Self-Published Ebooks Are Nos. 1 and 2 Best-Sellers, Average Price Drops to All-Time Low

damagedPublishing industry professionals worried that the ebook era would precipitate a bevy of $0.99 self-published best-sellers may be seeing their nightmares come true today. The Nos. 1 and 2 best-selling ebooks this week are $0.99 self-published works: Damaged by H.M. Ward and The Bet by Rachel Van Dyken.

For the fourth time in 2013, a self-published ebook is No. 1.

“This is another benchmark moment,” said publishing consultant and DBW partner Mike Shatzkin. “The number of small- and self-published books achieving real commercial success will continue to rise; the gatekeeping role of established publishers will continue — gradually and then, sooner or later, suddenly — to fade to relative irrelevance. What’s the over-under for self-published titles in the top-10 by the end of the year? Three? Six? It surely is higher than two!”

While an impressive achievement, there are a lot of things that can propel a book to No. 1. And when it’s priced at $0.99, price is likely one of those things.

Even with the low price, the sales numbers are still eye-popping. The author of Damaged, Holly Ward (who writes under H.M. Ward), told Digital Book World that since the title was released on April 2 it has sold more than 150,000 copies (many of them at $3.99 — she dropped the price last week when she noticed her title climbing the Kindle best-seller list and wanted to see if she could push it to No. 1). In ten days, Van Dyken sold 85,000 copies of The Bet — that was as of early last week and she’s surely sold many more copies since then.

Perhaps more disconcerting for publishers is that unlike Dyken, Ward has never published with a traditional publisher. She has self-published about 25 titles and is now just starting to work with an agent to sell foreign rights and movie rights for her work, New York-based literary agent Jane Dystel who reached out to Ward after her book Scandalous hit No. 32 on the New York Times best-seller list in early Feb.

“Everybody needs to have some kind of protection and help,” said Dystel. “These are very talented writers who are getting into this business very quickly and with very little knowledge. Sometimes we only help them to sell their foreign rights, audio rights and sometimes movie rights. We’re here to offer advice and when they want to be involved with a traditional publisher – and Holly [Ward] does seem to – then we see what these opportunities are.”

In the past year, Dystel has brought attention to her agency, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, by working with rising self-published authors. She has helped more than half-a-dozen self-published authors sign deals with publishers this year, starting with Tracy Garvis Graves, who signed a seven-figure deal with Penguin in June 2012 after making On the Island an ebook best-seller. Dystel was also responsible for Tammara Webber’s two-book deal with Penguin in Oct. 2012 and Abbi Glines’ deal for her Seabreeze series with Simon & Schuster.

Related: Straddling the Models — Authors Choosing to Both Self- and Traditionally Publish

“She’s in sync with how I am and how I think and how I do things,” said Ward, who hasn’t yet signed a big deal with a publisher but has sold some foreign rights for Scandalous through Dystel.

As for the future of Damaged, Ward opted to keep her secrets.

“There are some things in the works but nothing’s there yet,” she said.

Related: Agent Jane Dystel Says That Agents Who Don’t Adapt Won’t Survive


Ebook Prices See Sharp Drop

Driven in part by $0.99 titles capturing the top-two spots on the ebook best-seller list, the average price of a best-selling ebook hit a new low this week of $6.93, down from $7.43 last week and the previous all-time low of $7.21 two weeks ago.

“The price drop of the best-seller list is at least as ominous for the established publishers as the presence of two self-published titles on the top rungs,” said Shatzkin.

See the rest of the the best-seller lists for the week ending April 21:

– Digital Book World Best-Selling Ebooks Priced $10.00 and Above
– Digital Book World Best-Selling Ebooks Priced $8.00 – $9.99
– Digital Book World Best-Selling Ebooks Priced $3.00 – $7.99
– Digital Book World Best-Selling Ebooks Priced $0.00 – $2.99

Read and comment on our methodology.

Top 25 Ebook Best-Sellers
Week Ending 4/21/13
Rank* Title Author Publisher  Price**  Change
1 (10) Damaged H.M. Ward Self-published  $    0.99 +9
2 (1) The Bet Rachel Van Dyken Self-published  $    0.99 -1
3 (n/a) Whiskey Beach Nora Roberts Penguin  $   14.99 New
4 (2) Six Years Harlan Coben Penguin  $   12.99 -2
5 (n/a) The Wanderer (Thunder Point) Robyn Carr Harlequin  $    1.99 New
6 (5) Alex Cross, Run James Patterson Hachette  $    7.49 -1
7 (6) Gone Girl: A Novel Gillian Flynn Random House  $   12.99 -1
8 (n/a) Bossypants Tina Fey Hachette  $    0.99 New
9 (4) The Misremembered Man Christina McKenna Amazon  $    2.00 -5
10 (9) The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel Matthew Quick Macmillan  $    4.99 -1
11 (24) Breath of Scandal Sandra Brown Hachette  $    2.49 +13
12 (3) Fever (The Breathless Trilogy) Maya Banks Penguin  $    9.99 -9
13 (8) The Hit David Baldacci Hachette  $   12.74 -5
14 (13) The Forgotten David Baldacci Hachette  $    4.99 -1
15 (n/a) Second Chance Boyfriend (Drew + Fable) Monica Murphy Self-published  $    3.99 New
16 (n/a) Starting Now: A Blossom Street Novel Debbie Macomber Random House  $   12.99 New
17 (n/a) Catching Fire (The Hunger Games Trilogy – Book 2) Suzanne Collins Scholastic  $    5.99 New
18 (14) The Host: A Novel Stephenie Meyer Hachette  $    3.99 -4
19 (21) Unintended Consequences (Stone Barrington) Stuart Woods Penguin  $   12.99 +2
20 (16) Don’t Go Lisa Scottoline Macmillan  $   11.08 -4
21 (n/a) The Black Box (A Harry Bosch Novel) Michael Connelly Hachette  $    4.99 New
22 (n/a) The Great Gatsby F.Scott Fitzgerald Simon & Schuster  $    8.07 New
23 (n/a) Say You’re Sorry (Joe O’Loughlin) Michael Robotham Hachette  $    2.99 New
24 (n/a) Taking Eve (Eve Duncan) Iris Johansen Macmillan  $    7.99 New
25 (11) Life After Life: A Novel Kate Atkinson Hachette  $    7.49 -14

* Previous week’s list rank in parentheses.
** Price reflects minimum price across all retailers throughout the week. Price may vary between retailers and may change throughout the week. Contact Iobyte Solutions for more information on e-book pricing.
Methodology available here.

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6 thoughts on “Self-Published Ebooks Are Nos. 1 and 2 Best-Sellers, Average Price Drops to All-Time Low

  1. Jack W PerryJack W Perry

    I enjoy the best-seller discussions and the additional data. Would it be possible to create a best-selling list based on $$$$ instead of units? Would give a different picture.

  2. Mike Cooper

    The problem, of course, is that at $0.99 each it’s really, really hard to make any significant money selling books. Difficult for the author, that is — Amazon does just fine, by skimming a little from each of millions of sales.

    Last year the average e-book earned just $297 in royalties. Data here: The obvious interpretation is that “publishing” and “earning” are now thoroughly separate events … except for a small number of bestsellers.

  3. Robert Gottlieb

    Here is the issue.

    The New York Times has a variety of lists for different formats.

    One cannot compare a mass market sales figure to a hardcover sales figure. They are simply apples and organges.

    So comparisions to sales figures of 99 cent books to more expensive books does not indicate to me and other professionals in the industry that it is truly a #1 book.

    Robert Gottlieb
    Trident Media Group, LLC
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    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      That’s why we segment lists by price point. We have lists for over $10, $8 to $10, $3 to $8 and $3 and below. If you want an indication of what’s selling in each of those price categories (the analogy being hardcover, paperback, etc), then click through to one of those lists.

      But if you want an indication of which books are selling the most copies (aka, what most people are reading), then go to the main list.

  4. Pingback: Apple Says It's Not an E-Book Crook as Price Fixing Trial Begins - TIME - Ag2 Literary Agency


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