Sales of Indie Books Continue to Grow

Independent publishing (aka self-publishing) is here to stay. The number of books produced and sold by independent authors continues to grow. I think this is great news!

good-news

Data Guy over at Author Earnings shared some great new book sales statistics at the recent Digital Book World 2017. Here are a few of the interesting findings he shared in regards to independently published book sales for 2016 in the United States:

  • The total number of books units sold (both traditional and nontraditional in print, ebook, and audiobook formats) was 1,337,138,000.
  • The total number of independently published book units sold was 229,000,000 (counting ebook, audiobook, and print book sales).
  • Self-published titles accounted for 17% of total book sales.
    • About 30% of adult fiction and 10% of adult nonfiction book sales were independently published books.
  • Readers are buying books online: 69% of all book sales were made online.
    • About 72% of adult nonfiction books and 77% of adult fiction books were purchased online.

Independent publishing has truly come of age. I think that the industry overall is finally getting on board with accepting self-published titles.

books-sold

For years, most Christian writers’ conferences have been geared toward helping authors obtain traditional publishing contracts. This too is changing. Now some conferences are teaching attendees how to independently publish their books.

The Colorado Christian Writers Conference is offering this to their attendees. I will be teaching an intensive continuing education seminar at this conference in May on “You Can Indie Publish and Market Your Book”. This five-session seminar will cover the following topics:

  1. Three Things to Do Before You Publish Your Book
  2. Preparing Your Manuscript for Publishing
  3. DIY: Publish Your Book
  4. Obtaining Book Reviews
  5. Marketing: The Essential Ingredient

If you are thinking about independently publishing or know someone who is, sign up to attend the Colorado Christian Writers Conference and join me for this intensive training.

If you want to attend, but can’t make this conference, I will be teaching this seminar again at the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference this summer in July.

Related Posts:
Independent Publishing Continues to Grow
Four Publishing Trends for 2017
A Little Yeast and Self-Publishing

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Photo courtesy of Hope House Press

Decreasing Book Sales

Did you know that at a time when more and more books are being produced that overall book sales are dropping? It is true.

decreasing sales

The American book market sold 770 million copies of books in 2009, but in 2014, it only sold 635 million. These figures are from Nielson Book. Given the vast variety of leisure activities available to people, the drop in book sales is not surprising.

eBooks have not increased book sales as some had predicted. Rather, ebook sales have leveled off, and print appears to be the preferred method of reading, at least for the time being. The latest Pew Internet Research found that percentage of American adults who read an ebook was 28% in 2014, up 11% since 2011. Still, that figure is small compared to the percentage who read a print book, 69% in 2014, only slightly fewer than the 71% who reported doing so in the 2011 sample. Americans are far more likely to read a print book than an ebooks.

Did you catch that? 69% of people read a print book last year, while only 28% of people read an ebook. It is remarkable that at a time of massive digital immersion, a majority of people still prefer to consume their reading the old-fashioned way—with a print book.

Print is still incredibly important in the book producing and selling business. Offering your books in both print and digital format is the best way to secure the most sales. Authors and publishers must do all they can to get readers to buy their books in an era of decreasing book sales.

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The Demise of Bookstores

Physical bookstores have been on a rapid decline for the past few years. Last year, in 2011, Borders declared bankruptcy and closed around 300 stores nationwide. Yes, a handful of these (14) were purchased by Books-A-Million, but that did not really make a dent in the decline in the number of actual physical bookstores.

More recently, citing steadily declining sales in their physical bookstores, The United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) announced that they will close all 57 of their Cokesbury stores by April 30, 2013.

In 2010, CBA, the association for Christian retail, reports that 77 stores closed, while only 14 new stores opened. In 2011, 54 stores closed and 32 new stores opened. The number of stores closing continues to outpace the number of stores opening.

Interestingly, UMPH reports that while they are closing their physical stores, they will continue to operate their online bookstore at www.Cokesbury.com. The company says they have seen a steady increase in sales through their online bookstore over the past 10 years. The company has decided to put their resources into growing their online store rather than pouring resources into their dwindling physical stores.

Is the decline of physical bookstores just a sign of our economy?

I don’t think so. I think it is more. I think it points to a shift in our culture.

1. Our lifestyle is changing.

We lead increasingly busy lives. The big box retailers that offer groceries, home improvement, clothing, and other goods all under one roof are growing. More people are shopping at these stores for the convenience and time-savings they offer. Few people have the time to drive to multiple shops to buy niche products.

2. Our nation is becoming increasingly post Christian.

As our nation moves farther and farther away from embracing Christianity, the number of people seeking specialized Christian products diminishes. Many people may still purchase these products, but spending extra time to seek them out is not their priority. Hence, even Christian bookstores in malls are experiencing declining sales. Shopping for other goods is just more important.

Just as UMPH has experienced increased sales on their online store, so I think that more and more Christian book sales will be made via the Internet. As Christian books increasingly become a niche market, sales will migrate to the Internet. Currently, 49% of all books are purchased online. I believe the percentage for Christian books purchased online is probably higher than that.

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A Strategy for Selling Books

Six books for $9.99! That’s just $1.67 per book—ebook of course.

Sourcebooks, a publisher of romance books, is offering readers this great deal. It is their new subscription plan for romance readers.

Readers who sign up for this subscription will be able to choose one of four featured romance titles each month for six months. Subscription members will also be able to purchase additional titles at a discount.

Why is Sourcebooks offering this subscription service so cheap? To hook readers. Sourcebooks wants to build a loyal following of romance readers who will return again and again to purchase books.

I think this strategy is a great way to build an audience for books. However, to use this type of subscription approach, a publisher must produce a number of new books on a regular basis.

How might this type of strategy serve a small publisher?

If you are a small publisher producing a series (fiction series, Bible study series, children’s book series), consider this idea. You could offer people who purchase the first book in your series a chance to purchase the remaining books in the series at a discount.

This strategy is much like selling pre-publication copies of a book. Readers who enjoy the first book in the series would then pay for the remaining books (at an irresistible price) in advance. Each book would then be shipped to the customer when they are released.

Creativity, thinking outside the box, and trying new things is how publishers will remain viable and sell books in today’s economy.

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How Do Your Book Sales Stack Up?

According to Nielson BookScan, which tracks about 70 percent of all retail sales of books (including those sold through Amazon.com), the average U.S. nonfiction book is only selling 250 copies per year and only around 3,000 copies over its lifetime.

This little statistic packs both good news and bad news.

The good news is that small publishers only selling around 250 copies of a nonfiction book a year can consider themselves as having average booksales.

Often micro publishers feel discouraged when their books do not sell as well as they expect. Having realistic expections is important when selling books. Unrealistic expectations lead to discouragement.

The second part of this good news is the longevity of nonfiction books. If the average book sales are 250 per year and 3,000 over the life of a nonfiction book, this would imply that the average life of a nonfiction book is around 8 to 10 years. Of course, some books sell more per year and others less per year than the average. Eight years seems like a long time to keep a book selling. However, for authors who consistently write new books, these new books spur the sales of their older books, lengthening the life of each book.

The bad news is that, according to these statistics, it takes time to sell quantities of books. Many new publishers and self-publishers often think that they will sell the vast majority of a new book within the first year of the release of a book. If the book is not selling well in the first year, these publishers become discouraged and give up.

As I have said before, selling books is a marathon, not a sprint. These statistics back up my assertion. It is the long-haul that sells quantities of books.

Are there exceptions to this rule. Of course. There are always exceptions. Yet, the vast majority of book sales fit into the average statistics.

How do your book sales stack up? Are they average, below average, or above average?

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