How self-publishing opened up a whole new universe for science fiction and fantasy authors

Self-published authors have revitalized the science fiction and fantasy sectors over the past decade and now dominate the ebook SF&F market.

New research from AuthorEarnings reveals that self-published authors and Amazon imprints have taken a big lead on SF&F frontlist titles. Traditional publishers saw the bulk of their SF&F ebook sales coming from their deep backlists of books published before 2015 while indies’ backlist sales are starting to build up and likely to see substantial increases over the next decade.

Chart courtesy of

AuthorEarnings reveals that traditional publishers are now in the minority in the SF&F ebook field, with the Big 5 accounting for just 21% of ebooks sold while indies and Amazon imprints take nearly 70% of unit sales.

Kindle Unlimited provides $30 million a year of revenue for indie SF&F writers, representing a quarter of non-trad SF&F ebook dollar business from May 2017-April 2018.

AuthorEarnings looked at ebook prices in the sector and discovered that readers see a single SF&F market rather than any division between trad and self-published, with an average purchase price of $4.43.

This actually gives self-publishers a major advantage as the average price of an SF&F ebook from a traditional publisher is $8.04 while the average purchase price for a self-published ebook is $3.20.

The research also found that self-published authors are now earning a much bigger share of the royalty cash from SF&F ebooks than traditionally published authors.

The Top 5 sub-genres in science fiction by ebook unit sales are:

1: Military SF

2: Sci-fi Adventure

3: Post-Apocalyptic

4: Dystopian

5: Space Opera

The Top 5 sub-genres in fantasy by ebook unit sales are:

1: Paranormal & Urban

2: Epic

3: Sword & Sorcery

4: Coming of Age

5: Romantic

Paranormal & Urban is the runaway leader in fantasy with twice the sales of the second-placed sub-genre and is an area where indies proliferate as the Big 5’s share of  ebook sales here is under 20%.

In fact, Paranormal is the New Normal when it comes to SF&F ebooks as its unit sales of approaching 12 million from May 2017-April 2018 would take the combined totals of either the Science Fiction or Fantasy second, third and fourth-placed sub-genres to beat it.

Indie writers didn’t invent the Paranormal & Urban sub-genre but they have certainly taken it to a whole new level of popularity.

The AuthorEarnings’ research points out that the true popularity of SF&F with readers is massively understated as ‘official’ sales figures fail to take into account the self-publishing sector.

AuthorEarnings says the real picture is that SF&F sales have doubled since 2010 despite traditionally published print book sales falling by 50% since 2009 and never regaining previous levels.

This is another stellar research effort from Data Guy at AuthorEarnings, set up by self-publishing science fiction star Hugh Howey, author of Wool, which was one of the first indie S&F smashes back in 2012 and is now part of that deepening backlist. The research formed a presentation at the recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Nebula Conference held in Pittsburgh.

You can find out much more in detail at the AuthorEarnings website.

Author Earnings’ million-title survey shows the Changing of the Author Guard in the ebook era and explodes the Midlist Myth