Following up on some of the book trends we presented at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Author Day in October of this year, let’s take a look at the present status of the book market for all of you who are presently in it, or are trying to have your book active for sales. A new year, as book publishers are releasing statistics on sales for the year is a good time to do that.

First of all, ebook sales have slowed somewhat. They looked to be heading towards 40% a couple of years ago but now are steady at about 30% of all books sold. That is a tidy, strong percentage but the real news is that print books have held their own, reduced, yes, but still in contention.

Why? Probably the rush to Kindles and other formats when ebooks were announced in 2007 was part novelty and part curiosity. It had to be also real desire to enjoy books in a portable and handy way without the need for a clunky chunk of published and bound paper you had to carry around in your hand because it didn’t fit into purse or pocket. That has slowed.

Anyway, ebooks still outsell hardcover books. Hardcovers have fallen to 25% of the market, so those cloth or cardboard covered volumes with jackets seem to have diminished in popularity. Old hat but still there. It’s paperback books that are being picked up online and in the few bricks and mortar places that sell books any more.

 And speaking of bookstores, it’s interesting to see how creative the bookstores have grown as they’ve had to fight for a place in the market. Downtown, Indy Reads has a hundred lively arts events and marketing ideas and public service efforts which make that place jump with energy and may help define the bookstore of the future.

But that doesn’t erase the stark truth: bookstores continue to die in spite of their best efforts. I think of my local, Carmel, Indiana, Barnes and Noble: full of interesting items to entice the customer. The shelves of books have shrunk, of course, but there are still several end caps and displays and they are attractively marked so the reader can find genres and interests. The Nook promotion stand tries to entice readers into the new format for reading. The store is loaded also with a huge selection of children’s books (a successful genre in the book publishing world), seeming to display a good 25% of the space towards the back of the store. Puzzles, CDs and DVDs, gifting items, closeouts, stationery and other paper and cloth bag items are attractive and colorful. And over at the side of the store the cafe is still putting out Cheesecake factory desserts, simple lunches and lots of coffee and tea choices.

Still, if you check out the figures for Christmas sales for B&N you see that sales fell, and plummeted 60% for Nook compared with last Christmas season’s sales. This company’s digital division, Nook, is being obliterated by Amazon’s ability to offer cut-rate prices (line leaders) to attract customers into the larger site, which seems to work. Some Amazon Kindle best-sellers are 1/3 lower at least than prices for comparable B&N Nook offerings. Barnes and Noble has been, and still is, in serious trouble. Analysts point out that readers buy books on line now. It is just that simple. I know I do, at least partially.

What does this mean to you, the present or future author, member (we hope) of Indiana Writers Center? First, your creative effort can still be bought if your book is presented to an agent or directly to a small press. Writers’ Center classes give you tips on how to organize your ideas into a polished piece of writing, how to gather them into a book and how to seek publication. Check the offerings out, learn and grow and sprout a book.

If you are considering self publishing, your door is open even wider than before. As bookstores fade, other means of reaching readers proliferate. Self published print books, combined with ebook sales, are accounting for about 35- 40% of the books sold in America today. And it is in the ebook market that self published books are still growing fastest. Amazon Kindle Direct and Smashwords, self publishers, saw adding author to produce their books grow in these divisions. But here’s the news and the trouble: sales have not followed. You can easily get your book posted for ebook sales; it takes only a few days and a completely edited manuscript. But sales? Slumping in 2014 beyond what anyone was predicting. Authors are disappointed and seek the reason. Surely the faddish nature of the easy posting of millions of ebooks has diminished for readers. Then too, Amazon’s new subscription service, Kindle Unlimited gives readers easy choice from a restricted site.

Register this: your book can be put out in a variety of ways but it will only sell well if readers know it exists. That opens the door for the vital missing link in all of this book uncertainty: promotion, promotion, promotion (not location location.) And it must be done by you. 

Nancy Baxter, Senior Editor at Hawthorne Press

 

 

Written by Indiana Writers Center — January 05, 2015

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