Data Guy reveals true extent of trad ‘takeover’ of BookBub deals but it’s not causing fall in indies’ market share

Indie self-publisher authors’ share of BookBub Daily Deals has slumped from 40% two years ago to just 15% now, but the fall has had only a minimal effect on the overall drop in indies’ share of the total Kindle ebook market.

The new calculations are courtesy of Data Guy from Author Earnings, who looked into the BookBub effect following comments from authors in response to last week’s Author Earnings’ survey which revealed the fall in indies’ overall market share.

Author Earnings says BookBub is, outside the retailers themselves, the single most significant third-party player in ebook discoverability.

The promotion site was set up in 2011 and was initially used almost exclusively by indies but traditional publishers have increasingly moved into BookBub promos, prompting complaints from indies that they are being forced out.

Data Guy says he ‘luckily happened to have’ data covering the last two years of BookBub newsletters which gave him over 16,000 discounted-price BookBub deals on Amazon Kindle titles to analyze.

The results are illustrated in the graph at the top of this article which shows the two-year trend in the share of BookBub deals by publisher type. The deals are for paid books, no free.

Over the two-year period, the Big 5 share of BookBub promos has risen from around 22% in the third quarter of 2014 to 35% now, while small/medium publishers have gone from 28% to about 43%.

Between them, traditional publishers are now accounting for somewhere around 78% of BookBub discount deals while indies have plunged to 15% from 40% and Amazon Publishing imprints have stayed relatively steady at just under 10%.

That would seem to point to the decline of indie deals on BookBub being a factor in the overall fall in indie market share but Data Guy ‘s spider delved deeper into the data to look at the true effect of BookBub-generated sales.

He found that the drop in BookBub indie deals could have shifted Kindle market share by just 0.5% at the most.

As well as looking at the relative number of BookBub deals going to indies, Data Guy also turned to consider what categories those deals are in.

Deals in the categories of Crime Fiction, Mysteries, Thrillers, or Contemporary Romance result in a lot more sales than listings in Science Fiction, Paranormal Romance, or Horror. BookBub gives the average sales figures for discount deals in each category (and prices accordingly) on its Featured Deals Pricing page.

Using the average sales numbers for each BookBub category, the graph below shows how the ratio of BookBub-attributable sales by publisher type has changed over the past two years:

The research reveals that the indie share of Bookbub-generated sales has declined even more steeply than the indie share of BookBub deals. It appears that indie deals are now more likely to be in the less popular BookBub categories.

Data Guy says it shows that indies are being accepted for less than half as many discounted BookBub deals as they were two years ago and, because of the categories those indie deals now mostly end up in, indies are selling only a third as many BookBub-listed books.

But he adds that the 40-50 daily discounted BookBub deals across all categories combined lead to an average of at most 50,000-60,000 unit sales at maximum, and that’s across all retailers, as projected from the figures given on BookBub’s Featured Deals Pricing page referred to above.

That means even if all those units sold were Kindle units, BookBub deals could potentially account for at most 5%-6% of all Amazon Kindle unit sales total, of which 1-2% are BookBub-attributable indie sales.

The real BookBub impact on Amazon might well be half of that, concludes Data Guy. Even if BookBub were to stop accepting any indie titles, the maximum drop in Indie market share would be at most 1-2% and the 2016 decline in indie BookBub deals could have shifted Kindle market shares by 0.5% at most.

It’s not often you make a comment on a website and get a response of such depth and clarity — well, never in fact. Data Guy has done us all a service with this latest research which vividly shows the extent to which trad publishers are now relying on BookBub promos and also dispels the idea that the shift has had any real effect on ebook market share. You can, of course, pore over the whole Author Earnings’ report featuring the BookBub research at Author Earnings.

Interestingly, in January this year BookBub claimed it had a 50-50 split on featured ebooks between indie-published and traditionally published titles. It also claimed that the ‘average partner’ doubled their investment on a promo in 2015.

The firm said it was getting 200-300 submissions a day and a fifth of the total were picked for promo spots. In 2015, BookBub had over 55,000 submissions and ran 12,308 ebook deals featuring 7,631 authors. In 2014, it ran 8,175 ebook deals from 5,042 authors. These figures include free deals while Data Guy’s analysis covers discounted offers.

In May this year, BookBub launched a new paid advertising scheme to run alongside featured deals but the ads are still in the beta stage and are presently invite-only rather than on offer to the whole market. The scheme is a CPM operation where you pay by cost per 1,000 impressions rather than paying for clicks.

I’ve felt for some time now that indies have been moving away from BookBub as promotional prices have risen sharply, with some authors only breaking even or making a loss on deals.

Other advertising opportunities have become available, including Amazon’s pay-per-click operation, and many indies have also turned to using Facebook ads after hearing of some stellar successes by some self-publishers using targeted campaigns.

Amazon imprints growing strongly as indies’ ebook market share falls back