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Which Was My Best-Selling Channel? An Analysis of 10 Years of Book Selling

After laboring for days, weeks, months, or sometimes even years, the book is finally written and published, and it is actually on sale. One way for an author to get some financial reward for all the time and effort spent on the book is to sell the book. Bookselling is also a process in which the book can finally reach its readers. It is the last process after getting an idea, writing, formatting, editing, publishing, and marketing. So, to sell a book, what are the channels, and which is the best-selling channel?

Since 2009, I’ve authored and self-published books in three different genres: philosophy, self-help, and spirituality. For this article, the analysis is based on my bookselling data for the 10-year period (2010-19). The data for 2009 is excluded because there was only one book published in late 2009 and only the paperback was selling on Amazon. The data for 2020 is excluded because the book sale was affected by Covid-19. In 2010, I was selling four titles (ebooks and paperbacks), which progressively increased to 21 titles in 2019. Between 2010-19, I was selling the books on nine channels. The following shows the nine channels and their active years.

1. 2010-12 Influencer (paperbacks)

2. 2010-15 Independent bookstores (paperbacks)

3. 2010-19 Amazon (ebooks)

4. 2010-19 Amazon (paperbacks)

5. 2010-19 Self (paperbacks)

6. 2011-19 Smashwords (ebooks)

7. 2013-17 Influencer (ebooks)

8. 2013-19 Self (ebooks)

9. 2014-19 Google (ebooks)

As shown above, there were five channels selling ebooks (Channels 3, 6-9), and four channels selling paperbacks (Channels 1-2, 4-5). There were three channels that were selling books throughout the 10-year period (Channels 3-5), and one channel was selling books for the shortest duration of three years (Channel 1). Channels 1, 3-4, 6-7 were mainly selling books online, and Channels 2 and 5 were selling books physically.

Based on the book sales between 2010-19, the following is the ranking of the nine channels:

1. Amazon (paperbacks)

2. Self (paperbacks)

3. Amazon (ebooks)

4. Smashwords (ebooks)

5. Influencer (paperbacks)

6. Independent bookstores (paperbacks)

7. Influencer (ebooks)

8. Google (ebooks)

9. Self (ebooks)

Since Amazon (paperbacks) is ranked no 1, and Amazon (e-books) is ranked no 3, Amazon was my best selling channel. Being the world’s largest online bookselling platform, Amazon has the traffic and credibility to sell books (both ebooks and paperbacks). In this analysis, Amazon includes all the Amazon sites and the platforms under the expanded distribution. Most of my books, however, were sold in the US.

Self (paperbacks) was my second best-selling channel. In this channel, I generally held events and gave free talks. In this way, I was not some unknown, mysterious author to my potential buyers. Being able to meet my potential buyers face to face makes it easier to sell books. In addition to selling books to buyers whom I didn’t know before, some of my friends and relatives supported me and bought my books.

Smashwords (ebooks) was my third best-selling channel. Smashwords is a good channel to sell books because it is an aggregator. In addition to selling books on its own platform, it distributes books to another 12 platforms, which include the major book retailers, such as Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Since I was already selling books directly on Amazon, I did not use the Amazon channel on Smashwords.

As for the other channels, books were sold and there were potentials. The reason why they didn’t sell as many as my top three best-selling channels may be attributed to limited resources and/or shorter durations. For authors who endeavor to reach more readers and sell more books, these channels can be considered.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Tommy Wong