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Seeing a Sudden Drop in Sales of Your eBook?

eBooks and Publishing

This is based only on anecdotal information from half a dozen writers or so, but some of us are seeing a sudden, sharp drop-off in sales of eBooks on Amazon over the past couple of weeks. However, I have a hard time imagining that this is a reader trend. In the absence of some major, disruptive event, it seems to me that if the general public were to change its opinion on eBooks, it would do so gradually and noisily rather than suddenly and silently.

I’ve heard speculation that Amazon may have changed some of their algorithms governing which Kindle books are shown in “also bought” categories and the like. I have no evidence that anything like this has happened, but it would fit the pattern if author-publishers suddenly saw a drop-off in sales because Amazon had changed something that (intentionally or not) favored books that sold a lot of copies and/or that came from major traditional publishers. I worry that some kind of deal may have been cut, especially as I know major publishers are desperate for eBook profits these days, what with other formats all dropping in popularity while eBooks continue to rise, and as Amazon is clearly dependent on major publishers for most of their popular book content.

All of that is nothing but speculation, of course. If it’s true, it still doesn’t signal the end of the eBook selfpub revolution–but it sure would make an already taxing process much more difficult. If major traditional publishers do ultimately come out on top and completely squeeze out author-publishers, then the new make-a-living-as-a-writer model may be pretty much the same as the old make-a-living-as-a-writer model: sell to an agent who works with a major publisher who publishes the book and gives you some or all of the royalties that are due to you. One improvement, however, would be that if many of the copies sold as eBooks, the writer would receive a much larger portion of the sales price–not nearly as much as they would realize as an author-publisher on a copy of the same book, but if major publishing houses can sell many more copies, the likelihood that a good writer can support her- or himself might go up rather than down.

It’s hard to know what to hope for: I’ve been envisioning tiny author-publisher empires in which we writers are happily giving our readers new books at good prices as we finish them, rather than being stuck in the slow and sometimes painful traditional publishing process. However, large eBook retailers are empowered to squeeze author-publishers out because we need them and they don’t especially need us, apart from a minority of especially successful eBooks for which they might make exceptions.

How are your sales? Am I Marsh-wiggling this whole topic? If your sales have dropped off, do you have any speculations to advance?

Photo by m.prinke



  1. Patty Jansen  •  Sep 27, 2011 @6:04 pm


    I don’t know that I am much in favour of the theory that Amazon has done something. I think this:
    The major demographic of book buyers are middle-aged women…
    some of whom ar elosing their jobs, some of whom have husbands who’ve lost their jobs, many of whom are staring at massive negative values of their retirement savings (aka stock market crash), many of whom also face increasing bills for the education of their children, and who have bought Kindles and splurged massively in the previous months. They have ebooks coming out of their ears, they’re nervous about their finances, and they’re not in the mood to buy.
    Don’t worry. They’ll be back.
    Strangely enough, after a pretty abysmal August, September looks to shape up much better, but the release of the new novella could also have something to do with that.

  2. Voyle  •  Dec 7, 2012 @5:42 pm

    I’ve seen a very sudden (like this month) decrease in sales of my books. My sales were rising since the beginning of the year and doing good until December. It’s almost like my books no longer exist in the world of Amazon. Prior to that, they’d been selling very good without any artificial assistance (like buying reviews, etc). Lends credence to what you’re saying here, Luc

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