New analyses explode the secrets of the publishing industry

That’s a rather dramatic title, but I’m tired of the representation of data in the publishing area – analyses that claim to show this or that but don’t actually include Amazon data. Hello? Amazon sell the bulk of books. This misrepresentation isn’t necessarily the analysts’ fault – Amazon tries to shield its data from others. Well, Konrath, Howey and associated data gurus have cracked the lid, just a little, and the result is huge. This takes some reading and thinking time. There are also links that are slow due to the numbers of people looking, but, oh boy, is it worth it.


About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first book, 'Sleight of Hand' is available on Amazon at

8 responses to “New analyses explode the secrets of the publishing industry”

  1. Susan Illene says :

    I read through the post and found it very interesting. Like you, I’ve been frustrated with how much sales data is left out of other types of surveys. Self-published authors are almost always excluded. I think the statistics Konrath, Howey, etc put together give us a fresh perspective to consider. Indie authors aren’t nearly as insignificant as publishers would like the public to believe. I’m definitely one of those authors who might not be a best seller, but manages to make enough income to support myself just with my book sales alone. There are plenty more like me and I think that percentage of writers is growing.

    The best part about this is that it isn’t about the money as much as being able to focus my time on writing, rather than splitting it with another career. You have to make a certain amount of income to do that and it’s extremely difficult if you go the traditional publishing route. I really believe this is a great time for authors!

  2. Mark Henwick says :

    A couple of interesting items in the comments here, thanks, Susan and Sandra.
    What is a ‘best seller’? Not always what the traditional publishing houses and NYT list tell us – given they don’t use Amazon data and don’t count returns. How should we define best seller (if we have to)?
    Favourite genres – Traditional publishing houses used to dictate genres, basically limited by the restrictions of physical bookshops. But what does genre mean now for readers? Do we define our own sub-genres as readers by our search characteristics on Amazon?
    Greater choice – there have been comments about the average quality of books dropping due to unregulated self publishing. Shock! It’s terrible. How will we be able to find good books in all the rubbish? Okay, you’ve bought a couple of $2.99 lemons, but are you folks out there really unable to find good books?

    • Richard says :

      the interesting thing is that the publishing houses are pricing thier authors out of the market. I’m seeing more and more $8-$10 kindle books by favorite “best selling” authors. I also made the mistake of thinking a UK author must be good because of the price, lemons can be expensive too.

      sadly I will pay $6 for any good book (including yours) but I just can’t fathom paying more for a kindle book than I would for a paperback at the grocery store.

  3. soireadthisbooktoday says :

    Reblogged this on So, I Read This Book Today . . . and commented:
    Great new information on Indie Publishing vs. Publishing Houses. Thanks to Mark Henwick and JA Konrath!

  4. Jonathon says :

    I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but good topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning much
    more or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic information I was looking for this info for my mission.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Hi Jonathon

      I must apologize – my spam filter ate your comment and I only just spotted it! Sorry. In future your comments should come through.

      The links come from the blogs of Hugh Howey and Jake Konrath. The data they have gathered is produced by ‘spiders’ – bots that crawl the net and analyse the text that they find. In this case, they’ve pointed their spiders at Amazon. Now the Amazon sites don’t publish full data, especially on sales, but they do publish rankings. The rankings are manipulated by Amazon algorithms, so for instance, on Monday, a long term best seller is ranked high above a new book, even though they sold the same number that day. But by Friday, if they continue to sell the same numbers, their rankings get closer and next week closer still. New books get thrown in at mid ranking positions. etc etc. The point is that you can approximate sales over time with reasonable accuracy by following rankings.

      So Howey and a guy who is only referred to by the name “Data Guy” set up a program that chomps through the daily ranking numbers and turns that into approximate sales over time by book and author and publisher. And from that comes the graphs and insight into publishing secrets.

      I find it all very engaging! I’m glad that my passing it on has helped you.

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