Self-Published Title Tops Best-Seller List Again: The Bet by Rachel Van Dyken

the betFor the second time this year, a self-published title has risen to the top of the ebook best-seller list, beating books from established publishers.

The Bet by Rachel Van Dyken was the best-selling ebook in the U.S. last week. At $0.99 a copy, it’s unlikely that it generated more revenue for Van Dyken than Six Years by Harlan Coben (the No. 2 book this week) generated for Penguin.

Let’s do some napkin math. Let’s say that Six Years sold 10,000 ebook copies last week, generating $129,900 in revenue. Because Penguin still seems to be operating under its old agency contracts, it should receive about 70% of that revenue, or $90,930. For ebooks sold under $2.99, most retailers pay 30% or so of sale price to the publisher. So, how many copies of The Bet would Van Dyken have had to sell to equal the same amount of revenue as Six Years? Some 306,162.

This is not to downplay in any way Van Dyken’s accomplishment. It’s meant to uncover the economics of competition between ebooks sold for more than $10 and those sold for under $2.99.

This competition may not be too relevant for much longer. There are fewer $10 and $8.00 to $9.99 ebooks becoming best-sellers than any time in the past year. The average price of a best-selling ebook ticked up this week to $7.43 from an all-time low last week of $7.21; in the past year, since we’ve started tracking the average price of an ebook best-seller, it’s been a march to under $8.00.

The economics of competition between ebooks are changing: when it comes to price that consumers pay and rewards that publishers reap.

Related: Story of First Time a Self-Published Author Hits No. 1 on the Ebook Best-Seller List

See the rest of the the best-seller lists for the week ending April 14:

– 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 4/14/13
Rank* Title Author Publisher  Price** Change
1 (17) The Bet Rachel Van Dyken Self-published  $    0.99 +16
2 (4) Six Years Harlan Coben Penguin  $   12.99 +2
3 (3) Fever (The Breathless Trilogy) Maya Banks Penguin  $    9.99
4 (n/a) The Misremembered Man Christina McKenna Amazon  $    2.00 New
5 (5) Alex Cross, Run James Patterson Hachette  $    7.49
6 (7) Gone Girl: A Novel Gillian Flynn Random House  $   12.99 +1
7 (12) The Wanderer (Thunder Point) Robyn Carr Harlequin  $    1.99 +5
8 (n/a) The Hit David Baldacci Hachette  $   12.74 New
9 (14) The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel Matthew Quick Macmillan  $    4.99 +5
10 (n/a) Damaged H.M. Ward Laree Bailey Press  $    0.99 New
11 (20) Life After Life: A Novel Kate Atkinson Hachette  $    7.49 +9
12 (6) Three Sisters (Blackberry Island) Susan Mallery Harlequin  $    5.49 -6
13 (16) The Forgotten David Baldacci Hachette  $    4.99 +3
14 (1) The Host: A Novel Stephenie Meyer Hachette  $    3.99 -13
15 (11) The Burgess Boys: A Novel Elizabeth Strout Random House  $   12.99 -4
16 (n/a) Don’t Go Lisa Scottoline Macmillan  $   12.59 New
17 (18) Rush (The Breathless Trilogy) Maya Banks Penguin  $    7.99 +1
18 (13) Safe Haven Nicholas Sparks Hachette  $    3.49 -5
19 (n/a) Starting Now: A Blossom Street Novel Debbie Macomber Random House  $   12.99 New
20 (n/a) Rules of Entanglement (Fighting for Love) Gina L. Maxwell Entangled Publishing  $    3.79 New
21 (n/a) Unintended Consequences (Stone Barrington) Stuart Woods Penguin  $   12.99 New
22 (10) The Storyteller Jodi Picoult Simon & Schuster  $    7.49 -12
23 (n/a) The Spellman Files: Document #1 Lisa Lutz Simon & Schuster  $    9.69 New
24 (22) Breath of Scandal Sandra Brown Hachette  $    4.74 -2
25 (23) Defending Jacob: A Novel William Landay Random House  $    7.99 -2

* 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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9 thoughts on “Self-Published Title Tops Best-Seller List Again: The Bet by Rachel Van Dyken

  1. Grumpy Bulldog

    I always wonder what kind of idiot pays $12.99 for an ebook. Usually the paperback is cheaper, which always seems ridiculous to me.

  2. Kallypso Masters

    Oh, I looked and the message from my iPhone didn’t come through. Good thing I copied it because I knew I’d be blasting it all over social media to my writer friends. Now I can correct my typos. Here’s my original thought:

    There’s a crucial error in your math and it’s made time and time again by publishers when pricing their books on Amazon. According to Amazon’s terms, only books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 are paid the 70% royalty. Above and below that, publishers and self-pubbed authors only receive 35%. My mom asked me to buy her Six Years earlier this month for her Kindle and when I saw the $12.99 price I had to shake my head. Once again, a New York publisher proved how out of touch they are with the reality of the new publishing world. I actually felt sorry for the author who may never see a cent beyond his advance. I didn’t come anywhere near number one with my three $3.99 books except on subset best seller lists at Amazon, and I still grossed $239,000 last year, 79% of it from Amazon.

    New York publishers are dinosaurs in the death throes. But it’s their own fault for not adapting to their environment.


    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      Hi Kallypso —

      Thanks for your comment. You allude to a really good point. If the “publisher” is making $90k on the book, how much of that goes to the author. Well, it varies contract to contract, but the standard going rate is 25% of publisher net receipts. So, 25% of $90k is about $23,000. Not bad for a week’s work.

      When it comes to self-published work, the publisher IS the author, so the author, in effect, gets 100% of publisher net receipts. To make $23,000, Van Dyken would have had to sell more than 70,000 copies last week of The Bet. It’s very possible that she did.

      But money isn’t everything, right? What if Van Dyken is happier doing it herself? Making all the decisions and reaping all of the rewards, regardless of how much more or less they may be.

      When we talk to authors, for many of them money isn’t the biggest consideration when deciding how to publish.

      1. Tasman Gibb

        From what I can see, one of the things Kally is highlighting is that the initial napkin math is incorrect.

        The ebook is priced OVER $9.99 therefore the publisher will receive 35% of the revenue rather than 70%.

        Now the publisher net receipts are about $45k rather than $90k.

        If the author receives 25% of publisher net receipts, they will receive around $11k.

        Suddenly Van Dyken only needs to sell around 31,500 to compete instead of the 306,162 stated in the article.

        1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

          Hi Tasman–

          Thanks for the comment. That book that I highlighted is under agency contract, so the publisher gets 70%. For authors and publishers who go through Amazon’s front door, the 35% for over $10 applies. Penguin is not one of those publishers. It has a very specific and very detailed contract with Amazon. So, the math is fairly accurate.

          As for the 306,163 number, that is comparing Van Dyken’s take to Penguin’s overall take. Not her take compared with Harlan Coben’s.

          That said, I spoke with Van Dyken today and found out how many copies she sold. I will be sharing that number later. Suffice it to say, she did very well and probably just as good (give or take a few thousand dollars) as Coben.

          Thanks, again, for the comment!

  3. dafaolta

    The biggest problem for Coben is going to be that there’s a lot smaller pool for those 12.99 books than the ,99 books and she’s not limited by Penguin’s artificial scarcity publishing schedule as to how many books she can send out after this one.

  4. Pingback: Learn from the Pros: 10 eBook Sales Done Right - Million Pens Million Pens


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