I have seen a couple of interesting criticisms of the AE reports. The first is that Big 5 authors get substantially more in advances than the standard royalty rates would suggest (40% of gross was one figure mentioned). Assume for a minute that contention is true. Now take a look at the data from AE on the percentage of Big 5 earnings from titles originally published before 2011. Those are books that have definitely earned out. Create a model from the AE data that makes that 40% figure work. Publishing looks like a very strange business indeed. Spoiler alert! I suspect that that 40% of gross comes from looking at the first year income of a publishers’ titles. The Big 5 has always had what KKR calls the “produce model” of selling books.
The other criticism of the AE data is that the Big 5 is getting more than the Amazon retail price for many of their best sellers (i.e. Amazon is selling at a loss). This could skew the numbers somewhat. If this is indeed a big issue, there is a simple way for those publisher insiders (looking at you Jeremy Greenfield) to prove this. Replicate the AE approach, but pull the amount you believe the publisher is receiving. If that is beyond your technical ability, I would be happy to do it for you. For my standard overtime rates, $250/hour.