Sunday, October 21, 2018

Amazon’s Tsunami of Books

by Marta Tandori (writer), suburbs of Toronto, Canada, August 26, 2014

An author’s book – regardless whether indie or traditionally-published – will be categorized by, and will compete against, only those books from the same genre.

Writer Claude Nougat had recently estimated that the total number of books on Amazon was about 3.4 million at last count. He then tried to calculate how many books were added daily. Nougat took note of the fact that the numbers increased by about twelve books per hour which suggested that one new book was added every five minutes. He then surmised that of those books added, most were probably indie published books.

So what does this mean for the indie publisher? If you’re the optimistic type, then probably very little. However, if you’re the type who’s a die-hard pessimist at best, this may be a wake-up call that you should be looking into another line of work or retooling your career choice. This also means that mainstream titles by established legacy authors are also being swallowed by the tsunami of titles which should arguably be a concern for the Big 5 Publishers who still seem to feel justified in charging anywhere from $12.99 to $14.99 for a Kindle edition, despite the deluge of free and 99 cent books available. Undoubtedly, the legacy publishers’ justification for the outrageous prices will be that mainstream titles have been vetted and edited by pros – but then, so what? Many indie books today are also professionally edited with great covers and can certainly hold their own beside a mainstream published title.

And while Nougat’s observations are certainly an eye opener, it’s also important to keep in mind that although 3.4 million titles is a huge number, this number represents the sum total of all books in every genre.This figure becomes less daunting when you consider the breakdown of books for each top level genre that Amazon categorizes them into:

Arts & Photography (159,060)
Biographies & Memoirs (122,066)
Business & Money (179,413)
Children’s eBooks (159,508)
Comics & Graphic Novels (30,320)
Computers & Technology (49,990)
Cookbooks, Food & Wine (43,513)
Crafts, Hobbies & Home (56,246)
Education & Teaching (108,390)
Gay & Lesbian (28,869)
Health, Fitness & Dieting (177,699)
History (170,570)
Humor & Entertainment (78,339)
Literature & Fiction (871,825)
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (150,931)
Nonfiction (1,410,681)
Parenting & Relationships (53,080)
Politics & Social Sciences (189,992)
Professional & Technical (228,211)
Reference (92,913)
Religion & Spirituality (301,603)
Romance (199,525)
Science & Math (168,294)
Science Fiction & Fantasy (169,746)
Self-Help (74,474)
Sports & Outdoors (50,031)
Teen & Young Adult (72,538)
Travel (43,251)
Foreign Languages (429,517)

Accordingly, an author’s book – regardless whether indie or traditionally-published – will be categorized by, and will compete against, only those books from the same genre.While this is admittedly still a daunting prospect from the perspective of sales and visibility, it’s certainly less intimidating than the prospect of one title being thrown into a cesspool of 3.4 million books.

Nougat then made the observation that even the indie millionaires of the very recent yesteryear aren’t doing as well as they once did and referred to Amanda Hocking, who was one of the first indie superstars making millions on her novels, and who now has many titles that are going for cheap or free and has fallen far on the rankings.He also points out that one of indie publishing’s more recent breakout superstars, Hugh Howey’s DUST is currently ranked at 800 “which might as well be the bottom”.In response to this observation, T.R. Ragan offered the following sales-to-ranking breakdown which seems to refute Nougat’s pessimistic take on rankings:

Amazon Best Seller Rank 50,000 to 100,000 – selling close to 1 book a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 10,000 to 50,000 – selling 5 to 15 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 5,500 to 10,000 – selling 15 to 25 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 3,000 to 5,500 – selling 25 to 70 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 1,500 to 3,000 – selling 70 to 100 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 750 to 1,500 – selling 100 to 120 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 500 to 750 – selling 120 to 175 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 350 to 500 – selling 175 to 200 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 200 to 350 – selling 200 to 300 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 35 to 200 – selling 300 to 1,000 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank 20 to 35 – selling 1,000 to 2,000 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank of 5 to 20 – selling 2,000 to 3,000 books a day.
Amazon Best Seller Rank of 1 to 5 – selling 3,000+ books a day.

Seems like a reasonable breakdown, right?Hugh Howey himself offered the following comments in response to Nougat’s observations on the sales ranking of his book DUST:

“Just checked my KDP report for that one title. I made more in the last 90 days from DUST than I made in two years working at the bookstore.There are a lot of people who don’t even show up in our Author Earnings reports who are earning a full-time living. I’ve heard from them. They have 30+ titles that all rank in the tens of thousands of popular categories, which might get missed by our spider (which only grabs the 120,000+ titles that make the top 100 of cats and subcats).I don’t think the author of this article has any idea what a #800 book does a day. Especially priced at $5.99. Not to mention Kobo, B&N, iTunes, ACX, and the print edition. Add those up, and I’m making a lawyer’s salary every 90 days from one book.”

Certainly food for thought, isn’t it?As to whether any of this information makes you shut off your computer or simply strengthens your resolve to produce the Amazon bestseller or even mid-lister, only you know the answer to that.

About the Writer

If you need someone to count to ten in seven languages or are lost and all you've got is a map, then I'm definitely your gal but if you need something assembled and all you've got is an Allen wrench and a set of instructions, then we're both in trouble!
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