Coronavirus and Book Publishing

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting everyone. It has hit every business and is impacting our world and economy.

For fun, I compiled the top COVID-19 book-related headlines from this past week.

COVID-19 Book-Related Headlines

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A Positive Outlook for Christian Retail

A Christian consumer survey conducted in January 2020 with over 2,600 responses found that 48% of respondents said they shop (or would shop if they had one) at their local bookstore for faith-based content. Only 11% of respondents reported that they would not shop in-store.

Percentage of People shopping in Christian stores

The Parable Group compiled data from analysis of $66 million in Christian product sales, 2.1 million consumer receipts, and survey results from retailers and publishers in their recent 2020 State of Christian Retailing. During a time when the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting that sales in bookstores declined 5.7% in 2019 from sales in 2018, the Parable Group found less discouraging data from Christian bookstores.

The Parable study found that same store sales were only down by 2.5% in 2019 over 2018. That is encouraging news for Christian bookstores when compared to the bookstore market overall.

Three other significant findings in this report may surprise you.

1.  Books are the leading sales for Christian retail, making up one-third of all in-store sales.

Books make up one-third of in-store sales.

2.  Half of all Christian book sales come from three categories: Christian Living, Devotionals, and Fiction

Half of all Christian book sales comes from these three categories.

3.  Hosting more store events is not a high priority for most Christian retail stores.

Store events not a high priority for retail stores.

The Christian retail industry is a niche market. While there have been numerous store closures over the past few years, what remains is not dying.

The landscape is changing as Christian bookstores are now almost exclusively independently owned stores. In fact, 75% of Christian retail respondents in The Parable Group’s survey had a positive outlook for the future. One store stated, “We’re reaching new people and retaining current customers better than ever.

If you are a Christian author and you have a Christian bookstore in your city, I suggest that you become a regular patron. Booksellers need our support. Bookstores help sell books. Whatever we can do as Christian authors to support Christian book sales impacts the Kingdom. If you are part of God’s Kingdom, then you reap the benefits.

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Photos courtesy of The Parable Group.

Personal Growth Books Are Popular

The pace of change in our world is accelerating. Change, like a ball rolling downhill, gathers momentum as rolls. The speed at which information doubles is getting faster and faster. Experts report that the information doubling speed has now reached every one to two years.

Personal Growth Books are Popular

The book publishing and selling industry is not immune from rapid change. Staying abreast of the trends in the book industry is useful for helping you know the challenges and to develop plans and programs for overcoming these challenges in selling books.

Book Sales by Category for 2019

After small annual gains over the past few years, unit sales of print books dipped 1.3% in 2019 compared to 2018 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan, which tracks 80% to 85% of print sales. Here is the breakdown of print book sales by category for 2019:

Adult Nonfiction: sales fell 1%

  • Self-Help: sales rose 11.4%
  • Juvenile Nonfiction: sales rose 4.5%

Adult Fiction: sales fell 2.9%

  • Graphic Novels: sales rose 16.1%
  • Science Fiction: sales fell 19.7%
  • Westerns: sales fell 17.2%
  • Romance: sales fell 12.4%
  • Mystery / Detective: sales fell 3.5%

Print sales of science fiction and romance have seen annual double-digit declines since the advent of ebooks. These books are still selling well in digital format.

Personal Growth Books Popular

The Self-Help or Personal Growth category has experienced continued growth over the past six years. In fact, it has nearly doubled in size since 2013.

Self Help Book Sales Graph

Industry experts report that this is not just a U.S. or Western phenomenon. A similar trend can be seen in China where self-help—especially positive personality imaging and self-worth books—are showing up on the bestseller lists.

The publishing industry is crowded. Whenever a book category becomes popular many publishers and authors jump on it. As a result, the number of Personal Growth titles published has outpaced the rate of the sales growth in this category.

Indeed, the number of ISBNs assigned to books in this category rose from 30,897 in 2013 to 85,253 in 2019. That is more than the 11% annual growth rate this category has seen.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that if you are an author of a Self-Help / Personal Growth book, people are reading books in this category. People are yearning for meaning, peace, and calm amidst the trials of life. Your book fills a need.

The bad news is that the competition is fierce. Just because Personal Growth books are selling well does not mean that your book will fly off the shelves. People have to first hear about your book. Then they have to trust you as the author to buy the book. Marketing is required.

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Image courtesy of Criativithy.

Is Your Book Available in More Than One Format?

Do you know the answers to these questions?

  • Who reads the most books overall?
  • Who reads the most ebooks?
  • Who listens to audiobooks the most?

College graduates read books in a variety of formats

These three questions all have the same answer. The answer is:

College Graduates—especially those making more than $75,000 per year and living in an urban or suburban environment.

The Pew Research Center’s most recent survey found that adults with a bachelor’s or advanced degree are more likely to be book readers than those who have only attended some college, high school graduates, and those with less than a high school education. And adults ages 18 to 29 are more likely to read books than those 65 and older.

college graduates read in a variety of formats

One interesting takeaway from this study is that well over one-third of college graduates consume books in digital and audiobook format. Those who read the most consume books in multiple formats: print, digital, and audio.

As an independent author or small publisher, this means that you should be making your books available for purchase in at least two, if not all three, of these formats. The more choices customers have, the more likely they will find your book in their preferred format, increasing your sales.

For many independent authors and small publishers, the price of audiobooks is too steep for their budget. Both ACX and Findaway Voices both offer more affordable audiobook production through royalty sharing with a narrator so that authors pay less upfront costs to produce an audiobook.

As artificial intelligence (AI) technology continues to improve, I believe that within a few years, production of audiobooks will be as affordable as production of print books is currently. I think that text to speech programs will evolve to sound just like a human reading, making audiobook production affordable for everyone.

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Photo courtesy of Joseph Redfield.

Online Christian Publishing Summit

Are you seeking to be traditionally published by a Christian publishing house? Do you just want to learn more about the Christian publishing industry?

Webinar

Writing for Your Life is offering a FREE Christian Publishing Online Summit this month. The organization is hosting 10 webinars taught by Acquisition Editors and Executives form top Christian Publishing Houses.

Scheduled webinars are as follows:

All you need to participate is a connection to the Internet. Just use this Zoom link to join any of the webinars live: https://zoom.us/j/518822087

You can also watch each webinar later at https://writingforyourlife.com/2020-online-summit/.

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Photo courtesy of Geralt.