Sunday, February 01, 2015

Whose Data Do You Believe?

You know I’m a big fan of statistics, right? I’m always intrigued when Author Earnings releases another data-filled report outlining their findings in book sales. If you follow Author Earnings, you’ll know that Hugh Howey and his team look mainly (but not always) at Amazon data which they analyze to help authors see what’s happening in the industry. Since Amazon has 67% of the U.S. ebook market, Howey makes it clear that the data doesn’t include all ebook sales everywhere. In this report, he also makes it clear that other data sources such as Bowker, Nielsen, AAP, and BISG have gotten their stats wrong, and here’s why.

After analyzing 120,000 titles from Amazon’s bestseller’s list, Howey discover that 30% of the titles sold in the U.S. don’t have an ISBN number. This means that there’s a pretty large “shadow” industry that isn’t being monitored by ISBN-based sources such as Bowker and Nielsen. Wow! Who knew? Apparently, not many. Howey claims that the pundits who’ve been writing about the stagnating ebook market over recent weeks are using bad data from Nielsen or Bowker. Here’s a tiny bit of what Howey did find:

As of mid-2014, indie authors took home 40% of the earnings while the combined efforts of the big five publishers slipped into second place at 35%. He also found that the lower ebook prices now offered by the big five publishers have had no impact on the number of sales of indie author titles. This is in direct contrast to what I’ve read elsewhere.

After five Author Earnings reports over a twelve-month period, Howey has found a “continued progressive growth of indie market share at the expense of traditionally published ebooks.” Again, this conflicts with what others are saying.

It’s important to note that Howey provides a readable explanation as to how he arrived at the conclusions he did (you’ll see the main points in the executive summary at the top of his report). He’s also quite clear in stating that, despite a full year of close analysis, the industry is still quite young and the long-term future is hard to predict.

There’s plenty of interesting charts and graphs in the report. Most of all it makes me more wary about the sources used by other popular bloggers/writers. I’m not saying that Howey is perfect, but when he quotes numbers and percentages, he takes the time to say how and where they came from. I wish more people did this. There’s so many contradictions out there, that things must be increasingly confusing for new writers trying to choose the best option for their careers. To read the full report go to

No comments: