Top 10 Kindle USA bestsellers jump almost $3

Top 10 Kindle USA bestsellers jump almost $3


The last time I did an analysis of the USA Kindle store top ten bestsellers (on January 9th of this year), they averaged $4.10.

Today, that’s jumped almost $3 to $7.09.

That’s an increase of about 72%…in under three months.

There may be a seasonal impact there…prices are often low in January, I think, because there is a lot of competition for gift card/returns money.

However, I think there may be another contributing factor here.

Here’s my analysis:

Title Price Publisher KU? TTS? X-Ray? Word Wise? Lending? WSV Stars Reviews
The Girl on the Train $6.99 Penguin No Yes Yes Yes No Yes 4.1 9,685
The Stranger $10.99 Penguin No Yes No No No Yes 4.4 41
The Six Wives of Henry VIII $1.59 Grove No Yes Yes Yes No No 4.7 377
Maude $1.99 Indie Yes Yes Yes Yes No No 4.4 5,507
Younger $4.99 Amazon No Yes Yes No No Yes 4.0 484
All the Light We Cannot See $12.99 S&S No No Yes Yes No Yes 4.6 9,873
Dead Wake $12.99 Random No Yes Yes No No No 4.6 223
NYPD Red 3 $9.99 Hachette No Yes Yes No No No 4.7 107
The Longest Ride $5.39 Hachette No Yes Yes Yes No Yes 4.6 4,658
Ready Player One $2.99 Random No Yes Yes Yes No Yes 4.6 5,085
Average/% Yes $7.09 90% 90% 90% 60% 100% 60% 4.47 3,604

Last time, fewer than half of the books were from the Big 5 largest USA trade publishers (trade books are the kind you buy in bookstores, as opposed to textbooks and such).

This time, it’s seven of them (Grove isn’t one of the Big 5, although it is a traditional publisher which has been around for a long time).

My guess?

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

may have something to do with that.

None of the Big 5 are participating in Amazon’s subser (subscription service), where you pay $9.99 a month and you can read as many books as you want…well, perhaps that should be “as you can”. 😉 You are limited to having ten books out at a time, but hey, if you can read three and a half books a day (that’s my personal best for novels), you can read your roughly 108 books that month at no additional cost.

Many of the non-Big 5 books are in KU.

That may mean that non-Big 5 books are not being purchased as much, since so many of them (including books like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Life of Pi) can be borrowed.

In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the actual number of sales of e–books at Amazon is going down…if the bestselling books aren’t selling as many as they used to do.

That rise in price is due partly to tradpubs (traditional publishers) tending to price their books higher than indies (independent publishers). More tradpub representation typically means higher prices (although that’s a great price for Ready Player One…we just found out that Steven Spielberg is going to direct the movie adaptation for Warner Brothers).

We may also start to see a rise in tradpub prices…if buying a book (as opposed to having access to it) is seen as a luxury, people may be willing to pay more for it.

We may head back to the pre-paperback days, when books were largely owned by the better off, and seen as a sign of status.

That would be owned by, in the future situation: not read by.

Certainly, KU has been around for a while now, and the economics of publishing may (at to some degree) start to shift because of it.

The only KU book in the bunch, Maude, was also a bestseller back in January.

It’s now been designated with a new badge at Amazon: it’s one of the

Kindle Unlilmited All-Star Books and Authors (at AmazonSmile*)

That’s an interesting new feature!

Amazon describes it this way:

“Kindle Unlimited All-Stars are the most popular titles and authors in KDP Select. Each month we determine the most popular by adding up the number of books sold, borrows from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and the number of books read in Kindle Unlimited.”

That’s a fascinating set of parameters. Presumably, the bestseller list only counts sales, not borrows. I can understand that…but it intrigues me that they also count books which were read (a KU author doesn’t get paid until you’ve read 10% of the book).

What if someone borrows a book in January, but doesn’t read it until February? I’ve waited that long.

Does it count twice…once for the borrow, once for the read?

Does reading it count more?

If this is a KU thing, why are sales included at all?

Looking at their lists (they do it be different genres), I’m not seeing the well-known books which are part of KU.

I’ve tried to tell you about those from time to time…former New York Times bestsellers in KU, for example.

For me, that’s definitely part of the selling point. I’m always thrilled to see a book or an author I have in paper in KU…I’m excited that other people can read those books as part of KU.

My guess is that people who have become KU members are, for the most part, staying KU members.

At this point, it seems to get better every month…so if it was worth it the first month, why isn’t it worth the second month, and so on?

I also don’t think KU members tend to stop buying books…they probably do both (again, the majority of people is my guess), but they might buy fewer books.

I expect to hear some very laudatory things said about KU in a future Amazon financials report…perhaps without giving numbers, though. 😉

What do you think? Is KU making it so that fewer indies are top sellers at Amazon? Is that a bad thing? Do you think the publishers might be compensated more by KU (we’ve heard reports both ways)? Will we develop two tiers: people who buy tradpubs, and people who use subsers? Will any of the Big 5 join KU this year (in my look ahead to 2015, I thought that was a possibility)? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


2 Responses to “Top 10 Kindle USA bestsellers jump almost $3”

  1. kriscalvin Says:

    Bufo, Great post! So much to think about there. One question, authors get paid for putting their books on KU? How does that work? Is it likely publishers get anything from the “borrow”, since I doubt it is in most contracts? For example, my pub split for ebooks is 70/30 on ebooks sold, with pub getting 30…. But no reference to “borrowing” although pub does get 10% of “other income”, meant to cover movie rights and the like, but maybe it would fall here…

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, kriscalvin!

      Well, let me clarify this a bit.

      Publishers put the books in Kindle Unlimited. In many cases, that publisher may be just an author, but except when Amazon is acting as a traditional publisher through its imprints, they are dealing with publishers. For example, I’m a publisher when I do my books through Kindle Direct Publishing.

      So, in terms of you getting your book into Kindle Unlimited, I think your publisher would have to make that call. I would be very surprised if you would be allowed to publish it yourself through KU. There is also an exclusivity rule which wouldn’t work with a traditional publisher.

      Now, as to how the payments work…

      There is a pool of funds which is split between all the publishers who have had books borrowed that month. The amount of the pool varies, and the amount of borrows varies, so you don’t know exactly how much it will be. A bit more than two dollars per borrow is a pretty good guess.

      Oh, and with KU (and this is different from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which is also a lending program at Amazon), a reader has to read 10% of a book before the publishers qualify for the royalty.

      One possibility with a series is that the author does short stories that go into KU, and the novels go through the publishers. I’d always make sure the publisher was okay with that, though. I think it can be a good promotional tool for the novels, myself…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: