e-books

Dec 012011

September 2011 e-book sales: $80.3M

E-Book sales dipped a bit in September 2011, to $80.3M, but were more than double last year’s results, and were strong enough to carry e-books to a new record quarter of $251.7M in Q3, 2011. For the past 13 months:

  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0 M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8 M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M
  • June 2011: $80.2 M
  • July 2011: $82.6M
  • Aug 2011: $88.8M
  • Sep 2011: $80.3M

Q3 2011 e-book sales: $251.7M

The quarterly sales of just over a quarter of a billion dollars help push e-books to $727.7M for the first 9 months of the year, an increase of 137.9% over last year, and close enough that a strong holiday push could put e-book sales at a billion dollars for the year, as I predicted after February’s sales.

While the AAP frustratingly has become more stingy with its print book sales figures, they did provide percentages that I used to estimate print book sales for the month (fortunately, I keep a spreadsheet with each month’s figures going back to last year). The percentage changes for print books, and my estimates for Sep 2011 sales:

  • Adult hardcover: down 18.1%, est. $147.7M
  • Adult trade paperback: flat, est. $111.5M
  • Adult mass-market paper: down 54.3%, est. $31.0M
  • Young adult hardcover: up 2.1%, est. $78.2M
  • Young adult paperback: down 14.6%, est. $41.5M

Fairly brutal numbers across the board, with only a slight (2.1%) increase in young adult hardcover, flat adult trade paper sales, and decreases in the other categories, including a dramatic 54.3% decrease in mass-market paperback sales. People have said that mass-market paperback sales are the most susceptible to being replaced by e-book sales, since they are generally fiction novels that people read once and then discard or donate — as opposed to hardcovers that people like to display on their bookshelves. The numbers are bearing that out, as e-book sales, which just last year were below mass-market paperback, are now nearly triple. The AAP also pointed out that sales in all print trade segments were down for the 9-month period so far this year.

Based on those estimations, e-book sales accounted for 16.25% of combined print/e-book sales for the month, roughly double the 8.17% overall figure from 2010.

Oct 292011

Aug 2011 e-book sales rise to $88.8M

Clocking in with what many cultures will consider an auspicious number, August 2011 e-book sales increased to $88.8M, the second-highest month on record (behind only February 2011’s $90.3M). That marks an increase of 116.5% over last year. Meanwhile, according to the Association of American Publishers:

All trade print segments had a decline in August sales with the largest coming in mass market paperback where sales from reporting companies fell 36.4%. … Sales were off by double digits in all trade print segments in the January-August period.

Ouch. For those of you keeping score, e-book sales in the first 8 months of 2011 are up to $649.2M (an increase of 116.5% over last year, more than double). The AAP now only sporadicly reports print book sales figures, but based on percentages, mass-market paperback sales in August were about $34.9M, well under half of e-book sales.

For the past 13 months:

  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0 M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8 M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M
  • June 2011: $80.2 M
  • July 2011: $82.6M
  • Aug 2011: $88.8M

July E-Book Sales at $82.6M

Posted by Always Write at 1:02 PM Tagged with: ,
Oct 142011

July e-book sales came in at $82.6M, more than double the amount from July of last year, and slightly above June’s total of $80.2M.

July 2011 e-book sales: $82.6M

The recap for the past 13 months:

  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0 M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8 M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M
  • June 2011: $80.2 M
  • July 2011: $82.6M

Sadly, it seems that Publisher’s Weekly has stopped giving us much data regarding print book sales, making it harder to compare and analyze the data, as I am wont to do. All they provided this month was the adult hardcover figure, which was $91.2M. They did tell us that:

Despite the strong July performance, adult hardcover sales were down 17.8% for the seven month period, while e-book sales were up 152.8%, to $560.5 million. With the exception of adult hardcover, sales were down in all other print trade segments in July.

UPDATE: Undaunted, I went back and estimated sales based on the percent changes provided and my records of last year’s sales figures, and came up with the following chart of e-book sales as a percentage of total e-book plus print book sales.

Percentage of e-book sales to total print + e-book sales

The raw figures: 23.4% for January, 26.6% in February, 16.9% in March, 18.8% in April, 23.5% in May, and 26.9% in June. Note the huge bump just after the holidays (as people fill up the new e-readers they got as gifts), and then the reversion to the continuing upward trend thereafter.

June 2011 E-Book Sales $80.2M

Posted by Always Write at 12:24 PM Tagged with: ,
Sep 122011

June e-book sales are in, at $80.2M, which is a little below May’s $87.7M figure. Overall, sales so far in 2011 have been somewhat up and down, but each month has been consistently well above even the best month of 2010 (December’s $49.5M).

Monthly e-book sales. June 2011: $80.2M

To recap, the last 13 months of e-book sales data:

  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0 M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8 M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M
  • June 2011: $80.2 M

Quarterly e-book sales. Q2 2011: $240.7M

For the quarter, e-book sales came in at nearly a quarter of a billion dollars, at $240.7M. After last quarter’s $229.2M, e-books are not quite on pace to hit a billion dollars for the year. (Publisher’s Weekly says first-half 2011 sales total $473.8M, which is a little higher than adding all their monthly totals; they seem to add in some late-reporting sales or something.)

Sadly, PW also seems to have stopped providing as much detail on breaking down print book sales (hardcovers, trade paperbacks, etc.), although they did reveal that print book sales “plunged” in June, with trade paperback sales down a whopping 64%, adult hardcovers down 25%, and mass-market paperbacks down 22%. Certainly the closing of Borders stores has not been kind to print book sales. While they didn’t provide breakdowns, with those steep declines it’s hard to see any print categories beating out e-book sales in June.

UPDATE: Based on my comparisons to last year’s figures, we can safely estimate that even the largest print category (adult hardcover at roughly $55.6M) was well under e-book sales for the month. I’ve also dug up some 6-month figures for the first half of 2011; print books (all 5 trade categories) combined to total $1,672.2M for the year (compared to $473.8M for e-books), which means that e-books accounted for a record 26.9% of all print/e-book sales for the month, and averaged 22.1% for the first half of 2011.

So, you’ve written a book — congratulations! What now?

Unless you just want your book to sit on your hard drive or print it out to share with a few friends, you have two main choices: (1) write query letters to traditional publishers in the hopes they decide to publish you, or (2) self-publish, releasing your book on your own. This article focuses on the self-publishing option, and specifically self-publishing your work as an e-book through Smashwords (check here for tips on print self-publishing).

Once you upload your e-book (as a Microsoft Word document) to Smashwords, they will convert it for you into multiple formats, and then will not only sell it from their own site, but will distribute it to a growing list of e-book retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, Apple, and Diesel. The best part about this is that Smashwords doesn’t charge any up-front fees for conversion or distribution (they even give you a free ISBN, which is required to distribute through Apple), they instead keep 15% of the royalties you earn through sales. This allows you to get started with no out-of-pocket expense, and you can remove your books from distribution (or elect only certain channels) at any time. It is up to you to decide whether it is worth a 15% cut for Smashwords to convert your book for you, distribute it to multiple retailers, and consolidate your sales and payment reports in one place.

How to Get Started

The first thing you’ll need is a novel (or short story) in electronic format, probably in Microsoft Word. For purposes of creating an e-book, you generally want to strip out all the fancy formatting you might use in a printed book: get rid of fancy fonts (just put everything in Times New Roman), strange indents or block quotes, and weird symbols. You can keep bold and italics, and smart quotes and em dashes should translate properly, although they sometimes cause problems. It’s generally better to use first-line paragraph indents in Word (instead of hitting the tab key — and never use spaces to indent paragraphs). Do not leave blank lines between paragraphs, since some e-book readers add them and you’ll end up with triple spacing! The basic rule is: the simpler, the better. Various e-book readers will display your text in different ways, and users can adjust font sizes at will, so just forget about the idea of controlling every aspect of how the text will look and where pages within a chapter break (like you would in a printed book), and keep the formatting clean and simple. Do not use multiple line breaks, those look terrible on the screen — use a blank line and a row of asterisks to indicate chapter or section breaks instead.

The second thing you’ll need is a front cover, which should be in 2:3 ratio. It should be at least 800 pixels tall, although you’ll be using the same image (along with a spine and back cover) if you make a paperback, and that requires at least 300 dpi, so it’s best to make it high-resolution to begin with (1800×2700 pixels for a 6×9 paperback). Any interior art (like an “about the author” photo) should be black and white and at least 150 dpi. The less interior art, the simpler it will be.

Smashwords Formatting

Smashwords has an excellent free Style Guide that will help you prepare your Microsoft Word document for upload. It basically explains how to do what I said above: simplify and clean up your Word document, remove line breaks and extraneous formatting that translates poorly to e-books, etc. You can then upload your Word file and Smashwords will convert that file to all the e-book formats you need, including MOBI and ePub.

Like I said above, it definitely helps to keep your formatting simple, and follow the instructions in the Style Guide. E-book formatting can be an arduous process when you’re first learning, and it’s easier to follow the Style Guide instead of fighting it.

For a little more detail on a weird e-book formatting problem I had (which prevented my books from passing the dreaded ePubCheck), check out this post: Formatting for Smashwords and ePubCheck.

Conclusion

The simplest way to get your e-book distributed as widely as possible and looking pretty good is to: (1) read and follow the Smashwords Style Guide, (2) create a Word document with simple, clean formatting, (3) upload that Word document to Smashwords and let them convert it for you, and (4) enter your book’s information, description, price, etc. at Smashwords, and (5) opt in to all the distribution channels you want. You should end up with a nice-looking e-book, and it will be available on B&N, Kobo, Apple, Sony, and other e-book sellers. (At this time, Smashwords doesn’t distribute to Amazon or Google, although they have been working on Amazon distribution for a while. You can distribute directly to Amazon through their KDP platform.)

I do recommend the Smashwords service, and use it to distribute my own novels. Check them out on Smashwords here!

Jul 222011

The May 2011 e-book sales stats bring with them the announcement that, so far in 2011, e-books are the #2 format, behind only adult trade paperbacks, and ahead of both adult hardcovers and adult mass-market paperbacks. E-book sales are up 160.1% since last year, while adult trade paperbacks (-17.9%), adult hardcovers (-23.4%), and adult mass market paperbacks (-30.1%) all suffered double-digit declines from 2010. Year to date 2011 totals (with YTD 2010 numbers in parenthesis) are:

  1. Adult trade paperback: $473.1 M (576.4 M)
  2. E-Books: $389.7 M ($149.8 M)
  3. Adult hardcover: $386.2 M ($504.1 M)
  4. Adult mass-market paperback: $185.1 M ($264.8 M)

While the Association of American Publishers didn’t break down monthly sales figures this month, subtracting out previous months’ totals gives me an estimate of $87.7 M for May 2011 e-book sales (just behind February’s $90.3 M record). Adult trade paperbacks were $96.5 M, adult hardcover $82.9 M, and adult mass-market $33.1 M. (Note that their YTD totals and prior months’ sales don’t usually add up exactly; I assume they update and adjust prior month totals without telling us. But this estimate should be close.)

May 2011 e-book sales: $87.7 M

Those figures are strong, putting e-books very near a pace to hit $1 billion in sales this year (which I predicted after seeing the February figures). For review, the past 13 months of e-book sales:

  • May 2010: $29.3 M
  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8M
  • May 2011: $87.7 M

Very impressive that e-books have outsold both mass-market paperbacks and hardcovers over a 5-month period, industry-wide (Amazon announced several months ago that e-books had overtaken all print book sales through Amazon.com). In addition, these figures do not include independent author e-book sales (which are becoming more and more significant, with some indies selling over 1 million copies), and, by focusing on revenue, they understate the number of e-books sold when compared to print books that normally cost more per unit.

April 2011 E-Book Sales Stats

Posted by Always Write at 8:40 PM Tagged with: ,
Jun 252011

April 2011 e-book sales came in at $72.8M, slightly up from March’s $69.0M, but well below February’s record $90.3M (past months’ data can be found here). This is up 165.7% from last April’s total of $27.4M.

April 2011 e-book sales: $72.8M

Prior months’ totals:

  • Apr 2010: $27.4 M
  • May 2010: $29.3 M
  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0M
  • Apr 2011: $72.8M

In comparison to print, e-books were the #3 trade book format this month (they topped all formats back in February), behind adult hardcover and trade paperback, but still well over double adult mass-market paperback. For print:

  • Adult hardcover: $111.4M
  • Adult trade paperback: $95.9M
  • Adult mass-market paperback: $28.5M
  • Young adult hardcover: $41.2M
  • Young adult trade paperback: $36.8M

In total, e-books accounted for 18.8% of all trade book + e-book sales, down from nearly 30% in February, but still a healthy percentage that is more than double last year’s average of 8.2%.

May 202011

Fresh off impressive all-time high sales of $90.3M in February (which made them the highest-grossing format, ahead of hardcovers and trade paperbacks), e-book sales settled down to a more reasonably robust $69.0M for March of 2011. That’s very close to January’s $69.9M. As compared to March 2010, the March 2011 numbers are an increase of 142%.

This puts overall Q1 2011 e-book sales at a record $229.2M, an increase of 157% from the same period a year earlier.

As explained by the Association of American Publishers, the large January sales and huge February sales were a result of post-Xmas e-book buying:

According to publishers, these figures are consistent with seasonal buying patterns; in particular, a return to print editions after the post-holiday period of buying, or “loading,” of e-Books into e-reader devices.

This is no surprise; a very similar pattern emerged last year (although with a more even Jan-Feb-Mar distribution, without the huge February spike):

  • Jan 2010: $31.9 M
  • Feb 2010: $28.9 M
  • Mar 2010: $28.5 M
  • Apr 2010: $27.4 M
  • May 2010: $29.3 M
  • June 2010: $29.8 M
  • July 2010: $40.8 M
  • Aug 2010: $39.0 M
  • Sep 2010: $39.9 M
  • Oct 2010: $40.7 M
  • Nov 2010: $46.6 M
  • Dec 2010: $49.5 M
  • Jan 2011: $69.9 M
  • Feb 2011: $90.3 M
  • Mar 2011: $69.0M

Print books made a comeback, totaling $96.6M for adult trade hardcover sales, $115.9M for trade paperbacks, and $55.2M for mass-market paperbacks. Print books have sales surges before Xmas, and then a slow period after Xmas when publishers don’t release any big blockbuster titles. Thus, January and February are simultaneously the strongest months for e-books and the weakest months for print books.

One other note on March’s decrease from February’s sales: just like sales dipped to their lowest point of the year last April, the first month that 5 of the “Big 6” publishers raised e-book prices under “agency model” pricing, March 1 marked the date when Random House joined ranks and embraced the agency model as well. Is it a coincidence that we saw another large dip in sales that month? Will March 2011 remain the lowest point for e-book sales in 2011? Probably a good bet. (We got a good hint that April numbers should be strong when Amazon announced that its e-book sales overtook all print sales combined in April.)

Looking forward, I’d expect sales to rebound slowly over the next few months, and they probably won’t top February’s breakout numbers until the second half of the year. By the end of 2011, we should see even more $99 e-readers, perhaps a rumored Amazon tablet, a rumored B&N Nook Classic 2, and e-book sales in the $100M per month and 20-25% market share ranges.

May 192011

A few months after Amazon announced that its e-book sales overtook hardcover books, then paperback books, Amazon today announced that e-book sales on Amazon overtook all formats of print books combined — and that’s even excluding free Kindle e-books and including print books with no e-book counterparts.

From the Amazon press release:

  • Since April 1, for every 100 print books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.
  • So far in 2011, the tremendous growth of Kindle book sales, combined with the continued growth in Amazon’s print book sales, have resulted in the fastest year-over-year growth rate for Amazon’s U.S. books business, in both units and dollars, in over 10 years. This includes books in all formats, print and digital. Free books are excluded in the calculation of growth rates.
  • In the five weeks since its introduction, Kindle with Special Offers for only $114 is already the bestselling member of the Kindle family in the U.S.
  • Amazon sold more than 3x as many Kindle books so far in 2011 as it did during the same period in 2010.
  • Less than one year after introducing the UK Kindle Store, Amazon.co.uk is now selling more Kindle books than hardcover books, even as hardcover sales continue to grow. Since April 1, Amazon.co.uk customers are purchasing Kindle books over hardcover books at a rate of more than 2 to 1.

Pretty remarkable. Amazon is the world’s #1 bookseller, and is now selling more e-books than print books (5% more), and I’m sure the numbers will continue to shift even further in favor of e-books going forward. How long until Barnes & Noble releases a similar announcement? (We probably have a couple of years or so left for that one.)

Another interesting tidbit from the press release was the news that e-book sales in 2011 have tripled from 2010 numbers. The rate of e-book sales and market share increases shows no sign of slowing down.

Also of note: the $114 Kindle Wi-Fi with “Special Offers” (which I wrote about here) has overtaken the other Kindle versions to become the best-selling Kindle at Amazon. Perhaps not terribly surprising considering it is the least expensive version, but it does seem to show that a lot of people don’t mind ads on their Kindles and will accept them in exchange for a lower price ($25 off in this case).

(One last note: the Kindle store now stands at 950,000 e-books, closing fast on 1 million, which it should hit by July.)

Apr 202011

I recently purchased a Kobo Wireless e-reader as a backup and for my wife to use. As I mentioned in my review of it, it is generally a capable e-reader, but I prefer my Kindle 3. However, the Kobo has one feature that the Kindle currently lacks: it is compatible with the system OverDrive uses to enable library e-book lending. (Today Amazon announced that library e-book lending is coming to the Kindle later this year.)

Library e-book lending has several advantages — and several disadvantages — over borrowing a book from a traditional library. On the plus side, you don’t have to physically visit the library to browse or check out a book (although some publishers are pushing for this restriction!). Similarly, you don’t have to return the book — it will simply disappear from your e-reader when the lending period (usually 14 or 21 days) is over. Also, the e-book file you get will be pristine — no germs or markings or torn pages.

On the other hand, publishers insist on certain restrictions on e-book lending. First, just getting started is inordinately difficult, and probably impossible for people who aren’t tech savvy. In addition to getting a normal library card (lending is performed through the library you already belong to or may join), you also need to register online through your library and the OverDrive library system. Then, you need to download Adobe Digital Editions, which is the software that will authorize the e-books to be read on your e-reader. Then you need to sign up for an account with Adobe. Then you find and “check out” the e-book you want (this is the most straightforward part of the process), then download the file to Adobe Digital Editions, connect your e-reader, authorize it using the software, and (finally!) transfer the e-book over. No, your parents probably won’t be able to do all this on their own (well, unless your parents are way better with technology than mine are). 😉

Luckily, I am tech-savvy, so I tried the process out. Getting everything set up took an hour or so of fiddling around, downloading things, reading instructions, entering library card numbers, creating accounts, etc. Then I tried the two libraries I’m already a member of: my city library and the county library.

At the city library (which is the nicest library I’ve ever been to), things weren’t so good online. They don’t use OverDrive, but instead use a service called NetLibrary. The first thing I noticed about NetLibrary is that they wanted me to read e-books on my LCD computer screen, instead of the far superior (for reading) and more portable e-Ink screen of my e-reader. A bad start. It turns out they had a handful of e-books available for download to an e-reader, but they all seemed to be computer programming manuals. Bottom line: I couldn’t find one single e-book available for download that I had any interest in reading.

Next I tried my county library. Their website connected me to OverDrive, which seemed to have a better selection. However, as I searched for e-book after e-book, none of them were available. I finally found a few, but they were all in audiobook instead of e-book format. I eventually found a couple of titles that looked interesting, but all in all the selection was pretty desolate.

Finally, I tried the library system of the next county over. They also used OverDrive, and had a larger selection than the first two (each library maintains its own collection of e-book titles through OverDrive, so even though they use the same system, the selection at each individual library may vary greatly). I actually found a few e-books I was interested in checking out. But only a few: maddeningly, many of the ones I wanted were still available only as audiobooks, and a few series I wanted to read were missing the early books but had later books in the series.

In addition, due to restrictions placed on them by publishers, libraries can only loan each copy of an e-book they’ve purchased out to one person at a time. They have to wait until that copy is returned before lending it out again (they can, of course, purchase multiple copies). On the one hand, this restriction seems reasonable, although it simply copies the print book model when there’s no inherent reason to do so. (Why not allow unlimited check-outs, and just charge the library 50 cents per loan, for example? Or allow X loans per year but allow them to overlap?) In practice, this means that e-books you want to read may already be checked out, and you can be added to a waiting list and be notified when it’s your turn.

All in all, library e-book lending isn’t anything like the “free e-books forever” ideal many people might have in their head when thinking about the feature. It’s cumbersome to set up and use, and the selection (both due to books that are checked out and a limited selection of titles) is underwhelming. But it does work, and is another way to get free content onto your e-reader. My advice: check out the e-book selection at your local library (or any other library you can join; some will allow out-of-area residents to join for a fee) to see if they have books you’re interested in before buying an e-reader based on its ability to read library e-books.

© 2010 David Derrico