The Current State of Book Sales

Are ebook sales growing? Are indie published book sales growing? What percentage of print books are purchased on Amazon?

These are questions I hear a lot. Fortunately, the people over at Author Earnings do a great job of putting out reports that reflect not only what is happening in the overall book purchasing market, but also the market for indie published books.

Author Earnings most recent report covers book sales for the last three quarters of 2017. I am going to summarize a few of the salient points here. If you want to read the entire report, you can do so on the Author Earnings website.

Bookscan captures between 70 to 80 percent of all hardcover and paperback book purchases in the United States (both physical and online purchases). Author Earnings only looks at online book purchases. Here are some of their findings.

  • Over half of all print books are purchased online. In 2017, 45.5% of all print book were purchased through Amazon. Did you catch that? Almost half of all print books alone are sold through Amazon. Amazon is a giant in the world of book sales!
  • The Indie share of the book market continues to grow, especially in the ebook realm. Indie published titles made up 28% (284 out of the top 1,000) of the top selling ebook authors in the United States.
  • The sweet spot for pricing an ebook is still $2.99 to $4.99. eBooks in this price range sold the most units on Amazon.

One of the big takeaways from Author Earnings most recent report was the highlighting of how vastly different the top selling genres for print and ebooks are.

eBook sales are largely fiction. Romance readers largely purchase digital books—90% of all romance purchases are ebooks. Science Fiction & Fantasy readers also prefer the digital format—75% of all this category is now ebook and audio. However, Children’s books are still largely print purchases, as are Poetry (82%) and Drama & Plays (85%).

According to Author Earnings, the top 10 Print and eBook genres in 2017 were:

Indie publishing is truly becoming mainstream. Of course, this means more competition for all authors as the number of books published continues to grow. The Author Earnings reports is full great information that you can use to both effectively price and position your books for more sales.

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Grow Your Writing and Marketing to the Next Level

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

There is always more to learn. There is always room for improvement. As an author or publisher, to stay relevant and up-to-date, you must continually learn. Publishing standards change. Technology changes. With these changes, you must learn and adapt what you do to be effective in reaching your target audience.

I recently served as a faculty member at the Carolina Christian Writers Conference. One of the events at the conference was called “Lightning Learning”. For this event, the conference attendees were broken up into groups. Then each group met for five minutes with each faculty member to discuss a “learning tip” that the faculty had prepared in advance for attendees.

When you have a group of experts offering advice, the learning opportunity is incredibly rich. I think some of the advice that the faculty shared is worth sharing with you. So, here are a few “Lightning Learning” tips from that event.

“What do you need to do before you start writing? Pray. Then pray some more! Just as you followed the call, seek God’s wisdom in every area of your writing.”
Gloria Penwell, www.boldvisionbooks.com

 

“Before you write your book or article, know your target audience. Keep them in mind as you write and write in a way that speaks and resonates with them. Doing this will increase the effectiveness of your writing and any marketing activities you do for your book or article.”
Sarah Bolme, www.christianpublishers.net

 “To write is to sacrifice, as professional writing requires a commitment of time away from people and activities. Take time to determine what level of time requirement you need to schedule for yourself, and specifically what things you are currently doing that you need to sacrifice in order to have the time to write.”
Craig von Buseck, www.inspiration.org

“Be recognizable online. This means having a professional picture for all social media/online sites that is recognizable from one platform to another. Keep your bio consistent. Make sure no one will ever be surprised when they meet you in person because you represent yourself differently online.
Edie Melson, www.thewriteconversation.blogspot.com

“What would happen to your work in progress if you spilled your morning coffee into the computer keyboard or downloaded a virus that ate your hard drive and destroyed your files? Writers need an automatic computer backup system.”
Lori Hatcher, www.reachoutcolumbia.com

 

If you have your own writing or marketing tip you want to share with other authors, please do so in the comment section. Share your wisdom so we call can learn.

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Are You Overlooking This Powerful Marketing Tool?

“I’m not tech savvy. Are there other ways to market a book besides social media?”

This is a question I frequently encounter, mostly from mature authors, but once in a while from younger authors who feel that social media has not been productive for them. My standard answer is always, “Yes, there are many ways to market a book, and no author should put all of their eggs in one basket.”

Social media is just one tool in an author’s marketing toolbox. There are numerous tools in that toolbox. Over reliance on one tool is not good. After all, not all situations need a screwdriver.

One often overlooked marketing tool is using articles to promote your book. Articles are an excellent means of spreading your message and introducing readers to your books. Sadly, many authors are either unaware of the power of articles for promotion or they simply omit this influential tool.

In her book Articles, Articles, Articles, Linda Gilden walks authors and potential authors through everything they need to know to write and publish articles. From information on brainstorming ideas to formatting and writing an article to submitting an article for publication, Linda’s book is a comprehensive guide on writing articles. The book covers writing articles for print magazines, e-zines, and blogs.

This book includes some wise advice from author DiAnn Mills. She says, “When I finish and send in the first draft to the editor, the next thing I do I make a list of all the blogs and articles I can write that would help and assist a reader, but it is also woven in with the theme of my book.” Linda’s chapter on brainstorming ideas for articles expounds on this idea.

Linda reminds authors that you don’t have to limit yourself to just the area of the subject matter in your book. Linda encourages you to think outside the box. Once you have exhausted the specific area of your book’s coverage for articles, go wider. Is your book your own story of overcoming depression? Then you can also interview experts on the subject for articles. You can write a piece on rehab centers for Christians experiencing depression. You might even go niche and write an article on the special issues pastors face when struggling with depression.

The great thing about articles is that most publications allow you an author byline that lets you tell the publication’s readers a little about yourself. You can use your author byline to introduce people to your book. Linda points out in her book that articles can help you build your author platform by introducing you (and your book) to thousands upon thousands of readers.

If you are interested in using articles to promote your books, I suggest that you head on over to your favorite bookstore and purchase a copy of Linda Gilden’s book Articles, Articles, Articles. It gives you all the information you need to use this influential marketing tool to introduce more readers to your books.

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Photo courtesy of Hunter Haley.

Market Your Christian Novel Like a Pro

According to Publishers Weekly, sales of Christian fiction books is healthy. The number of indie authors publishing fiction books appears to be growing. In 2016, 17% of overall books purchased were indie published—but 30% of fiction books purchased were indie published. That number has since grown. This year, one-third of the books nominated for the 2018 Christian Indie Awards were fiction books.

One of the trends in fiction books is that a higher percentage of these books are being purchased as ebooks rather than print books. According to Author Earnings, fiction books make up the lion’s share of ebook purchases with 70% of all fiction sales occurring as ebooks and 90% of all romance book purchased as ebooks.

If you write and publish Christian fiction, you know that marketing a fiction book is difficult. If your fiction book sales are slow, then you might want to take a lesson from traditional Christian book publishers and imitate their marketing strategies for novels by new authors. Following are a number of marketing strategies traditional Christian publishing houses use to promote novels by authors who do not already have a built-in fan base.

  1. Mailings to bookstore managers about the new novel.
  2. Mailings to libraries.
  3. Mailings to book clubs.
  4. Placement in distributor’s catalogs (Ingram/Spring Arbor and Anchor catalogs).
  5. Strategic ad placement for print and online media.
  6. Eblasts to readers, retailers, and media.
  7. Advance copies to publications that review books.
  8. Advance copies to influencers.
  9. Placement of ARC on NetGalley for reviews.
  10. Securing media interviews.
  11. Host author events and book signings.
  12. Cross-promotion with other authors with similar titles.
  13. Special promotions with coupons and discounts to drive sales.
  14. Free novella ebook prequel that includes the first few chapters to the full-length novel.

I believe all these strategies are valuable. They work together to create synergy and exposure that drive the most sales. However, I am also aware that many indie authors do not have the resources to engage in all 14 of these activities. Therefore, if you have to choose just one of these activities, I suggest that you practice number 14. Provide a free novella ebook prequel to your novel.

Offer your novella for free on all the ebook platforms (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Apple Book Store, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.) and on your website (in exchange for an email to help build your email list). Traditional publishers report that this strategy has led to stronger ebook sales for their authors who do this over authors who do not use this technique. Smashwords, the largest self-publishing ebook platform, reports that authors that offer the first ebook free for a fiction series earn 55% more on average than series that don’t offer the first ebook free.

Maybe you are a fiction author who wants to do a number of the above strategies but are unsure of how to go about these marketing activities. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) can help you with that. We offer our members access to eblasts for Christian readers, retailers, and media, we provide information each month on podcasts and radio shows seeking guests in our newsletter, we offer cooperative print and digital advertising, and many other resources for spreading the word on your books.

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Censorship: It Could Happen to You

Censorship isn’t always government led. Sometimes it comes from society and businesses. It’s happening today on the Internet from large companies and it affects you Christian authors and publishers.

I recently returned from attending the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) annual convention. It was the organization’s 75th convention. The organization began in 1944 with 150 Evangelical Christian broadcasters and church leaders forming in response to a set of regulations that banned the purchase of radio airtime for religious broadcasting. Due to the regulations, Evangelical Christian broadcasters were taken off of national radio networks and only allowed access to small independent stations with limited audiences. The ban was finally overturned in 1949. NRB has long been known for their stance on freedom of speech.

We are in a new era, yet we face the same challenge today. Giant Internet companies are demonetizing, blocking, shutting down and censoring accounts held by outspoken Christian conservatives. A few examples over the past few years include:

  1. In 2015, GoFundMe shut down a fundraising account for the owners of the Sweet Cakes bakery in Oregon who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The owners were facing a hefty legal fine and the GoFundMe account was set up to help them pay this fine. After shutting the account, GoFundMe added “discriminatory” campaigns to the list of causes that cannot use their service.
  2. In August 2017, YouTube demonetized hundreds of videos produced by Dr. Michael Brown host of Line of Fire radio show. Dr. Brown is an author, professor, proponent of Messianic Judaism and is a leader in the Charismatic Movement.
  3. In March 2017, Vimeo removed 850 videos by Pure Passion TV and closed its account. The company reported that they disagreed with the views expressed in four videos on sexuality posted by Pure Passion TV.
  4. In October 2014, Twitter blocked users from linking to a petition supporting the Houston pastors whose sermons were subpoenaed by the city because the pastors supported a referendum against a gender-neutral restrooms ordinance.

Christian authors and publishers, this issue affects you. I have spoken with outspoken Christian indie authors whose Facebook accounts have disappeared. A member of CSPA had his Amazon ads denied because they contained religious content (see Amazon: Christian Authors Beware). We, as Christian authors and publishers, must take this issue seriously and get behind those who are actively protecting our freedom of speech in the digital realm.

The National Religious Broadcasters has launched an initiative to do just this very thing. The Internet Freedom Watch aims to bring greater attention to the threats against free speech and to challenge Silicon Valley to uniformly practice its professed commitment to free speech.

You can support NRB’s efforts by doing the following:

Only working together can we raise awareness of this issue, fight back, and maintain freedom of speech. Let’s not let others silence our voices speaking God’s truth.

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Amazon: Christian Authors Beware
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Winning the Banned Books War

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