Sometime ago there was only one list, and not surprisingly it was dominated by free books. Amazon corrected this to make two lists, one for free one for paid. Once this happened, the list was dominated by traditional publishers most selling their books in the $7.99 - $9.99 range with a few at the $11.99 and $12.99 price points.
I’m going to regularly analyze and post the results of the top 50, which by their very nature have to be snapshots (but they don’t change all that much day to day). To see who was on the list as of this analysis see the screenshot below. This is a bit hard to read (even when blown up) so a better representation can be found here.
First I’m going to remove any “non book” entries. This includes games, magazines, shorts, and newspapers. This leaves us with 43 titles – heavily dominated by fiction
- 2 of 43 Non-fiction (4.7%)
- 41 of 43 Fiction (95.3%)
This is not surprising considering this is for an ebook but is definitely not indicative of book sales overall where non-fiction generally outperforms on a 3:2 basis.
Next let’s look at traditional verses independents. This list was virtually devoid of any offering except those that had the backing of bookstore sales for their print editions. This is certainly no longer the case.
- 17 of 43 Independents (39.5%)
- 26 of 43 Traditional (60.5%)
That’s quite an accomplishment that shows that you don’t need a traditional publishers to sell a ton of books. How much is a ton? Well anyone on this list is selling tens of thousands of books. At current sales levels a ranking of 30 – 35 is selling about 1,000 books a day. This is based off of Victorine Lieskie’s sales numbers. I suspect the scale is somewhat logarithmic which means that people ranked in the top 10 are doing substantially more than 3 times those at 30.
Unfortunately, indies are getting these sales at a cost – mainly price. Of the indies listed:
- 13 of the 17 (76.4%) price their books at $1.00 or less
- 4 priced at $2.99 (3 of which are sequels to a $0.99 book
I'd like to use Stephen Carpenter at #20 as an example. I’m going to guess he sells about 1500 books a day and his per book profit is $3,139.50 which is about $94,185 a month. Even if I’m wrong and say worse case he sells 1,000 books a day (he has to be doing more than that because he is ranked higher than Vicki who was selling 26,000 books a month) that comes out to $2,093 a day which is $62,790 a month.
For those selling for $0.99 they only make $0.35 so for those selling 10,000 a month (probably about right at the 50 ranking) they make $3,500 and at 30,000 a month they make $10,500. Good money to be sure but it doesn’t take a genius to see how much more successful Stephen Carpenter is and again I give him a tip of the hat for bucking the bargain basement mentality.
One problem with the $0.99 bestsellers is it’s difficult to know who is reading the books and who is merely buying them like pebbles on the beach. Without Question Amazda and John Locke are gaining true readers as evidenced by multiple books on this list. Having multiple books available is good for sales for both Independents and Traditional Published Authors and there are many with multiple books on the list:
- Amanda Hocking: 5 books
- John Locke: 5 books
- Suzanne Collins: 3 books
- James Patterson: 3 books
- Stieg Larson : 3 books
- Susan Wiggs: 2 books
Using price to gain readers is a long tradition with independent authors but starting at the end of 2010 we saw traditional publishers dropping prices as well. The #1 best seller is a traditionally published book at $0.99 (I suspect in order to make the new NYT ebook bestseller list) prior to December 2010 I did not see much in the way of prices below $6.99 for traditionally published books I now see the following:
- Only 1 out of 26 at $0.99 (3.8%)
- 7 out of 26 in the “bargain category” of $3 - $5 (26.9%)
- 13 out of 26 in the “traditional price” of $5.50 - $9.99 (50%)
- 5 out of 26 at the “high end” above $10 (19.2%)
What does all this mean? Well first off it proves that you don’t have to be traditionally published to move a lot of books. Secondly, New York publishers are making in roads into lower priced books (though most seem to think that $5 is the floor).
My prediction is that the top 100 will become more and more inundated with low cost books which may mean some danger signals for those that are going indie and trying to sell at a decent price. I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon doesn’t split the list again into three categories: free, bargain ($3 or less), and standard. Personally, I think this would be a good thing for both buyers and sellers as I think there is a core group of readers who focus on the low price reads and having a list exclusively for this segment would mean they can find a larger number of them more readily. It will also help NY as their books won’t have to compete with the people who are pricing their books in a race for the bottom.
I’ll keep you posted as more results are available.
NOTE: I mistakenly thought Stephen Carpenter's book sold at $3.99 it is a $2.99 book so I adjusted this post.