Author Earnings Report For 2017 (April – December)

The Author Earnings report came out recently for most of 2017. Traditional book sale tracking (Bookscan, PubTrack, AAP) misses about 2/3 of US consumer ebook purchases – mostly because the vast majority of ebooks are published without ISBN numbers. Author Earnings does not miss them. And, now they have improved their system substantially and their reporting is better than ever (which is why the 2017 reporting doesn’t cover the entire year).


  • Amazon alone sells 45.5% of all printed books (including bookstore sales). This is up from 2016 and 2016 was up from 2015. Bookstore sales (new books) continue to decline.
  • 55% of all online unit sales are ebooks. 6% are audiobooks. The remainder, 39%, are printed. However, if you take out textbooks, academic titles, children’s board books and coloring books, it’s a very different story.
  • 70% of online purchases of adult fiction and non-fiction are ebooks.
  • Romance: 90% ebooks. Sci-fi & Fantasy: 75% ebooks.
  • Poetry: 82% printed. Drama & Plays: 85% printed
  • Ebook sales show little seasonality. Print sales spike dramatically in August / September (textbooks) and December.
  • 25.6 % of ebook unit sales are from the big 5 publishers. They represent 43% of the dollars (the big 5 dramatically overprice their ebooks relative to their hardcover and paperback versions. Ask yourself why they do that?). 17% of unit ebook sales are self-published with an imprint (I guess saying my books are published by Voice Of Doom And Gloom Publishing is not fooling anyone!). 18.9% of unit ebook sales are self-published without an imprint. Micro-Small-Medium-Large trade publishers combined account for 13.9%.
  • Self-published ebooks are up 2.1%. Big 5 publishers are up 1.1%. These numbers are in dollars. Remember how overpriced the big 5 are, so self-published units are way up relative to the big 5.
  • Unit sales by price point: #1 is $0.99, #2 is $3.00 – $3.99, #3 is $2.00 – $2.99, and #4 is $4.00 – $4.99. The other price point segments drop off dramatically.
  • The top ebook genre is “Literature & Fiction.” But, I think that is misleading. I suspect a lot of authors do not know where to categorize their books and a whole bunch end up in this bucket that probably belong in another category. Here is the top ten: Literature & Fiction (70,610,173 units), Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (35,429,137 units), Romance (50,957,116 units), Sci-fi & Fantasy (18,996,783 units), Business & Money (4,194,976 units), Religion & Spirituality (6,455,761 units), Teen & Young Adult (7,230,307 units), Biographies & Memoirs (4,567,017 units), Health, Fitness & Dieting (4,076,865 units), and History (3,931,305 units).


There’s more to the report. If you want to read the whole thing, you can find it here.

1 thought on “Author Earnings Report For 2017 (April – December)

  1. Thank you for this, Kevin. Great post! With traditional publishers the ebook price is likely to account for payments to middlemen (and women), the publishing house, agent, and seller such as Amazon. Also, for the rarified air of Rowlings and Kings, people will pay a much higher price. For self pub ebooks, definitely the lifeblood of self-publishers, with only a seller middle-person, a $2.99 price on Amazon gets the author 70 percent, or about the same royalty payment for a $20 print book via traditional publishing. This raises a point and a question: self pub authors pricing their ebooks for too much more than $2.99, let’s say five bucks and up, come off a bit greedy; and why would anyone go traditional with these numbers? I, for one, still do want to go traditional. Why? The topic of a discussion, right?

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