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.

What Do Books and Music Have in Common?

When was the last time you purchased a music CD in a physical store?

Over the past decade, the music industry has undergone a huge shift. Consider the following:

  • Sales of CDs have declined while sales of MP3 music downloads purchased via the Internet have increased. Digital music sales overtook physical format sales in 2015.
  • Music streaming has become big business. Music subscription services allowing individuals to listen to their choice of music for a low monthly fee saw a 60 percent growth in 2017.
  • Indie music talent is growing. Artists are ditching the big label name records and attempting to break through to fame via streaming platforms.

When was the last time you purchased a print book in a brick-and-mortar store?

The book publishing industry is following the same movement as the music industry. Think about these trends:

  • Sales of print books in physical bookstores has greatly declined. The vast majority of books are now purchased on the Internet.
  • Sales of ebooks have stalled out to around 25 percent of book purchases, yet book subscription services continue to thrive—think Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, and Bookmate.
  • Indie authors are growing. Many authors are ditching the big publishing companies and publishing their works independently, taking them directly to consumers.

The big announcement in the news that recently caught my attention was:

With the popularity of digital music surging, Best Buy is officially pulling the plug on music CDs, and another retail giant (Target) may soon join them. Although CDs remain a relatively popular format worldwide, sales in the U.S. dropped more than 18% last year, prompting Best Buy to drop the format entirely. The retailer will stop selling CDs and pull them from shelves on July 1. Although Best Buy used to be the top music seller in the U.S., nowadays its CD sales generate a relatively low $40 million per year.

Most mass merchandise stores have already shrunk their book and music sections. Now some big box stores are dropping their CD sales. Since book industry trends appear to be following music industry trends, how long until these stores also drop their book sales?

Yes, print book sales are still strong, but don’t let that fool you. We are now in a digital era. Moving forward, the trend for the book industry is that a higher percentage of revenue from books will come via audiobooks, ebooks and subscription services.

Subscription services are on the rise. Audiobook streaming services are beginning to pop up—think Audible and StoryTel. Serialized books via apps will also grow—think Radish and Tapas. As publishers and authors, embracing digital in the coming years will be required to stay relevant.

Related Posts:
Publishing is Big Business
The eBook Subscription Model is Still Alive
Christian Retail is Struggling

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