As promised by your truly, the latest Author Earnings Report dropped yesterday. It covers the last 3 quarters of 2017, and unlike previous reports it is not based on a one-day snap shot but on a minute-by-minute study of the market.
The report also breaks down the market into more categories. For example, the new report shows that one of last year's surprising trends was actually bad data resulting from insufficient granularity.
Remember that spike in “Small/Medium Publisher” ebook market share we reported, back in October 2016?
At the time, AE’s categorization of traditional publishers was way too broad: just one category for the Big Five, and one for everyone else. In our October 2016 report, when the non-Big Five traditional share of ebook dollars suddenly ramped up, we knew we needed to dig deeper. Now that we are able to differentiate the sales of 20 different types of publisher, the answer is crystal clear. The single category responsible for that late 2016 spike was Large Academic Publishers.
eTextbooks, in other words.
In Q3 2016, several of the largest academic publishers, frustrated with the growing competition from online sales of used print textbooks from previous years, began moving more aggressively into ebook sales. Their eTextbooks, while cheaper than new print textbooks, are on average 5x as expensive as trade fiction/non-fiction ebooks — leading rapid dollar market share capture. For 2017, ebooks from Large Academic Publishers–while only 1% of ebook units–captured a full 5.5% of ebook dollar spending.
A mystery back then, a one-click answer now…
So was self-publishing losing ground or gaining market share in 2017?
Throughout 2017, a frequent meme circulating in indie author loops was that self-publishing was hitting headwinds, and that self-published sales had slowed dramatically for “everyone.” Even the biggest indie stars of yesteryear were no longer pulling down what they used to, so times must be even tougher for everyone else.
A quick glance at the pie charts above reveal a different story. The indie share of the entire US ebook market, comprising the various blue wedges in the pies above, now looks like what the indie share of Amazon alone used to be, in our quarterly snapshots from previous years. In other words, far from losing ground, the overall indie market share has grown.
That is what DG told me on a couple occasions last year when I started getting worried about reports of a "mature" ebook market, and it is good to finally have data to back up his assurances.