A frequent question in the comments is:

How were books classified as “Indie-Published,”  “Small/Medium Publisher,” “Amazon Imprint Published,” “Big Five Published,” or “Uncategorized Single-Author Publisher”?

Here’s how:

1) The Big-5 Published books were easy to separate out, no matter what imprint they were published under, by checking the “Sold By” line in the Amazon Product Details, which listed one of: Random House, Penguin, Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins, or Simon & Shuster as seller.

2) Amazon’s Publishing imprints were also easy to separate out, as there are relatively few of them. You can find a list of them here.

3) If multiple author names used the same listed Publisher, it wasn’t an Amazon Publishing imprint and the book’s “Sold By” wasn’t one of the Big-5, it was considered a Small/Medium Publisher. A lot of these might indeed be Indie Publishers, but we wanted to be conservative and err on the side of understating–rather than overstating–Indie numbers.

4) If no Publisher at all was listed under Product Details, the book was considered Indie-Published.

5) If the full name of the author was included in the Publisher name, the book was considered Indie-Published.

6) The remaining books, whose publishers represented only a single author name, were initially grouped under Uncategorized Single-Author Publisher, and sorted by revenue. Then we rolled up our sleeves.

7) Going down the list one by one, we Googled the publisher names and author names. We were able to classify hundreds of them as the self-publishing imprints of known Indie authors in this manner. Many of these were already known to us… for example: Broad Reach Publishing (Hugh), Laree Bailey Press (H.M. Ward), Reprobatio Inc. (Russell Blake), etc. We started from the biggest earners and went down, until the names became too obscure to find and we ran out of energy and time, and none of the remaining Uncategorized Single-Author Publishers individually accounted for a significant chunk of revenue.

So the vast majority of the remaining  Uncategorized Single-Author Publishers are most likely “Indies in disguise.” But there are also a few examples of poor-selling imprints of small and medium traditional publishers in the mix, so again we didn’t want to overstate Indie market share by lumping them all in with the Indies.


17 Responses to “Note on methodology”

  1. R. L. Copple says:

    If multiple author names used the same listed Publisher, and the book’s “Sold By” wasn’t one of the Big-5, it was considered a Small/Medium Publisher.

    By “multiple,” what is the cut off number? If that is not secret info.

  2. Data Guy says:

    2 or more authors with the same publisher made us categorize it a small/medium publisher, unless we recognized it as an indie we knew.

  3. datum says:

    How do you determine the daily units sold numbers? Are you predicting these based on known values from participating authors?

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  5. Thanks for clarifying.

  6. Laura says:

    I’m still confused??? So to be indie published you need to put your full name. For example John Smith. To be uncatorgozied is for example one name, John. Is this correct?

    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, Laura,

      If a book by John Smith was published by “John Smith, Inc.” or “John Smith Productions, LLC”, and there were no authors besides John Smith who were published under that same publisher name, then those books were considered indie-published.

  7. Heather says:


    I really enjoyed this and I felt rather vindicated. I have published through CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing company (first time was before they bought it), and I will do it again because their focus is on making publishing (paperbacks and ebooks) extraordinarily easy. Same with the ebooks I put together for my website.

    The quality of the paperbacks is excellent, and you can set up sale campaigns for both your ebooks and your paperbacks for marketing; the focus is wholly on the author and helping (the customer service has been excellent, too).

    The only drawback is that there are local independent bookstores who refuse to carry my books because I went through CreateSpace; they say they support local authors, but they won’t if you went through Big Bad Amazon. Somehow, not stocking my books (on consignment they’d get about $10 profit and the rest would go to me, not much more than I get through Amazon sales) makes a stand against BBA.

    But they WILL publish my book if I go through a vanity press that asks for upwards of $2000-$5000 (or more) of my money to publish my book, and all that money goes to them (yes, some goes towards materials)

    The irony is that these bookstores lose out–in business (I won’t support them, and neither will fellow authors who have the same issue with them and we have a fairly large word of mouth in our community for the lack of support they say they want to give), and in profit.

    When I request a physical copy of my latest book, it’s about $5.65; almost 100% of it goes towards materials. If Bezos makes any money from that it’s about $1.57.

    The further irony is that these same indie bookstores will ORDER MY BOOK THROUGH AMAZON for a customer, thereby losing money and giving money to the company they don’t want to support. They would lose money because they would have to pay the purchase cost, plus shipping, and they’d recoup only that back from the customer. (But if they stocked the book I had printed they’d *earn* about $10.)

    Stocking my book supports Amazon, but, apparently, buying it through them isn’t. (I will forever scratch my head over that one.) They’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater, basically.

    Amazon has changed, and will continue to change, the face of publishing and book purchasing, whether Kindle or physical. The way these independent bookstores–and the Big 5 Publishers–can help themselves not get egg on their face with their snobbish ignorance about how it all works is to maybe find a way to model the success Amazon is having. Otherwise they’re going to go the way of Tower Records and Border’s.

  8. F. A Fisher says:


    My company is one of those you may have listed under “Small publishers.” It’s called “e-Quality Press” or “EQP Books.” It’s really an editing and formatting company, but the logo and name has been used as a publisher by several of my clients–some of whom I THINK have probably shown up in your lists. But all books that might show up under either of those names are, in fact, Indies.


    • Data Guy says:

      Hi, F. A.,

      Thanks! I’ll tag as indie EQP/e-Quality and the other author imprints you mention, so they categorize as indie in our next report.

      All my best,
      Data Guy

  9. Karen Myers says:

    I imagine I fell off the “can’t-be-bothered earnings-too-small” list 🙂 but here’s a data point.

    Perkunas Press is a single author indie imprint (mine).

  10. It might be useful to set up a table of the “uncategorized single-author” names as wiki, so indie authors can go in and flag themselves appropriately.

  11. Alice Orr says:

    Thanks so much for this… “4) If no Publisher at all was listed under Product Details, the book was considered Indie-Published. 5) If the full name of the author was included in the Publisher name, the book was considered Indie-Published.” I think this makes me Indie Published. Good news, if true. Uncategorized Single-Author would not be good news, according to your graphs, etc. I hope my relief is justified.

  12. D. L. Orton says:

    What @KarlGallagher said: A wiki for indie publishers would be great. Let me know if I can help set one up?
    In the mean time, please add:
    Rocky Mountain Press
    to your multiple-title, indie publisher list.

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