Two months ago, I took a look at how many of the bestselling Kindle genre titles were self-published. I had two purposes in mind: first, to see whether there were any differences in the success of self-publishing between the big four genres (Romance, Mystery/Thrillers/Suspense, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy).

The second purpose was to provide some more data for the initial Author Earnings report. The report indicated that self-publishers were doing incredibly well within genre ebooks, but one of the more widespread criticisms was that the report was just a snapshot that might not represent anything more than that moment in time.

I thought that was a valid critique, but I also suspected it would prove false — Amazon is amazingly consistent from day to day and month to month, and the AE report looked at a substantial chunk of data. I was betting that later studies would show similar results.

Among the report’s conclusions was that genre fiction accounted for about 70% of all Kindle ebook sales, and that self-published titles accounted for roughly half of that. I used a different methodology, and a worse sample size, but when I checked in February, self-publishing’s share of the bestselling Kindle titles was as follows:

  • Romance: 49%
  • Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense: 11%
  • Science Fiction: 56%
  • Fantasy: 49%

Three of the four genres were roughly 50% self-published, with the glaring exception of the thriller market. Meanwhile, here was each genre’s overall share of the Kindle market (methodology explained in the original post):

  • Romance: 40%
  • Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense: 20%
  • Science Fiction: 5%
  • Fantasy: 6.33%

This added up to 71.33% of all Kindle ebook sales. I pulled my numbers a few weeks after the first Author Earnings report collected its data, yet my conclusions mirrored theirs: about 70% of all Kindle sales were in these four genres, and of those sales, close to half were of self-published titles.

It’s been two months since then. How do things look today? First, here are the four genres broken down by method of publication — self-published; through a small or medium press; Amazon publishing imprints; and by the Big 5, which includes major genre houses like Harlequin and Baen, where appropriate.

ROMANCE

  • Self-published – 59%
  • Small/medium – 3%
  • Amazon – 12%
  • Big 5 – 26%

MYSTERY/THRILLER/SUSPENSE

  • Self-published – 26%
  • Small/medium – 1%
  • Amazon – 15%
  • Big 5 – 58%

SCIENCE FICTION

  • Self-published – 53%
  • Small/medium – 7%
  • Amazon – 12%
  • Big 5 – 29%

FANTASY

  • Self-published – 45%
  • Small/medium – 6%
  • Amazon – 8%
  • Big 5 – 41%

There are a few differences between the first grab and this one. The percentage of bestselling self-published romance titles is up by a good percentage. Thrillers are way up, more than double the initial look. Meanwhile, self-published sci-fi and fantasy titles are slightly fewer. Amazon’s publishing imprints are up, representing just under 12% of the total, compared to a little over 9% the first time.

I wouldn’t draw too much from any of these changes, though. You can hardly conjure a pattern out of two whole samples drawn from a methodology that’s prone to variance. What’s most interesting to me here is how little is different: in three of the four major genres, self-published titles still represent about 50% of the bestsellers. Thrillers continues to lag behind, but this month’s look suggests it’s not quite as tough for self-published titles to compete as the original breakdown suggested.

Okay, so what about the genres’ overall market share? Here’s how it breaks down this time:

  • Romance – 35.2%
  • Thrillers – 26%
  • Science Fiction – 5.4%
  • Fantasy – 6.4%

This adds up to 73% of overall Kindle ebook sales. Crazy.

Compared to February, sci-fi and fantasy are essentially the same. Romance is somewhat smaller, but thrillers are up by a decent percentage.  As before, however, I wouldn’t try to read patterns in the differences — I’m not at all sure that romance sales are actually down. The sample sizes involved make this part of the data prone to a fair amount of variance.

Again, what’s most interesting to me isn’t the differences.  It’s how similar these numbers are a full two months later — these four genres continue to comprise ~70% of Amazon’s ebook sales, and roughly half of those sales are of self-published books.



The official site of science fiction and fantasy author Edward W. Robertson.

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