Ebook MarketView: Examining Agency-Model Publishers’ Share of Bestseller Lists

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Dan Lubart, Iobyte SolutionsBy Dan Lubart, Principal, Iobyte Solutions, with Anne Kostick

[Ed.: Commenters have noted how hard it can be to get a handle on the current state of ebook sales from the shifting and volatile information available to us. Digital Book World is pleased to offer weekly reports from Dan Lubart’s eBook MarketView, to help us see what stories the actual data has to tell. Using a proprietary market analysis tool, Dan pairs publicly available data from multiple ebook retailer bestseller lists with analysis and visual presentation to help publishers identify and understand emerging patterns.]

If following ebook bestsellers is like announcing a horse race, then independent, self-published titles had the inside track early in 2011. The “agency-model” publishers’ share of the Kindle bestseller list from December 2010 into February 2011 declined steadily; the Nook list’s agency share held more or less firm after an initial January drop.

That early start, if it continued, would have been bad news for mainstream publishers; with individual titles, visibility on bestseller lists is critical for sustained sales. But since mid-April, agency-model publishers’ share of both lists has held steady, even improving for short intervals, indicating that we may have reached a stable point for now.

Agency Share of Ebook Bestseller List In this first chart, the most glaring feature that stood out early was the rapid decline of this share on Kindle in December into early January. Note: The Kindle share includes Random House even before March 1 to provide consistency.

But the story is much different on the Romance genre bestseller lists. Since March 1, 2011, there has been a pronounced shift on both retailers’ Romance lists away from agency titles. Looking at the second chart, you can see that the average combined share of both lists for all agency publishers is halved, from roughly 30 to 15 titles in this period.

This drop may be mostly explained by the rise in the average price of agency titles on this list, including but not limited to Random House’s changes after March 1. One item of note is that Harlequin (not an agency-model publisher) has also slowly lost share of the list as its average price climbed over the past few weeks. It is difficult to determine exactly, but self-published titles may account for up to half of the Romance bestseller list on Kindle today where exactly 50 of the 100 titles on the list are priced below $3 for an overall average price of $4.15 (as compared to 35 on the bestseller list; overall average price of $7.17).

As we round the first turn, then, it looks as if the agency-model titles on general bestseller lists are finding their equilibrium. In addition, buyers seem fairly insensitive to certain price gaps and are even willing to pay premium prices. Meanwhile, Romance is continuing to reward inexpensive titles with success, and it becomes increasingly challenging for premium titles to succeed there.

Dan Lubart is the principal at Iobyte Solutions, an IT strategy firm with a specialty in publishing and entertainment media. Iobyte’s eBook MarketView tool enables publishers, authors, agents and others to study the dynamics of the ebook retail marketplace in various ways. Dan blogs at eBook MarketView.

Dan Lubart

About Dan Lubart

Dan Lubart is a technology strategist and data junkie who founded Iobyte Solutions in 2000 following a previous decade of solo consulting. Dan currently works with HarperCollins as S.V.P. of Pricing and Sales Analytics while concurrently managing Iobyte and the eBook MarketView service providing retail data and analytics on both physical and ebooks. Still fairly new to the publishing industry, Dan has been involved with digital disruption in the past, spending a year at Universal Music Group right around the time Napster was rearing its head and now focuses mainly on the familiar challenges and opportunities of the eBook marketplace. With Iobyte, Dan also developed a very cool consumer learning site for Scholastic, and has consulted with major clients in banking, pharmaceuticals, retail and media. Follow him at his website and on Twitter.

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9 thoughts on “Ebook MarketView: Examining Agency-Model Publishers’ Share of Bestseller Lists

    • Thanks, Jack and yes to your first question. The big 6 (Harper, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan, Random House and Simon) are the only publishers that are on the agency model (set their own prices for eBooks). All retailers need to respect those prices although some are a little slower to update prices on their websites than others so you may see different prices temporarily from time to time.

      I expect to be looking at other categories in a similar fashion and in more detail soon. Romance stands out for now as being the most affected by self-published titles but there are plenty of other stories in the data. I would love to hear from you and others as to what interests you, thought and I will try to address any requests in subsequent articles.

  1. Hallo,
    ich bin Buchautor von fünf ebooks in Germany. Auch bin ich ihnen bei Twitter gefolgt. Leider ist mein Englisch nicht so gut um ihre Videos vollständig zu verstehen. Ihre Internetseiten habe ich mir mit dem Google Übersetzer angesehen. Ich finde ihre Arbeit sehr Interresant.

    Frage: Kann ich meine ebooks über ihre Agency publsher Argentur International vermarkten. Wenn ja wie?
    Vielleicht währe auch eine Antwort von Ihnnen in Germany Language möglich.

    Weitere Informationen zu meinen ebooks finden Sie auf meiner Internetseite.

    Herzliche Grüsse.

    Franz J Bingenheimer

    • Franz,

      Ich bin mir nicht sicher, ob ich Sie auf, wie am besten ebooks verkaufen beraten. In den USA Agentur-Modell ist nur für die sechs größten Verlage. Alle anderen Sätze Preise, sondern die Einzelhändler wie Amazon letztlich kontrollieren, was der Verbraucher sieht. Ich bin sicher, es gibt Platz besser beraten lassen können. Ich habe bereits Google Übersetzer rückgängig zu machen, damit ich hoffe, es ist lesbar genug. Viel Glück.


      • Hallo Dan,

        herzlichen Dank für ihre Information! Ich werde weiterhin Ihrer Internetseite folgen. Wenn auch das englisch lesen für mich etwas beschwehrlich ist. Doch der Google Transleter ermöglicht mir den Sinn ihrer Texte zu gut erfassen.

        Alles Gute und viel Erfolg mit ihrer Agenci Agentur wünscht Ihnen.


      • Hallo Dan,

        herzlichen Dank für ihre Information! Ich werde weiterhin Ihrer Internetseite folgen. Wenn auch das englisch lesen für mich etwas beschwehrlich ist. Doch der Google Transleter ermöglicht mir den Sinn ihrer Texte gut erfassen.

        Alles Gute und viel Erfolg mit ihrer Agenci Agentur wünscht Ihnen.


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