I was curious about the statistics of Amazon’s top 100 list of print books for 2014. I did an analysis of the books’ specifics and thought it might be of interest. I did not distinguish between fiction and non-fiction.
Here is my take on the pricing, number reviews, covers and publishers. Some of this is a personal perspective, especially concerning the covers.
Nearly all of the books’ original RRP for the hardback copy was above $20, generally around $25. However, they were being sold on Amazon on the average between $15-20, the majority between $15-$20. Some below, but rarely under $10. The paperback editions were being sold in the $10-$15 dollar range. The majority pricing for the ebooks was between $10-$15 with a few near or under $5.
For the top 50, 21 had reviews numbering over 1000, some significantly over. 9 had between 500-1000 reviews, 8 between 200-500 reviews, 9 between 100-200 reviews and 3 between 50-100 reviews.
The bottom 50 saw a significant decrease in reviews. 5 had reviews over 1000, 7 between 500-1000, 14 between 200-500, 14 between 100-200, 7 between 50-100 and 3 had less than 50 reviews.
Of the top 50 at least 15 books had no illustration of consequence on the cover. The rest had some kind of graphic, picture or illustration. These were the covers featured on the Amazon book sales pages.
Of these top 50 covers I personally only found 4 that I thought really related to the title and made me want to look further into the book. I did not read reviews or book descriptions, so I am not sure how these illustrations may have related to the actual content. I simply related them to the title and how intriguing or connected they appeared to me. Three that interested me were illustrations or pictures on the cover. 1 was a text only title.
Nearly 50 different publishers were represented. Some I recognized, some I did not. I did no research to see what type of publisher they were. They were all named and none were CreateSpace titles or designated as Amazon published. I will list the publisher names I found. I just grabbed the main name of the publisher and not the subdivisions specifically.
- Basic Books
- Grand Central
- Other Press
- FSG Originals
- Atlantic Monthly
- New Harvest
- Dey Street
- St. Martin’s
- Henry Holt
- Nation Books
- Nan A.Talese
- Del Ray
- WW Norton
- Little, Brown
- University of Chicago
- Simon Schuster
- William Morrow
- Random House
Knopf had the most at 9, followed by 14 that had 3, 4 or 5. 30 had only 1 book in the top 100.
From this quick analysis I have made a few observations. An average suggested retail pricing of a hardback copy was around $25 though I did note one nonfiction biography’s SRP was $45. These books were being sold on Amazon on the average between the $15-$20 range. The prevalent price for paperback editions was between $10-$15 and the ebooks were by far priced right around the $10 mark.
When I was collecting review information I was intrigued by the sudden drop when I reached the second 50 on the list. I was also hit by a few other ideas. There are reviewers that would have a stake in reviewing the Amazon Best 100 list. They make a living doing reviews in some fashion, right? Did the number of reviews make me want to go read thousands of them? Even a hundred of them? Nope. I would be more interested in reading the description and making up my own mind. I might look at the average number of stars of the reviews submitted. But give a thought to how many books you have read and then followed up with a review. Many authors give out a significant number of free copies to obtain reviews and never get the ensuing reviews. How important are reviews really? There is all kind of opinions on this, with 25 or 100 reviews being bandied about as the target number to increase your sales. In my analysis only a quarter (26%) of the top 100 had reviews numbering over 1000. 16% had between 500-1000 reviews, 22% had between 200-500, 23% had between 100-200 and 13% had less than 100 reviews. Considering the sharp decline in the second 50 on the list, I’m wondering how significant a part the number of reviews has on sales.
As far as the covers go, many did nothing for me. I found those that were clear in depicting the title of the book most informative and if they had a cover picture or illustration or a particular text treatment that added to that title, all the better. Those that were obscure, too busy or too hard to read or that had the author’s name so big it was overpowering the title did nothing to attract me. Yes, I know some of the big name authors and am a fan of some, including Stephen King. However, his title did nothing to draw me in because his name was taking up nearly the entire cover. If I am a fan I can go look up his name on Amazon and see what new titles he is offering. I don’t think a big name on the cover without any real drawing power from other details will bring in a reader that has no clue who Stephen King is. There were three covers with illustration that immediately drew me in. Their illustrations added to the title of the book. One book had no illustration but the treatment of the title text was clever and actually depicted the title better than any illustration could have, in my opinion.
My peek into the statistics of these top 100 books also brought about some pondering. Particularly for self-publishers. Books do sell when priced at a level where (not taking into account the publisher’s cut diminishing the author’s return) authors appear compensated for their talent and time in crafting a story. Do we really need to drop prices so low, particularly for ebooks, to get readers and sales? Do we really need to pay over the top prices for covers with complex illustrations to sell a book? Shouldn’t we be more concerned with getting a cover that properly depicts our book and enhances the title? Take romance books for example. I’ve nothing against them personally but once you’ve seen one hunky guy with a beautiful babe on the cover, haven’t you seen them all? I would rather see a great title and perhaps a subtitle that I can read clearly so I can get the gist of the book without delving further into the listing.
This look inside the numbers on Amazon’s top 100 has intrigued me though it hasn’t really changed my personal views on publishing my authors. I’ve always been about showing off the author’s work to its best advantage that I am able. It’s always been about getting a decent return in royalty to that author. It’s always been about warning the author about spending money for reasons that really, in my opinion, won’t increase their sales. It has always been about providing a publishing service or contract that is fair and reasonable. It has always been about educating authors during my contact with them whether they become clients or not. It has always been about championing quality stories and editing so readers get what they pay for and pay what it is worth. It has always been about making publishing achievable and affordable to every author who has penned a story that people will be happy they have read.
I hope you get your own personal revelations from the statistics I gathered whether they agree with mine or not. It isn’t always about agreeing, more so that we have the fodder to make an informed decision.