For the past couple years, Digital Book World has conducted a survey of authors to collect information. Taking part in this survey is voluntary. This year, Digital Book World combined with Writers’ Digest to conduct the survey. The survey found:
- 71.8% of indie authors sold fewer than 1,000 copies, compared with 40.5% of traditionally published authors.
- 59.7% of indie authors sold fewer than 500 books.
I think that these figures actually skew high for independently published books. I believe this survey tends to attract those authors who are more invested and committed to marketing their books.
The interesting piece from this survey is the percentage difference in the number of traditionally published authors versus independently published authors who sold fewer than 1,000 copies. This survey would indicate that traditionally published authors sell more books overall.
There are a few reasons why this is the case:
- Traditional publishers vet for quality. In addition, traditional publisher have editors who edit the books and make sure the books they publish are finely tuned literary pieces.
- Traditional publisher use professional cover designers.
- Traditional publishers have marketing personnel who are involved in ensuring that a book’s description is clear and enticing. Additionally, these marketing professionals help the company’s authors acquire publicity.
- Traditional publishers ensure that the books they publish are placed in established distribution channels. In addition, many traditional publishers have developed relations with various book vendors around the country (and even internationally) ensuring that these book buyers take notice of new books they put out.
Acquiring readers for a book is hard work. This is where most independently published authors fall short. I have seen independently published books with exceptional editing, professional covers, and great book blurbs (descriptions) that fail to sell many copies. Often, it is due to lack of marketing and promotion know-how and perseverance on the part of the author.
Sadly, what I see more often are independently published books that are not well edited, that do not have sharp covers, and that lack clear book descriptions. Lack of clear book descriptions is truly one of the biggest reasons some independently published books don’t sell well. I have read many independently published book blurbs that leave me wondering what the book is really about. As well as wondering what a reader will get out of the book.
Additionally, I come across many independently published authors that don’t take the time to adequately educate themselves about what it takes to sell a book. Knowledge is power. There is so much information available today to authors that there is no excuse for not being educated on how to effectively promote a book. One good place to start is with my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.
If you independently publish, educate yourself and be sure that your book descriptions are clear. Accurately communicate with readers the answer to WIIFM (see my blog post WIIFM). You may never sell as many copies of your book as a traditionally published author, but you sure will sell more copies if your marketing efforts aimed correctly, and you are clear with readers what your book is about and how reading it will benefit them.