Thursday, April 5, 2012

The keys to epublishing success 2012

Last year I blogged about the keys to epublishing success and there was lots of interest in my analysis. So, I thought I do another post about it this year.

This time, my data consists of 78 epublishing authors who have sold more than 50,000 ebooks. This accounts for more than 16 million ebook sales (claimed by the authors).
Selling 50,000 ebooks can give you a nice income, depending on your cover price. If you sell at $2.99, your 70% royalty would get you over $100,000. That's some real dough!
I based this data on the list created over on Self-Publishing Success Stories, a blog which frequently has interesting and enlightening posts. You should check them out. I also researched the authors' Kindle books on Amazon to come up with the following data points:
  • Number of ebooks sold (as claimed by the author)
  • Number of etitles available (as listed on the author's Kindle page)
  • Average sales per title (calculated)
  • Primary genre (as estimated by me)

I then put all this data into a nifty Excel spreadsheet and generated some charts and graphs. Which you can see below.

Disclaimers: This data is not complete. I only have data for authors who have publicly claimed 50,000+ sales. There are no doubt more authors who have that many sales but don't publicize it. So, consider this analysis a subset of the actual data. As such, my analysis should be taken with a grain of salt.

Also, these sales numbers are as claimed by the author. I have no way to verify these numbers.


Anything interesting in this chart? Well, first of all, romance has eaten up a larger piece of the pie, going from 16% last year to 31% this year. Thrillers went from 12% to 23%. That's 54% of the pie for those two genres!

Even so, the top sellers pretty much remained the same.

2011 Top 5 - Romance, Paranormal, Thriller, Mystery, Fantasy.

2012 Top 5 – Romance, Thriller, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young adult.

But what's more telling (though not surprising) is that number of titles is even more important for the 50,000 club.

75% of the 78 authors who have sold more than 50,000 ebooks have 6 or more titles available.

Only 12% of those authors have only 1 or 2 titles available.

So, once again, the same as last year, it seems that the keys to epublishing success are:

1.    More titles, more titles, more titles

2.    Write in romance or thriller genres.

 So, get to writing, authors!

Another interesting chart:

As you can see in the chart, of the 78 authors who have sold 50,000 or more ebooks, 71% started their ebook publishing in 2010 or later. Obviously, epublishing opportunities are flourishing.

 In case you didn't notice, the table above shows that some of these authors have an average of as low as 1100 sales per ebook. It's just that they ahve so many titles that it all adds up. This should be very heartening to any aspiring authors out there with any books selling 1000 or more copies.
For example, one of my novels, Dead Dwarves Don't Dance, has sold nearly 8000 copies in 17 months (about 5600 a year). I'm looking forward to the day when I have 10 such novels out there. I should be able to sell around 50,000 books a year and make enough to be a full-time novelist!


  1. Very nice work, Derek, thanks.
    Do your genres include YA within them? Or is YA not considered a genre?

    Again, thanks for sharing.

  2. Tony, YA were not explicitly mentioned in the authors' genres. But, some of them were probably YA, such as Amanda Hockings paranormal stuff. So, I'd expect may a 10-15% YA representation inside the other genres.

  3. So Derek,

    When do we see the sequel to DDDD?!? Get out five more of them! ;)

    Nice analysis,

  4. Very cool, if a little depressing for spec-fics like me ;) And, horror didn't even make the chart... :(

    Thanks for doing the extended legwork, really appreciate the inside view!~

  5. wannabuy, I'm working on Dead Dwarves 2 right now. Publish later this year. Work is very busy, so I don't get much time to work on it.

  6. Thanks once again for putting all the time and energy into reporting all this information. It's very interesting.

    @J. E. Medrick. Don't all your book horror, just say that it's a bloody thriller. ;-)

  7. JE, yes, I agree with Eric. Horror is a subset of thriller in my charts.

  8. Thanks for this encouraging & informative post:-)

  9. @J. E. Medrick. Glad I could help and good luck.

    Sorry for the typo. That's why I always seem to need an editor.

  10. Good to know. I have a romance novel and a thriller, and six available titles. They're damn good books, too. ; )

    I just wish I had more patience...

  11. Yes, good stuff and thanks for posting that. I guess it's time to try and write in another genre. :)

  12. Thanks for the informative post. ;>)

  13. Great post. You will make my data-crunching husband very happy for the next couple days as he pours over this stuff. :)

  14. Well, this post answered the $.99 or not pricing question for me. $2.99 it is. Thanks.

  15. I love charts and such with lots of data.

    It's nice to see that fantasy and sci-fi are up near the top for 2012, but man what a difference between fantasy and thrillers. It's almost enough to make me want to call my book a fantasy thriller, or a thriller fantasy. :P

  16. Thank you for posting this. Just what I needed to hear to get my (writing) butt in gear. Excellent analysis.

  17. Thanks for putting this up. Good analysis.

  18. Great post Derek.

    I think paranormal is still very popular and sold a lot. It's just that I haven't actively looking for paranormal sales data yet.

    Like find Author X is selling well (high on Kindle) and then do a cold google search "Author X have sold" etc...

    Anyhow, thanks for putting this up. Very informative.

  19. Lovely, lovely pie charts and stuff! Thank you for taking the trouble!

  20. Thanks for this - really interesting analysis, and, well, I am a geek for graphs... :)

  21. Interesting post with lots of great data. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Just to chime in on pricing, I wholeheartedly agree with the $2.99 price point. I have 14 erotica (which I presume is folded into the romance slice of the pie) that range from 3800 - 8000 words and I have them all priced at $2.99. I don't believe that I'd sell the 6x necessary to make the profit equal.

    As others have pointed out, a tall latte costs over $3 so people are willing to pay for $2.99 for entertainment.

    If the goal is to get as many people reading something as possible, just make it free or post it on Wattpad. I've been experimenting with Wattpad as a referral engine by posting a very slowly selling work as a serial.

  23. Oops, I just noticed that erotica is a separate genre, but it seems to be underrepresented in the chart :)

  24. John, only 1 erotica author reported sales of 50,000+. Remember, I'm using incomplete data because I only use data that is publicly reported by authors. Authors who don't report how many books they sell are not in the charts.

  25. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.


  26. Very effective, simple but effective. I don't know about others but me like this. keep posting

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