Amazon Stays Ahead of the Curve

The big news for authors last week was that Amazon is now providing Nielson Bookscan’s data to their Author Central authors for free.

What does this mean?

First, to get access to this information, you must be an author with books listed on Amazon.com and you must be registered with Amazon’s Author Central. Nielson Bookscan provides book sales data for print books sold throughout the United States. They get their sales data from participating retailers, including Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Target, and Buy.com. A number of retailers do not participate in this program, including Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. Sales listed by Nielson Bookscan do not include ebook sales (including Kindle), wholesale purchases, or sales to libraries.

I think it is absolutely fantastic that Amazon is providing this information to their authors. It is this sort of innovative offering that has kept Amazon the number one source for books for years. Did you know that Amazon accounted for 22 percent of all book sales in 2009 (19 percent of print books and 90 percent of ebooks)?

When I learned that Amazon was providing authors this data, I trotted (virtually of course) on over to my Amazon Central Author Page to look at what Bookscan reported on recent book sales of my books.

Here is what I found.

Nielson Bookscan provides reports on sales of books by week and sales by geography (where in the United States books were sold). Since BookScan relies on retailer reports of sales, they do not report all books sold. BookScan estimates that they report 75 percent of retail book sales.

Since I sell Christian books, BookScan probably reports much less than 75 percent of the retail book sales from my books. Many independent Christian bookstores (those more likely to carry my titles) do not report sales to BookScan.

Since I have multiple books for sales on Amazon, BookScan data provided me with the total number of books I had sold within the last four weeks by title. In other words, I am able to track how many books of each title were sold.

The biggest drawback I found with the data had to do with the sales by geography section. This section does not allow me to find out where a particular title was sold, only where my books overall were sold. Since I have both adult and children’s books, I would find it helpful to know if my children’s book were being sold more heavily in one region. If I knew this, I could concentrate more advertising and marketing effort in that region. Since I can’t break down sales of title by region, the geographic information is not as helpful as I had hoped.

Overall, I give Amazon a thumbs up for taking the initiative and making this great sales information available to authors. If you are the author of books being sold on Amazon and are not signed up with Amazon’s Author Central, I encourage you to do it today.

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Go Home and Read

The statistics on the decline in book reading are depressing. To combat this trend, authors, publishers, and literary organizations are coming up with creative ways to encourage people to read.

A few years ago, the New Zealand Book Council created this ad that they paid to have play in movie theaters. The message was simple, but important: “Go home, read a book.”

Hopefully, at least a few people took the message to heart. What other creative ways have you seen people being encouraged to read?

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Are Picture Books Endangered?

I recently read a couple interesting articles that discussed how picture books are losing their appeal. Retailers are selling fewer pictures books; as a result, publishers are publishing less of these books.

Each of these articles quoted retailers stating that they thought the decline came from parents pushing their children to read chapter books at younger and younger ages. One retailer said that parents were buying Stuart Little for their four-year-olds instead of picture books. She felt it this behavior came from a cultural push for children to start reading early so that they would excel in school.

I read another study conducted of 1,000+ children and their parents by Scholastic. This study found that children between the ages of six and 17 spend less time reading for fun and more time going online and using their phones for fun.

Reading among children is declining. Many argue that this is because there are so many electronic gadgets, as well as computers and the Internet, to entertain kids, so they don’t gravitate toward reading in their spare time.

Reading is a very different skill from playing electronic games. Reading requires extended attention and concentration on something that does not have much sensory input (compared to video games). I find it odd that, in an era of electronic gadgets with colorful graphics, parents are skipping picture books and pushing their kids to read chapter books at a young age.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the kids look at fantastic, colorful pictures while reading to engage children and encourage them to read?

Just maybe the decline in parents gravitating toward picture books for their children is part of the reason children are spending less time reading for fun. After all, I think picture books help cement the beauty of reading for young children.

As a Christian, the decline in reading in children alarms me. For, if children do not develop the skill of reading for pleasure and learning, then, they won’t learn to read the Bible for themselves.

Reading God’s word is important for Christians. Without the ability to read and delve into God’s word, people remain baby Christians, unable to effectively handle this war that we fight against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

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Book Lover’s Chocolate

I recently saw an advertisement for Book Lover’s Chocolate®.

Now, there is some good niche marketing. Bridge Brands Chocolate has made a chocolate product for book lovers (they also have wine lover’s , tea lover’s, and sports lover’s chocolates).

Bridge Brands Chocolate has packaged their chocolate drops in a boxes made of recycled paper made to look like beautiful old-world, antiquarian hardcover books. They even offer these chocolates in “three volumes:”

  • Volume 1: Dark Chocolate Espresso
  • Volume 2: Dark Chocolate
  • Volume 3: Milk Chocolate.

The chocolates are advertised as: “perfect for the book lover. You can keep them handy while you are reading. These gourmet chocolate drops will deliciously enhance your reading pleasure!”

I love it. What a creative marketing concept and an out-of-the-box (pun intended) way to take an everyday product and package it for a niche market of book lovers.

Let this interesting marketing concept get your own creative marketing juices flowing for your books and products. What are some ways you can target your books to a small subset of a population?

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