I got curious recently, and poked at some numbers for ebook sales. I often wonder whether there’s value in not caving and using Amazon exclusively. Amazon has some perks for people who only publish ebooks through them. You appear in Amazon Unlimited, Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, and get better royalties in some international markets.
But I’ve avoided doing it because it means aiding a monopoly, and it doesn’t sit right for me.
I’ve generally known that my stuff on Amazon sells better, but I don’t usually bother do do an extensive comparison. But here’s a look at 2016 numbers. I’m sharing it here in case anyone is curious.
There are two main places my books get sold through.
- Smashwords distributes out through over a dozen ebook markets, most of which I haven’t heard of. But it covers B&N, Kobo, Apple, and Scribd. They say they distribute to Amazon, but it comes with a huge caveat. Things have been on hold “temporarily” while they work out some technical issues to handle bulk upload to Amazon. This has been “temporarily” on hold since I started publishing with them in five years ago. Currently they only distribute books to Amazon that have earned at least $2,000. (And, in five years of publishing with them, I don’t think that I’ve earned $2000 off of all my books combined, let alone for a single one.)
- And then there’s Amazon’s Kindle Direct Press (KDP).
Before I get into numbers, I do have some caveats.
- When I first announce a book on social media, I used to link to a page or post that would have links to all the vendors. Since there has always been a disparity between the two, I have instead linked directly to Amazon in hopes of streamlining sales. I don’t know that that has had any significant impact on it, though. But in the interest of full disclosure, I felt I should mention it. Because my advertising budget is so (relatively) small, I don’t think I’m really skewing things.
- This does not include any other routes that people get our ebooks: Patreon, Kickstarter, or Channillo. It also doesn’t include any of our print sales through Createspace or at events.
At the end of 2016, we had 33 books available for sale. 23 anthologies of other people’s writing, two books by Dawn, and eight books by me.
On Smashwords, we sold 48 books in 2016. That averages out to a little over 1 copy of each book in a year. Most of these books are sold through either Apple, B&N, or Kobo.
On Amazon, we sold 302. An average of 9 of each book.
Turning it another way, here are the royalty payments for 2016. This isn’t a perfect overlap with my book numbers. The book counts are all based on when the books sold. The payouts are at least a month later. For Smashwords, maybe more. It’s not super easy for me to quickly pull that data so it matches up perfectly, so I didn’t bother. It’s good enough for government work. (I would know, because I’m a government employee.)
Smashwords paid out $98 last year. Amazon paid out $489.
Again, there’s probably some increase due to my shift to focusing things a little more towards Amazon. But these numbers look pretty typical for what’s been happening for the last several years with or without my marketing. Because, seriously? I’m not exactly a marketing whiz.
The thing that always stands out for me with this is that the Smashwords portion represents several markets. With lackluster marketing all around, my Amazon sales vastly dwarf my sales on the other noteworthy ebook markets (and some very not noteworthy ebook markets). It makes my “moral stance” regarding Amazon’s monopoly feel small and hollow.
What do I do with this information? I don’t know. All told, I made $700 on ebook says last year off of 33 books. That’s not raking in the dough. Even if going exclusively Amazon would somehow get me double that amount of money, it’s still not going to let me quit my day job. Especially since production costs basically eat up everything I might earn.
But it’s interesting to note at least.