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Discussion Starter #1
Article here: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/agents-fiction-ebook-sales-above-50-nonfiction-half-that/
reported by Mike Shatzkin
According to a panel of agents that spoke with Digital Book World partner and book publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin, sales of ebooks for fiction "more often than not" are more than 50% of total unit sales. For what Shatzkin calls "immersive nonfiction" (that is, nonfiction that is mostly text, not illustrated), ebook unit sales are at about 25% of the total.

It's illustrated titles that agents told Shatzkin are struggling - with usually under 10% of total unit sales for an illustrated book coming in ebook format.

Further, the agents who Shatzkin spoke with don't think ebooks are done growing, despite evidence in the marketplace that we've hit an inflection point in ebook growth.

Read more at his blog, The Shatzkin Files.
 

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Thanks for posting that. Excellent article. I am not sure the 50% isn't low since he admits indies are severely under-reported. I'm also skeptical that growth has slowed as radically as some stats would indicate. We may know more when the current season is reflected in what we're reading. If Christmas season ebook sales were flat or nearly flat, then they may have stalled. So far, that's not what I believe I am seeing--at all. But until they have some facility for factoring in indie sales I'll continue to take almost all reports with a bit of salt on the side.
 

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"But what the industry should be most interested in, which will be reflected in the next round of royalty statements agents see, is that ebook sales growth appears to have d*mn near stopped. As Michael Cader pointed out on Lunch, Random House UK indicated a 13% increase this year over last, which mirrors Barnes & Noble's reported rise of 13% in ebook sales in December."
D*mn near stopped? Thirteen percent is huge in any market. If it's 50% of total now, then a 13% increase took it from 44% of total to 50% of total. That is very good.
 

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Hugh Howey said:
I'm flying out in the morning to attend DBW in NY. I have a feeling there's going to be a LOT of excitement in the air at this year's conference.
Hugh,
Congrats on leading a session on self publishing at DBW. Wish I could be there to see it. Is your session going to be video'd?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hugh Howey said:
I'm flying out in the morning to attend DBW in NY. I have a feeling there's going to be a LOT of excitement in the air at this year's conference.
Can you update us on what others think, and give us your take on what the future holds? Thanks.
 

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One thing I think they tend to fail to take into consideration is the number of titles that still don't have ebook versions. Or the population that is cash only.

Pre-credit card teens and younger buy lots of titles for cash at local stores. Or read their books and ebooks via libraries. Because otherwise they are limited by what their parents buy for them.

The growth to this point has been absurd. Ebook will keep growing, but at this point will be slower since the vendors need to start considering different formats and payment methods to gain sales in the areas of some of the holdouts.


 

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Think about that 50% figure in context of royalties. Through traditional publishing, ebook royalties are 17.5%, right? Minus the agent's 15%? (I'm not a 100% sure of this, so correct me if I'm wrong.) So that works out to a net of a little less than 15% of the retail price, assuming no sales or discounts, which on a 9.99 ebook is roughly $1.50 per unit.

Then let's look at an indie selling their books at $4.99 for the same work. The rough amount they get paid per ebook is $3.25 (between all channels, etc.) or more than double the royalty for a book selling at half the price. You're going to have to sell a sh*t ton more paper units to end up in roughly the same place if ebooks are now 50% of traditional fiction writers sales. Or, to put it another way:

Twelve Shades of Purple Prose - sells 10,000 books traditionally published - 5,000 @ $9.99 ebook for $7,500 to the author, and another 5,000 paperback pays the author $6,795.05 for a total of $14,295.75. On the indie side, the same book selling half as much - 5,000 copies in ebook = $16,250 to the author.

So, uh...yeah. That Hugh Howey guy is looking smarter all the time for that print-only deal. This really is the greatest time to be a fiction writer, ever.
 

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We should remember that if something increases by 100 units per year, that fixed increase represents a smaller percentage increase each year.
 

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tensen said:
Pre-credit card teens and younger buy lots of titles for cash at local stores. Or read their books and ebooks via libraries. Because otherwise they are limited by what their parents buy for them.
This. I write YA that's pretty much non-crossover. Folks who write YA paranormal or edgier contemporary are seeing strong sales among adults, but the overwhelming majority of my readers (from what I can tell from reviews and fan mail) are actually preteens and teens, and that means that I don't see the ebook growth that many others do.
 

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Ah the folly of unsustainable growth numbers that mean absolutely nothing.  I always hated those quarterly earnings reports we would get from Dell.  Market share only grew by half a percent compared to a full percent this time last year.  Even though profits are up 1.4 billion compared to this time last year, no bonuses will be released as we missed our goals.  Also everyone's 401k is going to take a 5% hit as our stock price tanks on the news.
 

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Hugh Howey said:
I think so. It's going to be on the main stage. Looking forward to another panic attack!
Wow! That would be really scary.

Seriously, that's great. You're a fantastic representative for the indie community. Hope it ends up available. I'd love to see it.
 

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I like reading Shatzkin's stuff, but I rarely find anything he says to be actionable. As for book publishing statistics, the weasel words he used in his article show you just how unreliable they are. For now, I'll just keep publishing books in as many formats as I can and get them into as many markets as possible. Beyond that, people will buy them or they won't. If you already publish your book in print and digital formats, I'm not sure what else you need to do.
 
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