Selling Books is Challenging!

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.

Related Posts:
Selling Books in an Overcrowded Market
Selling Books in Nontraditional Places
Three Tips for Selling Books to Millennials

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Photo courtesy of PatheMathos.

Trends for 2013

The New Year, 2013, is just around the corner. The Internet is already full of predictions of what will happen next year.


Some of the predictions I have read include that mobile spam will increase in volume, that Smart TVs will become a target for hackers, and that some online retailers will begin offering e-readers for free to entice customers to purchase more ebooks.

Most of these predictions are based on current trends. I, too, believe that based on current trends the following trends will continue in 2013.

1.       Small presses and self-publishing will continue to expand.

The number of self-published books produced annually in the U.S. has nearly tripled, growing 287 percent since 2006 according to Bowker. This study, recently released by Bowker, also estimated that over 235,000 books were self-published in 2011. Bowker’s report showed that CreateSpace dominated the print segment, with the creation of 58,412 titles (39% of self-published print books).  The leading ebook producer was Smashwords with 40,608 titles (nearly 47% of total self-published ebooks). Interestingly, Bowker’s report also included a small press category which showed that nearly 34,107 self-published books were from small publishers who produce 10 or fewer titles per year. In addition, print book production by small presses increased more than 74 percent between 2006 and 2011. Many new authors will join the ranks of self-published authors in 2013, as technology continues to make it inexpensive and easy to do so.

2.       Sales of ebooks will continue to grow.

eBook sales have been growing steadily since 2009. For most of 2012, ebook sales growth more than double over last year’s sales. This year, ebook sales made up about 25% of all book sales. Predictions indicate that they will make up 50% of all book sales by 2016. Even with sales of e-readers declining, people will continue to increase their digital reading. Tablets and Smart phones all offer users the same access to digital books with easy portability.

3.       The number of physical bookstores will continue to decline.

I recently wrote a blog post on “The Demise of Bookstores.” This post detailed the closing of physical bookstores over the past two years. Barnes & Noble recently reported that they will close about seven stores at the end of this year. They closed about seven stores at the end of last year also. Bookstores are no longer the primary method for getting your books into the hands of consumers.

4.       Online sales of books will continue to increase.

Some reports indicate that up to 49% of all books are purchased via the Internet. As ebook sales have grown and as physical bookstores have declined, the Internet has become the go to place to purchase books. This trend will grow in 2013.

We do not know the future, especially when the Lord will return and the world will end. Luke 12:40 states “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” I am not claiming to be a prophet and these are not predictions. However, I do believe that these trends are here to stay, at least for the next year, if the Lord tarries.

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