Howey: Indie Books Overtake Big 5 in Total Dollars

In a month burdened with bad news for the book world, Hugh Howey’s latest report on Amazon eBook sales cast a ray of sunshine across the literary landscape for those who read (and write) indie books. To cite just one, according to Howey’s latest data sets from the previous fiscal quarter, Amazon’s gross revenues from sales of indie eBooks finally overtook those from the “Big Five” old school publishers for the first time:

howey chart

The third in what now appears part of an ongoing series of studies of Amazon eBook rankings, sales and other stats from, Howey’s latest number crunching exercise also concluded:

* Self-published authors now account for 31% of total daily eBook sales regardless of genre

 * Self-published authors earn more in royalties than Big 5 authors, combined

* Self-published authors are now earning nearly 40% of all eBook royalties on the Kindle store

* Indie titles without DRM [piracy protection] sell twice as many copies each, on average, as those with DRM

* Self publishing isn’t just viable for niche genres such as Romance and Sci-Fi / Fantasy

Indie authors and IR readers who follow the booming world of self-publishing closely will want to read Howey’s full report for the nitty-gritty, as well as IR’s previous coverage of his controversial studies, such as his February 2014 analysis of 50,000 Amazon eBooks that drew criticism from establishment book industry players*, while inspiring indie writers.

According to indie advocate Mark Coker, founder of, which has called the ‘leading unknown supplier of self-published eBooks’ to Apple’s iBookstore, “Critics have accused Howey and his anonymous Data Magician of perpetuating horrible crimes against statistics. Supporters – most of them indie authors and indie author sympathizers – hailed Howey’s conclusions as further evidence that authors no longer need publishers…”

In a statement exclusive to IR, Howey responded on July 23, “This is why we dig into the data, to help inform our own decisions, and possibly help others as well.”

Mathematical quibbling aside, IR’s conviction remains firm that any way you slice it, the ascendancy of books moving more directly from writers to readers today is undeniable. It’s equally true that recent big business developments present new obstacles to indie authors who want to reach readers who prefer non-traditional books more directly, while somehow earning a living wage. But in spite of new challenges, the big picture still points to a leaner, meaner, greener future for indie books, and the growing multitude of readers who prefer them to mainstream publishing fare.


* Editors Note: See Dana Beth Weinberg’s post at DBW