Book Sales Fall For Some Amazon Self-Publishing Authors

Book Sales Fall For Self-Publishing Authors

Book sales fall for self-published ebooks, in particular. But Why?

After years of steady growth, ebook sales for indie authors have started to hit a problem.

The most recent data from Author Earnings in their latest quarterly report gives ample proof of the drop off in self-publishing sales and earnings.

While the data is clear, the reason or reasons why the number of books sold by indie authors has fallen so quickly is definitely not so clear.

What did book sales fall?

The long list of comments attached to the Author Earnings report gives rise to many possible scenarios.

But as the report and some commenters mention, the most likely causes are a change in algorithms by Amazon.

It could be a glitch in the Kindle Unlimited pay-per-page read program. Or a sudden change of marketing emphasis by Amazon.

There is also the possibility that Bookbub has added to the problem by accepting fewer self-published books to promote.

As I say, added to the problem, as I do not believe Bookbub is the root cause.


Markets will always fluctuate

Whatever the reasons, the bad news only relates to the last quarter, or perhaps a little longer.

But you have to expect ups and downs in any market.

Therefore, it is a good lesson to heed.

If you are publishing on Amazon, the market will always move. The reasons why it moves are completely out of the control of the authors.

Self-publishing is still very much in its infancy, and every participant is still learning, including Amazon.

Sure, it’s a given that Amazon was the real pioneer of self-publishing. It has helped so many authors by allowing them to self-publish.

They have their ebooks and books available for sale on Amazon, which is, of course, the largest ebook retailer in the world.

However, Amazon is not a charity. It is a business. And it will make business decisions that will not always be positive for its suppliers. Which, in this case, are authors with their books on Amazon.


Publish wide?

Business 101 says that you should never have your business controlled by one major supplier or one major customer.

In the case of many self-published authors, Amazon KDP or KDP Select is their only retailer and only publisher.

When Amazon changes its course or makes a business decision, business 101 says that your business is controlled by these decisions.

The need to diversify income sources and suppliers is always a better business model.

But in today’s ebook market, diversification is limited to only two aggregators, Smashwords and Draft2Digital, and a handful of retailers such as Apple, B&N, and Kobo.

Using these avenues is called publishing wide. But for a healthy competitive ebook market, it is not nearly wide enough to help Indie authors sell books.

If you write books and self-publish, you will know that Apple and Barnes & Noble are way behind Amazon in attracting ebook buyers.

Unfortunately, whatever the specific reasons are for the recent decline in indie author sales and income, the underlying cause is a lack of genuine competition.


Take the long-term view

The factors at play are out of the control of indie authors. So the only logical answer is to be patient.

You can try to ride out this current downturn and hope that it’s only a short-term glitch.

After many years of steady growth, there is no need to believe that the sky is falling on self-publishing. There are always plenty of people to buy books.

But there is good reason to believe that at present, someone, somewhere, is playing with the marketing levers.


Update: Author Earnings has recently closed down its site. So it is now even more difficult to find accurate data about Amazon ebook sales.

Update: From the feedback I have received from many authors, the problem of falling ebook sales on Amazon seems to have started in April 2019. 


More reading: My Books Aren’t Selling! – 10 Actions You Can Take

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

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26 thoughts on “Book Sales Fall For Some Amazon Self-Publishing Authors

  • Avatar for Holly
    November 8, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Figured out why the margin has been cut so drastically. This website states that now the 70% royalties that you get is also now including a download fee per mb. Delivery Costs are equal to the number of megabytes we determine your Digital Book file contains, multiplied by the Delivery Cost rate listed below. You need to hire an attorney to understand this now. US $0.15/MB CAD $0.15/MB R$0.30/MB UK £0.10/MB €0,12/MB €0,12/MB €0,12/MB INR ₹7/MB €0,12/MB €0,12/MB ¥1/MB MXN $1/MB AUD $0.15/MB

    We will round file sizes up to the nearest kilobyte. The minimum Delivery Cost for a Digital Book will be US$0.01 for sales in US Dollars, INR₹1 for sales in Indian Rupees, CAD$0.01 for sales in CAD Dollars, £0.01 for sales in GB Pounds, ¥1 in JPY, R$0.01 for sales in Brazilian Reals, MXN$1 for sales in Mexican Pesos, AUD$0.01 for sales in Australian Dollars, and €0.01 for sales in Euros, regardless of file size. For sales in JPY, we will not deduct any Delivery Cost for books 10 MB or greater.


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