Those romance writers get all the cool statistics

Here is an extremely impressive presentation prepared for the Romance Writers of America about sales data. Warning: this is pretty long. You can download it as a pdf. Maybe I will, though I wouldn’t mind seeing all this data prepared for SFF as well. Let me see if I can hit some of the highlights …

Romance = about 4% of print sales (from Nielsen), but about 45% of ebook sales (

About 88% of all romance sales are ebook, and greater than 50% of romance ebooks are indie-produced.

From the comments on this post, here’s the breakdown of what was included in this analysis:

indie self-published……72,410…………..14,622
small/medium publisher….43,856……………9,227
amazon imprint………….2,040……………..752
big five published……..39,191……………5,189

The $262 million / year in ebook sales of romances from Amazon get divided up among 30,000 authors.

About 8.6% of the authors make over $10,000 per year. The rest of them make less than that. About 1400 authors make enough to theoretically live on — at least $25,000 per year. Of course a handful make a fortune.

There’s information about average sales, but this means mean sales, so in the comments The Data Guy cautions:

Because of the uneven way sales are typically distributed among book titles, it’s really only a small minority of titles in each category that typically account for the majority of sales, which means that the vast majority of titles in the category are earning significantly less than the category average.

It’s like that old joke: E. L. James walks into a bar, and suddenly everyone in there is on average a millionaire. 🙂

In the case of Romance Kindle sales, only 10% – 12% of the titles in each category are earning the average value shown or more.

Moving on —

Titles in Kindle Unlimited make 2.5x as much as those that aren’t. Hmm. Hmmmmmm. I haven’t tried Kindle Unlimited yet. Maybe I should give that some thought, one of these days.

Titles priced at $3.99 enjoy the best financial returns, especially for titles that aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. You can bet that will be on my mind as I set the price for BLACK DOG. I’m currently arguing with CreateSpace, which is causing me a persistent and really annoying problem that is too boring to discuss here. Anyway:

Sales of Big Five ebook titles fall of a CLIFF shortly after publication. Ugh, too bad. Small-press releases fall even faster and harder. Indie-released ebooks fall more slowly and continue earning a bit better than traditionally released titles over the long term. I presume this reflects more active marketing of Indie titles, but I don’t know.

Titles that are part of a series sell twice as well as titles that are standalone. No surprise there.

For series that include less than seven titles, having the first book be free is a money-losing strategy. Good to know!

So, this presentation — of lots of Powerpoint slides — is definitely worth a closer look if you happen to be interested in Indie publishing and sales figures.

In the comments, The Data Guy also offers some information about non-Romance genre fiction. Here’s what he says about SFF:

Daily Unit Sales:
— 47% Indie (Self-Published)
— 14% Small/Medium Publisher
— 10% Amazon Imprint (Thomas & Mercer, mostly)
— 20% Big Five
— 9% Uncategorized

Daily Author $ Earnings:
— 54% Indie (Self-Published)
— 13% Small/Medium Publisher
— 8% Amazon Imprint
— 18% Big Five
— 7% Uncategorized

Daily Gross Consumer $ Sales:
— 29% Indie (Self-Published)
— 18% Small/Medium Publisher
— 8% Amazon Imprint
— 34% Big Five
— 11% Uncategorized

So . . . wow.

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3 thoughts on “Those romance writers get all the cool statistics”

  1. Down in the comments there is a brief breakdown of SFF. The stats are pretty similar, though the total market is a good bit larger.
    Search the web page for “jeff” to find the summary.

  2. The Big 5 cliff on e-books could also be due to their pricing. Big fans buy what they have to have, and everyone else decides to try a less expensive book. For example: GGK’s new one has hardcover $16.07, kindle $13.99.

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