DBW_New_300.jpgThe latest DBW Ebook Best-Seller Power Rankings, “a list of publishers whose ebooks have appeared on the weekly DBW Ebook Best-Seller list” from Digital Book World, show that the entire Hachette/Amazon spat appears to be making little difference to Big Publishing’s success in the ebook arena. Nor, alas, is all the hype over self-publishing and digital disruption of the traditional publishing hierarchy. Because Big Five publishers, including Hachette, hog the top three slots in the Power Rankings, with nary an Amazon-led-chokeoff-of-book-availability to be seen.

As DBW observes, “the two largest trade publishers in the world controlled nearly two-thirds of all ebook best-sellers in the first half of 2014,” with Penguin Random House and HarperCollins appearing “a combined 406 times out of a total of 650 possible, about 65 percent.” Penguin Random House came first, with 250 best-sellers, followed by HarperCollins with 156 – and Hachette third, with 78. Self-publishing, in comparison, contributed a lowly 25 titles. As I’ve said before, every traditional industry should get disrupted this good.

DBW concedes that “in the second half of the year, we will witness a drop-off in self-published best-sellers due to the effects of Kindle Unlimited and the methodology of the DBW Ebook Best-Seller List. That said, it cannot be understated what an amazing accomplishment it is for even one self-published title to make the best-seller list.” Well, perhaps so, although one does wonder what bias in favor of incumbents may creep into DBW‘s rankings. But all the same, these are figures that Hachette and its claque might want to keep out of the public eye next time anyone tries to argue that ebooks are ruining the fortunes and undermining the merits of traditional publishers.


  1. These bestseller trends aren’t surprising. Even if I succeeded in creating a bestselling, self-published novel, if a major publisher came a knocking with a reasonable offer, I’d give them serious consideration.

    There are many benefits a well-established publisher can bring to the table that few, if any, authors can replicated themselves. Do I know marketing? No. Do I have people who can get printed copies in bookstores? No. Do I understand the inner intricacies of Amazon? Not at all.

    Self-publishing makes sense when you’re so independent you care more about retaining control than getting rich. It also makes sense when you can find no other way to publish and need a chance to make a name for yourself.

    And finally, it may make sense if you’re an enormously successful, J. K. Rowlings-level author who can generate your own publicity. But even that makes sense perhaps for digital-only sales. For printing, warehousing and shipping huge quantities of print books, you need a publisher who knows how to do that. An author can’t do everything.

    Giant publishers will dominate bestsellers as long as the public goes for bestsellers. Even the fact that Amazon, Apple and other retailers can supply ebooks in any quantity from any source doesn’t overcome the demands of print editions or the need for marketing and publicity.

    The real danger for self-published authors if for Amazon to win this dispute. What Amazon wants, I suspect, are lucrative payments from major publishers to hype their books via various schemes. Those publisher either don’t want to pay for that or aren’t will to pay Amazon in the amounts and under the terms Amazon wants to set.

    That matters because every bit of eyeball real estate that Amazon can sell to the larger publishers draws attention away from self-published books or books from smaller publishers. Even large sales from word of mouth won’t counter the effect of paying Amazon for visibility. In fact, those payments are all the more valuable if they block the display of popular self-published books rather than minor ones.

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