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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ebooks versus Print: The Ratio is Changing

Six months ago, I shared the details of my royalty statement I received in February, 2011, for Six-Figure Freelancing. My point was to demonstrate how long it can take to earn out, or make royalties, on a book, and that you should assume that when you write a book for a traditional publisher, the advance is all you're likely to see. (That's one of the primary reasons I got into ghostwriting.)

I just received my latest royalty statement, for the period from October 1 through March 31, 2011. I still have a ways to go before I earn out; so far, I've sold 11,844 copies of the book and produced $11,583.19 of royalties. Because I received a $15,000 advance, though, the book must produce another $3,416.81 in royalties before I get a check along with my royalty statement. That's my "magic number."

A closer look at my statement revealed that as sales of this book slow (not surprising as it was published in 2005), the ratio from ebook to print is changing dramatically. Here are the numbers from my last three royalty statements:

October 2009-March 2010 Ebook sales: 40 Print sales: 479 Total: 519
April 2010-September 2010 Ebook sales: 82 Print sales: 338 Total: 420
October 2010-March 2011 Ebook sales: 101 Print sales: 223 Total 324

It's clear to see that my ratio of ebooks to print is rapidly increasing. Through March 2010, ebooks represented 7.7 percent of total sales; through September 2010, 19.5 percent; and through March, 2011, 45.3 percent. I expect ebooks to make up well more than half of my print sales for my next royalty statement. And because I make considerably more--$3.88/book for the e-version versus $1.12/book for its print version, that's not bad news.

What's driving the trend? Fewer bookstores, more Kindles, greater acceptance of ebooks among readers, the convenience of e-books, you name it. The take-away for authors, though, is that while print isn't dead (nor dying, in my opinion), the sales of your ebooks are likely to grow faster than your print versions. Consider how you price and promote them to take full advantage of this trend.


  1. do you do anything for the pirating problems? there are probably more free ebook copies being shared than you actually sold.

  2. No, I haven't had a chance to look into pirating issues yet; will post about it when I do. Thanks for your comment.