Industry statistics show that, while print book sales have been slowly growing over the past few years (about 2% to 3% per year), sales of fiction books have declined. According to 2017 estimates by the Association of American Publishers, sales of adult fiction fell 16% between 2013 and 2017.
Selling books is challenging. On any given day, more nonfiction than fiction books are sold in the United States. While there are numerous best-selling novels, year after year Americans still buy more nonfiction books than fiction. In fact, one recent report reveals that, in the United Kingdom, nonfiction outsells fiction by a two to one margin.
Why this decline in sales?
The most commonly shared view is that reading for pleasure is declining and it has become extremely difficult to generate exposure for novels.
As fiction sales decline, so do the vehicles that authors have available at their disposal to promote their books. Over the fifteen years that I have been involved in the Christian book industry, the number and breadth of vehicles that authors can use to reach readers has steadily declined.
The latest vehicle to fall by the wayside is Book Fun Magazine. Citing a drop in readership as well as a drop in revenue, Book Fun Magazine recently announced that their final issue will be released in December 2018.
With fewer avenues available for marketing and advertising both fiction and nonfiction books, authors need to become more creative at reaching readers directly.
1. Developing Your Audience Is More Important than Ever
Instead of relying on publications and other historically industry-standard venues to reach readers, authors now have to become more creative in their marketing efforts. Knowing your target audience and where they hang out and get their information has become more important than ever. More and more authors need to engage their target audience through avenues like professional organizations, online interest groups, church leaders, partnering with parachurch organizations, and speaking engagements.
Targeting your audience effectively is not enough. It takes seven to twelve exposures to a product before a consumer decides to make a purchase. Your goal in developing an audience is to offer a free lead magnet to hook your target audience into giving you their email. Then, you develop this audience by building trust with these people through providing them ongoing content that meets a need they have and enriches their lives in some way.
2. Format for Quick Reading Is Becoming More Important
We now create more data in one year than in the 5,000 that came before. Information overload is present in almost every area of our life. Numerous studies reveal that people’s attention spans are getting shorter. Long-form reading is on the decline.
People no longer want to read dense passages of prose. Instead, we want the facts and we want them in an easily digestible format. Authors need to make it easy for readers to consume the next line and keep going. This means that the interior layout of books is becoming more and more important in attracting and keeping readers.
In essence, authors need to make their words as visually appealing as possible. This means using more space and separators in your chapters. For nonfiction books, include bolding, italics, underlining, and pull quotes to attract the eye. In fiction books, keep your chapters shorter with cliff-hanging hooks at the end of each one.
As times change, are ways of doing things also need to change so that our books remain relevant. Selling books is not an easy task. The growing number of distractions in our society that pull people away from long-form reading is only going to continue.
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Photo courtesy of PatheMathos.