is that all the various digital sales numbers have grown very, very quickly. So while print may still be dominating, it’s looking more and more as if that won’t be the case for long. A publishing exec who’s particularly bullish on the future of digital may in fact agree that print sales aren’t all that important any more.

    As for my own opinion: I’m not really sure I even have one where this is concerned. There are too many variables right now — too many moving parts, you know? Of course, that’s a large part of what makes all this speculation so much fun!

    Keep up the great reporting,


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