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Self-publishing News: KDP Select Paid $522m In 2022 – So Just How Big Is The Indie Ebook Market?

Self-publishing News: KDP Select paid $522m in 2022 – so just how big is the indie ebook market?

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at KDP Select's $522m payout in 2022 and the Creative Commons License that will allow writers to keep building and selling worlds for Dungeons and Dragons.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

In this month's podcast, Howard and I dedicate the whole show to the latest developments in AI. We talk everything from Apple and Google's AI narration, through Midjourney and AI art, to what ChatGPT and similar tools mean for us as writers. We also talk about our own experiences of using these tools.

Dark Market: how big is the ebook market that official records don’t count?

For many years, an ongoing source of irritation has been the fact that many sets of official figures don’t count sales of books without an ISBN. That means most self-published ebooks simply aren’t counted. As a result, any picture of the size of that market gets distorted. And it’s hard for us as authors not just to see the size of the community we’re part of but to make informed business decisions based on accurate market data. 

Mark Williams, who has long been calling out this anomaly, has a fascinating post this week which asks the questions we all want answered. How big is the real ebook market? And is it growing or shrinking? At the moment, we don’t have answers, but one indicator is the KDP Select pool. This is what’s paid out between authors in the KDP Select scheme each month according to the pages read by those who subscribe to the scheme. In 2022 KDP Select paid out over $522m. Williams does a piece of back of the envelope arithmetic based on average page read payouts and book lengths and comes up with an interesting figure. 

Almost 400 million books not counted

That equates, he calculates, to around 386 million 300 page books being read (or the equivalent thereof) through the scheme. And that excludes all the direct sales made by anyone without an ISBN. Reported revenues are around $1bn, which counts none of these figures. That means the actual ebook market is significantly larger than is ever reported (but in line with the 39% figure suggested by K-lytics as the indie share of Kindle royalties). And it makes any speculation about its relative size to other sectors highly speculative.

Williams also highlights an invaluable piece of investigative work that’s underway to provide a definitive answer to these questions. Rüdiger Wischenbart is undertaking an ambitious project to try and ascertain the actual size of this market. We wish him well and look forward to the results!

Wizards of the Coast Agrees to Creative Commons License for Dungeons & Dragons Game Mechanics

I’ve reported about gaming from time to time in this column. And gaming remains one of the most fascinating forms of storytelling. It's also one we explore far too little when looking at how indie writers can use their craft. Usually I have written about digital gaming of one form or another. But as a child of the 80s, it’s a real delight this week to get to report on one of my first and longest loves. Dungeons and Dragons was how I and many of my classmates filled pretty much every break and lunch hour at school for several years.

Dungeons and Dragons provide the backdrop for many writers to create wonderfully realised worlds around its rules and ecosystem. What I hadn’t realised until I started researching this item was the extent of the income this could provide many of those writers. Dungeons and Dragons rights owners Wizards of the Coast recently angered creators. They issued a new license that required content creators with sales of over $50,000 to report their earnings to them. And those with sales of over $750,000 were to pay a 25% royalty. The fact the requirements for people earning more than three quarters of a million dollars created a sizeable stir shows just how much the potential is.

Wizards of the Coast have, at least in part, listened. They have retracted these requirements and will make the mechanics of the game on which this secondary world-building relies available through a Creative Commons License. They have also launched a survey to gather opinions from those who write within their world, which you can take part in for the rest of January here.

DigitalBookWorld

Since its rebirth, DigitalBookWorld has been a highlight of the calendar, and last week saw its 2023 incarnation. It will come as no surprise that some considerable space was given to discussing both perennial and new favourite topics, audiobooks and artificial intelligence. I’ve promised myself that I won’t actually feature an AI story at least for one week. So you can read all about coverage of that particular topic here. It wasn't just ChatTGPT that drew attention. AI was also a key part of the discussion of audiobooks, as publishers considered how to make the most of their back catalogues. AI-generated narration offers an obvious way to make the most of existing titles. Something that will not be lost on many indies as well.

You can read the full report from DigitalBookWorld 2023 here. 

Amazon Pulls the Plug on Amazon Smile

This week Amazon announced that it will be ending one of its best-loved initiatives. Amazon Smile is its charity partner programme. Anyone who buys from Amazon from the Smile URL has 0.5% of their purchase donated to a charity of their choice. In the 10 years since it launched, Amazon Smile has raised $400m for charities. Amazon has now decided that the impact has been too unfocused. As so many charities benefitted, most received very little. Amazon says it wants to focus on higher impact projects. We'll see what that means. Meanwhile Amazon Smile closes on February 20th.

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Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40

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