Sales of self-published ebooks, in particular, have dropped suddenly and alarmingly. But Why?
After years of steady growth, e-book sales for indie authors have hit a problem. The most recent data from Author Earnings in their latest quarterly report gives ample proof of the drop off in sales and earnings.
While the data is clear, the reason or reasons why indie author sales have fallen so quickly is definitely not clear. The long list of comments attached to the Author Earnings report gives rise to many possible scenarios, but as the report and some commenters mention, the most likely causes are a change in algorithms by Amazon, a glitch in the Kindle Unlimited pay-per-page read program, or a sudden change of marketing emphasis by Amazon.
There is also the possibility that Bookbub has added to the problem by accepting fewer self-published books to promote. As I say, added to the problem, as I do not believe Bookbub is the root cause.
Markets will always fluctuate.
Whatever the reasons, the bad news only relates to the last quarter, or perhaps a little longer, but ups and downs in any market are to be expected. Therefore, it is a good lesson to heed. The market will always move, and the reasons why it moves are completely out of the control of authors.
Self-publishing is still very much in its infancy, and every participant is still learning; including Amazon. Sure, it’s a given that Amazon was the real pioneer of self-publishing and has helped so many authors by giving them the opportunity to not only self-publish but also, to have their e-books and books available for sale on Amazon, which is the largest retailer in the world.
However, Amazon is not a charity. It is a business, and it will make business decisions that will not always be positive for its suppliers, which in this case are authors.
Business 101 says that you should never have your business controlled by one major supplier or one major customer. In the case of many self-published authors, Amazon is their only retailer and only publisher. So when Amazon changes course or makes a business decision, business 101 says that your business is controlled by these decisions.
The need to diversify income sources and suppliers is always a better business model, but in today’s ebook market, in particular, diversification is limited to two aggregators, Smashwords and Draft2Digital, and a handful of retailers such as Apple, B&N and Kobo. Using these avenues is called publishing wide, but for a healthy competitive ebook market, it is not nearly wide enough.
Unfortunately, whatever the specific reasons are for the recent decline in indie author sales and income, the underlying reason is a lack of genuine competition.
Take the long term view.
As the factors at play are out of the control of indie authors, the only logical answer is to be patient and ride out this current downturn and hope that it’s only a short-term glitch. After five or more years of steady growth, there is no need to believe that the sky is falling on self-publishing. But there is good reason to believe that at present, someone, somewhere is playing with the marketing levers.