Being Heard Above the Noise

Bowker recently released estimates of print book production for 2013. The company reports that the number of print titles produced in 2013 dipped slightly from 2012 according to Bowker’s annual report on U.S. print book publishing. The year 2013 saw 304,912 print titles published, while the year 2013 saw 309,957 print titles produced.

Noise

Bowker’s figures do not take into consideration ebooks published during the year. So, in just considering how many new books were published in 2013, the figure is higher than 304,912, because a number of books are now being published in digital format only. One statistic shows that 31% of ebooks purchased on Amazon each day are self-published books.

It’s hard to get noticed in a noisy world. Bowker’s statistics show that publishing in the United States is noisy. There are multiple books on almost every subject vying for a consumer’s attention.

Competing in a noisy market is not necessarily about making the most noise. Having a “noisier” marketing campaign than other authors does not guarantee more sales. Sometimes noise is just annoying. Rather, utilizing unique angles and hooking your readers with the “What’s in it for me” angle that they can’t resist seems to bring the best results. Creativity is what gets attention.

Cook up some creative ideas to get your book notice. Here are five to consider:

  1. Host a contest. Make it unusual and unique with an enticing prize. (See “Use a Twitter Contest to Sell More Books” for one idea).
  2. Donate some of your books to local businesses that have reading material in their lobbies and cater to your target audience.
  3. Showcase your book at a local festival (see “What’s Your Marketing Shtick?”).
  4. Put a magnetic sign about your book on your car. (see “One Creative Book Promotion Idea”).
  5. Make your book cover into a cover for your smart phone or tablet for a walking book advertisement (see “A Walking Advertisement” and “Walking Advertisements”).

The book market in the United States is crowded and most likely going to stay that way. Creativity is needed to get noticed above all the noise.

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Don’t Overlook Smart Phones

One of my daughter’s middle-school friends hates to read. Her mother says that getting her to read anything is worse than getting teeth pulled. This girl will always find shortest book she can when required to read something for school.

Recently, this middle-school girl obtained an iPod Touch. One day while browsing around the Internet, she came across an ebook that she thought she might be interested in reading. She decided to read this ebook for her next school project.

Little did she know, this book would turn out to be the longest book she ever read. You see, not having a physical copy, she did not think to look at the number of pages in the book’s description. Reading on an iPod is similar to reading on a smart phone, you only see a portion of a page at a time. This girl told me that when she got to chapter 24, she began to wonder how many chapters the book had. After going back to the Table of Contents to look, she discovered the book had a whopping 72 chapters.

Here is the good part. Not knowing that the book was so long, she began reading and got hooked on the story. Now, she is determined to complete the entire book—all via her iPod through reading in the cloud.

Recently, Bowker noticed a disparity between the number of Young Adult ebooks being purchased and the relatively low number of kids who claim to read ebooks. They decided to investigate. What Bowker found was that 55% of the buyers of Young Adult books are 18 years old or older. Those in the 30 to 44 age group reported they were purchasing the title for themselves 78% of the time.

With over half of the readers of Young Adult books being adults (taking into account both print and ebook format), what does this say about the reading of tweens/teens?

The data found in Bowker’s study combined with the recent findings by the Pew Internet and American Life Project that 45% of all U.S. adults now own a smartphone and that 29% of all ebooks are read on smartphone, makes me ponder a couple of things.

  1. I fear that many young people may be like my daughter’s friend. In our age of instant gratification and fast-moving media, many youth may be turned off by the length of books, leading them to consistently choose other activities over reading. Maybe digital reading may indeed help increase the number of youth reading for pleasure.
  2. Smartphones may currently be the most common mobile e-reading device.

What does this mean for you as an author or publisher? First, be aware that if you have written or published a Young Adult book, the majority of your readers may actually be adults. Second, make sure your digital books are available for sale through Apple’s iStore and the android stores (such as Google Play) for readers to purchase and download your book onto their smartphones.

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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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