July 2014 – Barnes & Noble

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In February, we took a snapshot of 5,000 genre e-books on the Nook store to compare with our Amazon reports. It’s been nearly half a year, so we thought it was time to go back for another look.

The first chart is a simple count of the number of titles on the major genre bestseller lists, broken out by publisher. For each of the four sets of charts, the current snapshot is followed by what we saw back in February:



Not much change in the count of titles on the lists. But look at estimated daily unit sales by publisher:



This effectively captures the average ranking of the ebooks on these bestseller lists. Note the increase for indies and the decrease for nearly every other publisher.

Knowing the sale price, we can estimate daily gross earnings by publisher:



Again, note the changes. Finally, knowing industry royalty rates, we get daily author earnings by publisher:


One thing of note with the last three sets of charts is that Hachette titles have suffered on the Nook store over the past five months. It’s possible the ongoing negotiations between Amazon and Hachette are impacting their sales on other digital retail outlets. More striking, though, is the market share gained by indie authors. If you scrolled through Nook’s genre bestseller lists, and tallied each book and how it was published, you would find that over half are now self-published.

While Nook’s e-book market share is much smaller than Amazon’s overall, it is just as indie-friendly as the Kindle store. And the daily royalty share going to indies is nearly twice as large as the share going to Penguin Random House authors. In fact, indies seem to be on their way to overtaking the Big 5 combined, just as they have on Amazon.

As always, our data has been anonymized and is available below.

Download the raw data this report is based on (.xslx)

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Author Earnings is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


45 Responses to “July 2014 – Barnes & Noble”

  1. Wow, good to know. I sell a lot of books on Amazon, and it looks like I should be thinking and B & N as well.

    • Hugh Howey says:

      We should have noted in the report that we have several reasons to believe that overall sales at B&N have declined. It is the percentages of sales that have changed. Not much good news at the Nook store.

      I spoke to the Nook team at RWA this past weekend and suggested that they become more indie-friendly, as that part of their pie has room to grow, while the Big 5 output is largely fixed. But all I’ve seen at Nook is damage directed toward indies and a grab for co-op money from the Big 5. Which is why, I believe, they have run their retail offering into the ground.

      • Yeah, I’m extremely disappointed with everything about B&N. Although I most likely earn more at the Nook store than most of the Big Five-published authors in my genre earn, overall I’m not impressed with the earnings, and they’ve only grown less impressive over the past six months. I wouldn’t miss B&N if it vanished entirely.

        Meanwhile, earnings at iBooks, Kobo, and subscription services continue to grow, which is nice to see.

        B&N’s relentless focus on co-op will be one of the major factors that finally sinks them. They are so intertwined with the Big Five that they can’t break their business strategies away from them. It’s one huge ship that’ll sink together.

  2. Alan Tucker says:

    How much do you think the normal summer slump is coming into play for this set of numbers?

  3. Jay Allan says:

    I’ve always done very well on BN, but I’ve anecdotally felt that their market has weakened this year. I still sell a good number of books there, but fewer than before. It’s interesting to see my impression supported by some actual data. It’s a shame they don’t recognize their fastest-growing source of business and put some effort into developing it.

  4. For the love of all that’s holy, dump the pie charts. They are the worst choice you could have made.


    • Hugh Howey says:

      Not for market share.

      • anon author says:

        I think the pie charts are great for market share. From the time we are small children until old age, people always have a sense of pie fairness. Little kids understand pie fairness from an early age. Even my 80 year old father still eyeballs the pie when we cut his piece, making sure his is the right proportion. 😉

      • Mark Peel says:

        Why not include a calculation for “Daily Author Revenue Per Author”? By aggregating all authors, you overstate the earnings of “Indies” and understate the impact of having one’s book published by one of the “Big Five”.

        Using your data:

        Daily Author Revenue Per Author
        Indie Published $17.43
        From Small or Medium Publisher $9.68
        From Uncategorized Single-Author Publisher $16.67
        Penguin Random House $44.48
        Hachette $46.07
        Harper Collins $27.03
        Macmillan $24.25
        Simon & Schuster $55.57

        Average $22.46

  5. John Brown says:

    Awesome data. Thanks, Hugh.

    I do think bar charts are easier to read than pie charts, but I’m just happy to have the data.

    BTW, I sure hope B&N doesn’t go away. For whatever reason, I’ve been able to stay in their top 100 easier than I have in Amazon’s. I think their visibility mechanisms must be a bit more stubborn than Amazon’s. I love Amazon, but it just goes to show it’s nice to have more than one game in town.

    • Hugh Howey says:

      I think if they became more indie-friendly, they would make more money and grab more market share. But they need to become obsessed with the reader as the customer, rather than the publishers as the customer. That’s a big shift to make.

  6. tom combs says:

    Thank you for the data and analysis. Informative.

  7. B. V. Larson says:

    Hi Hugh, great data as always. All authors are in your debt for assembling this.

    For future articles, I’m interested in the impact of Kindle Unlimited. I’m all-in with the KU program for now, but I’m flying blind. I think KU will be hard to measure, as the sales are differentiated on Amazon’s site. I suppose you guys could have a marker indicating what books are in KU and how they are faring vs. other titles.

  8. Alex Abaz says:

    This is wonderful. I’ve been immersed in this stuff full time for a while trying to sell my books and felt there was a deficit in real data. That’s why I started building a site for Alex & Friends to share & collaborate. Looks like you’re on it. Hopefully there’s room for more surveys and hunger for business intelligence. I hope Hugh you’ll be one of the collaborators on our site. Let me know. Thanks.

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  26. I asked the same question at one of the meetings while I still worked at Barnes & Noble. no one seemed to recognize except for one executive who said that B&N’s motive to exist is to offers publishers with a better way to distribute their product.

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