Around Half of SF&F Sales Are No Longer Being Tracked

In 2016 I showed you how the print market for romance, SF&F, and thriller genres was either dead or dying due to the fact that over half of each genre’s unit sales had gone digital.

The latest data from Author Earnings Report has added a new few new details to that shocking report.

Data Guy gave a presentation last month at the Nebula Awards where he did a deep dive into the SF&F market. While we don’t have a video of the presentation (nor audio), DG did post his slides.

This one in particular caught my eye. It shows how 48% of the market is off the radar of legacy sources like Nielsen, Pubtrack Digital, and the AAP.

Not only is the the market roughly twice as large as the industry stats show, the estimates from the Author Earnings Report also cast doubt on claims that author income is falling.

The thing is, most of the money from that 48% goes directly to authors, while only a fraction of the remaining 52% goes to authors. And with trad pub sales holding steady (almost), while self-pub sales growing, the collective author income – in this genre – has to have increased in the past decade, not fallen.

You can find out more on the Author Earnings site.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Disgusting Dude18 June, 2018

    SF&F is different genres in that the “classic” backlist (mostly tradpub) is a major portion of daily sales both in print and digital.

    Which means that new/recent tradpub releases are a smaller portion of sales than even those numbers show.

    And AE data in the past has shown that few if any new author careers have been launched by tradpub in the past decade. Newcomers come and newcomers go but few tradpub newcomers have rising to join the ranks of the genre veterans from decades past.

    Other than maybe BAEN there isn’t much future for new SF writers in tradpub.

    1. Nate Hoffelder18 June, 2018

      Excellent point

  2. Bill Peschel18 June, 2018

    “While we don’t have a video of the presentation (nor audio)”

    Now you do:

    1. Nate Hoffelder18 June, 2018

      thanks! I had looked but did not find that video

  3. Steve H.18 June, 2018

    I read a lot of SF and F and have definitely shifted my e book consumption. Exactly when the Agency pricing cemented with the Big 5 publishers I decided to try a couple of those 3.99ish Kindle Unlimited books for the first time…and while they generally hold no candle to The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson etc.,they were not bad. I wonder how many other readers have had similar shifts.
    At 14.99 I am more apt to wait for library Overdrive to pick up fiction than to buy.

    1. “At 14.99 I am more apt to wait for library Overdrive to pick up fiction than to buy.”

      Anyone who does so will not be part of Data Guy’s guestimates as BookStat cannot measure OverDrive downloads so just ignores them. Never mind that ebook and audio downloads from OverDrive topped 225 million last year.

  4. Hannah Steenbock19 June, 2018

    Wow, just the slide show is awesome. It helps me make a decision: Go for SF and Urban fantasy… go easier on the dragons. Thanks, Data Guy.

  5. greenwitch21 June, 2018

    It’s good to hear adult sf is still being written. Unfortunately I can’t find any that I like.

  6. This report was actually posted a month ago and went largely unnoticed, or perhaps unremarked, given the absence of any useful numbers.

    Data Guy lines up the usual trad vs indie argument for our delectation and then conveniently throws Amazon imprints in with self-published titles to bolster his case.

    SF&F ebook unit sales by price point: “traditionally published and SF&F ebooks” on one side and “self-published and Amazon imprint published SF&F book” on the other.

    SF&F ebook unit sales by dollar sales: “traditionally published and SF&F ebooks” on one side and “self-published and Amazon imprint published SF&F book” on the other.


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