Every year, All Romance eBooks produces a Trend Analysis that they distribute to all their publishers.

The report is naturally focused upon All Romance eBooks and their position within the industry, but once you sift through that bias, it contains some very interesting information.

I thought I’d share some of the highlights.

 Some buyer highlights

We’re continuing to experience triple digit growth in the U.S. and the bulk of our sales are to U.S. customers. We are currently selling in 202 countries.

Top ten markets: United States, Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, India, New Zealand Philippines, Malaysia, and the Netherlands.

Female = 89%

Male = 11%

I find this one very interesting, because I believe it’s not just specific to All Romance eBooks.  I suspect the growth trend they’ve experienced can probably be applied to ebooks in general and romance ebooks in particular, for all ebook retailers.

The sales to the non-US countries is even more interesting, because many of them do not claim English as their primary language, and All Romance eBooks don’t sell foreign language editions.

J.A. Konrath, who is probably one of the loudest champions of indie publishing, has predicted that non-English translations will be one of the primary sources of income for indie authors over the next few years.  All Romance eBook’s sales trend is supportive data for that prediction.

Some bookish highlights

Heat Rating = over 97% of sales are on books rated 3 or higher, of significance is that the 5 and 4 flame sales have see a combined drop of 4% over last year with most of the difference shifting to the 3 flame rating.

This could mean one of two things.

1)  Readers are getting sick of erotic romance and are choosing “tamer” romances once more, or

2)  The definition of “hot” has shifted along the scale so far that what was once considered 5-flames for ARE is now only 3-flames.  The 5-flames is now kink, BDSM, and extreme erotic, while readers who still love their erotic romance are still buying them, they’re just buying 3-flame romances, not 5.

The fact that The Romance Studio have thrown away their “erotic” categories in the CAPA awards this year and melded the erotic and non-erotic all in together would hint that romances are all erotic these days.  Erotic romance is losing its distinction.  “Extreme erotic” is now the uppper end of the scale, while we are simply enjoying “normal” romances.

Despite everything I’ve said here, it is only the books that I label “erotic romance” and put the highest “hot” rating on that sell the best for me, personally.  If I lower the rating or label in the slightest (down to 4-flames for instance), the sales plummet.  My ARE sales figures do not match what All Romance eBooks are reporting, here.

Sales Revenue DRM v Non DRM = 97% was for Non DRM titles for 2011

96% was for Non DRM tittles for Nov & Dec

These figures are misleading.  Can you see the catch?  ARE don’t state how many DRM titles v’s Non-DRM titles are available.  If there is only 1% protected titles available overall, then naturally, the non-DRM titles are going to out-sell the protected titles.    So even bothering to compare from year to year is meaningless.

But, much further down in the report, ARE had this to say about DRM protection:

A special note about DRM, the impact of agency, and piracy.

While ARe supports both the DRM and non-DRM business models, we advocate that publishers refrain from using DRM and provide open access – it’s what our customers overwhelmingly want. We appreciate and understand the concerns expressed about potential revenue loss due to piracy. We believe the best deterrent is to provide customers with easy access to appropriately priced content.

Tens of thousands of DRM titles were removed by what has commonly been referred to as “Agency” publishers in April of 2010. Data from Q1 of 2010 seemed to indicate DRM might have ended up being approximately 12% or more of sales in 2010, as opposed to the 4% that resulted. Although we certainly realized some lost sales due to the decrease in that inventory, data supports the fact that many readers simply found alternate content to interest them and accordingly shifted those purchasing dollars to non-Agency publishers.

The market share of DRM titles decreased further in 2011 to 3%. We attribute this to two factors: the decrease in overall market share of DRM inventory due to the loss of Agency publishers, AND buyer preferences shifting to Non-DRM publishers and Indie Publishers.

Agency Publishers returned to the site in early November. The DRM/Non-DRM market share split did improve during the subsequent two-month period of time (from 3% to 4%). We anticipate a 4-6% share in 2012, a far cry from what we believe we possibly would have seen without Agency interruption.

So if ARE are carrying 3-4% DRM titles and readers are choosing about 97% non-DRM, then that would seem to indicate that readers are not choosing based on whether the book has protection or not.  Which belies what ARE are saying, above.

Although, there are other sources (J.A. Konrath is one) that say readers do care, very much, if a book is protected or not, regardless of whether they have illicit intentions or perfect innocent ones.

I know I get mildly vexed by all the heinous “we are watching you!” safeguards on ebooks, when I buy DRM proected ones, but I don’t think it would stop me from actually buying a book I really wanted.  Would it stop you?

File Formats

File formats = PDF and ePub account for 85% of files downloaded. Next is PRC/Mobi at 14%, other file formats combined equal less than 1.

NOTE: We believe PDF, ePub, and PRC/Mobi are the “must have” formats.

Agree, agree, agree.  With one proviso.

PRC/Mobi, by the way, is the platform that Kindle is built upon.  It’s actually identical to Kindle, except for a change in serial number and file name.

If you’re buying ebooks in a format different from these three/four, then you might want to think about starting to change over to one of these four.  Actually, three.  I’d give up on PDF, too.  It’s too unweildy for the fluid ereaders.  It’s a useful will-open-on-anything format, but as a permanent, native format, it has problems.  Pick either Kindle, ePub or Mobi, and find an eReader you love that uses that format (or use your cellphone, iPad or tablet), and start trading over.   Soon, everything will be available in these formats.  Yes, everything.

In terms of which romance sub-genres owned the biggest piece of the pie in 2011, the top 10 are = Erotica, Vampires/Werewolves/Shapeshifters, Gay Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Multiple Partners, Interracial, Historical, Time-travel, Drama, and BDSM.

No big surprises here.

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