Self-published authors have found a way to actually make money

Do it yourselfie.
Do it yourselfie.
Image: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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The smell and heft of print books are hard to replace, so it’s no surprise that rumors have been circulating about the death of the no-good, unloveable, cold, glassy ebook. But despite claims of slumping ebook sales, two new reports show this simply isn’t true.

One new report from accounting firm PwC, released today, confirms that US ebook sales are holding steady and growing at about the same pace as print and audio books.

So why does everyone seem to think the e-book is dead? In large part because the authors whose ebooks are flourishing are self-published.

Industry data is generally collected from publishing houses, so if you look at just their sales data, ebook sales do seem to be down. Authors who publish on their own usually don’t figure into the numbers provided by major US industry organizations like the American Association of Publishers or Nielsen, two of the industry standards for sales data.

But a report released last week from the site Author Earnings, which tracks downloads on Amazon (which accounts for about 75% of all ebook sales), shows just how big self-publishing within the US ebook market has grown.

As the power of the “Big Five” publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster) in the US ebook market wanes, self-publishing authors have overtaken them in terms of unit sales.

And though Author Earnings shows that in terms of gross dollars made off ebooks, Big Five publishers do better than self-published authors, the site also shows that as a group, self-published authors are taking home more of the pie than those who publish with the Big Five.

A self-published author can make close to 70% off sales, while Big Five publishers give authors a much smaller cut, between 10 and 15% of list price for print. And because authors can make more off each book, they’re also free to lower the price of each title, which helps drive sales.

This post has been updated.