Personal Growth Books Are Popular

The pace of change in our world is accelerating. Change, like a ball rolling downhill, gathers momentum as rolls. The speed at which information doubles is getting faster and faster. Experts report that the information doubling speed has now reached every one to two years.

Personal Growth Books are Popular

The book publishing and selling industry is not immune from rapid change. Staying abreast of the trends in the book industry is useful for helping you know the challenges and to develop plans and programs for overcoming these challenges in selling books.

Book Sales by Category for 2019

After small annual gains over the past few years, unit sales of print books dipped 1.3% in 2019 compared to 2018 at outlets that report to NPD BookScan, which tracks 80% to 85% of print sales. Here is the breakdown of print book sales by category for 2019:

Adult Nonfiction: sales fell 1%

  • Self-Help: sales rose 11.4%
  • Juvenile Nonfiction: sales rose 4.5%

Adult Fiction: sales fell 2.9%

  • Graphic Novels: sales rose 16.1%
  • Science Fiction: sales fell 19.7%
  • Westerns: sales fell 17.2%
  • Romance: sales fell 12.4%
  • Mystery / Detective: sales fell 3.5%

Print sales of science fiction and romance have seen annual double-digit declines since the advent of ebooks. These books are still selling well in digital format.

Personal Growth Books Popular

The Self-Help or Personal Growth category has experienced continued growth over the past six years. In fact, it has nearly doubled in size since 2013.

Self Help Book Sales Graph

Industry experts report that this is not just a U.S. or Western phenomenon. A similar trend can be seen in China where self-help—especially positive personality imaging and self-worth books—are showing up on the bestseller lists.

The publishing industry is crowded. Whenever a book category becomes popular many publishers and authors jump on it. As a result, the number of Personal Growth titles published has outpaced the rate of the sales growth in this category.

Indeed, the number of ISBNs assigned to books in this category rose from 30,897 in 2013 to 85,253 in 2019. That is more than the 11% annual growth rate this category has seen.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that if you are an author of a Self-Help / Personal Growth book, people are reading books in this category. People are yearning for meaning, peace, and calm amidst the trials of life. Your book fills a need.

The bad news is that the competition is fierce. Just because Personal Growth books are selling well does not mean that your book will fly off the shelves. People have to first hear about your book. Then they have to trust you as the author to buy the book. Marketing is required.

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Do You Want to Sell More Books?

Do you want to sell more books?

1,416,384

This is the number of print books that were self-published in 2018.

91.5%

This is the percentage of those self-published print books that were published through Amazon’s KDP.

Amazon is huge. It is a dominant factor in the book-selling industry. However, it is not the only place books are sold. Currently, the breakdown of print books purchased online versus in physical stores is:

  • 34% of print books purchased in stores.
  • 66% of print books purchased online.

Amazon is not the only book seller in town (or state, or country, or world). If you are an independent author who has published through KDP, you are probably missing out on sales. In fact, you may only be selling half as many books as you could be selling.

The major publishers—those companies whose business is to sell books for profit—do not get all their sales from Amazon. In fact, here the breakdown for where major publishers sell their print books is:

  • 50% Amazon
  • 25% Libraries and specialty accounts
  • 17% Barnes & Noble
  • 8% Independent bookstores

Sales Breakdown

Only half of all print book sales for major publishers comes from Amazon. So, if you are only selling your books on Amazon, you are missing out on sales.

If you want to sell more books, here are some suggestions:

1.  Sell your book through multiple channels.

Not everyone shops on Amazon. If half of the major publishers print book sales come from other channels (both online and physical), then you are missing out on sales by exclusively selling your book through Amazon.

2.  Think outside the box.

One-fourth of the major publishers print book sales comes from library and specialty accounts. While you may have some difficulty getting libraries to pick up your book as an independent author, thinks about specialty stores. There are thousands upon thousands of gift stores in the United States. What type of gift, museum, or novelty shop might your book be a good fit for? Pursue these type of stores (both online and physical) for selling your book.

3.  Do more in-person events.

People buy books from authors they know, like, and trust. The quickest way to get people to know, then like and trust you is to do an in-person event. This could be a book signing, an author reading, a seminar, or other speaking engagement. These types of events allow you to sell your books during or after the event, increasing your sales.

4.  Pursue media coverage.

The number one reason people buy a book is because they are familiar with the author. People cannot become familiar with you unless they have exposure to you. One great way to expose yourself to people is through an interview on a radio or podcast show.

If you don’t know where to begin, I suggest that you join Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) and download our list of over 80 radio and podcast outlets interviewing authors. The list is a steal of a deal and worth more than the Association’s annual dues.

If you need help in knowing how best to approach radio and podcast hosts to request an interview, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA) can also help with that. After you become a Member, you can download our Reference Guides on Media Pitches and Media Interviews to learn what to do to be a successful media guest.

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Three Challenges in Selling Books

Selling books is challenging. A challenge is something that requires special effort. Special effort is required to sell your books.

Challenges in Selling Books

The book selling climate is fiercely competitive. Every author must meet and overcome the following three challenges to sell books.

1. Attention

In today’s economy, attention is a valuable commodity. People have numerous entertainment options all clamoring for their attention: social media, movies, television, podcasts, sports, hobbies… and the list goes on. Reading faces stiff competition for attention from other entertainment activities.

Every author faces the challenge of hooking an audience into noticing their books. Catching people’s attention is becoming more and more challenging. With over 4,200 books published every day in the United States, even avid readers have a vast array of books they can pay attention to.

2. Time

Twenty-first century life is busy. Between work, family, church, and other activities, people have less time to devote to leisure activities like reading.

In fact, a recent study found that people spent 9% less time reading in 2019 than they did in 2018. Time is a precious asset. More and more, people are spending bite-sized minutes on content. For example, Facebook users spend an average of 2.5 seconds on any given piece of content.

3. Declining Readership

The number of people who do not read a single book in a given year is growing. In 1978, that figure was 8%. In other words, only 8 out of every 100 people did not read a book during the year. Now that number is closer to 25%. This means that one out of every four people in the United States did not read a book last year.

Woman reading

In addition, readership for Christian books is declining. Only 49% of the largest consumer group in America—the Millennials—identify as “Christian.” In the past decade, the percentage of all Americans who identify as “Christian” has dropped from 77% to 65%. The upshot is that the number of people in the target audience for any given Christian book is shrinking.

Overcoming these Challenges

The good news is that these challenges are not insurmountable. In fact, religious books have been selling well over the past five years. Following are three suggestions to help you overcome each of these challenges.

1. Increase your Familiarity Factor

The number one reason people buy a book is because they are familiar with the author. The best way to grab attention is by being known. Become known by writing and publishing multiple books. Those people who read one of your books and like it will go on and read your other books, helping you sell more books.

2. Shorter is Better

Time is tight for most people. As a result, we are consuming content in bite-sized chunks. Write to accommodate this new way of reading. Use shorter chapters that can be finished in a few minutes. Also keep your paragraphs short so that readers don’t become overwhelmed when viewing a page. Remember, most people are going to read your book in spurts using short chunks of time.

3. Become Irresistible

Write and publish a compelling book. Your book should not just be good. It should be “too good to not read.” When people feel they are missing out on something good, they will make time for it. Make your book so good that people won’t want to miss out.

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Words that Sell

Consumers are bombarded by marketing messages. Just about every website or social media site you visit online showcases numerous ads and promotional material. Any marketing messages that you add to this storm can easily get lost in the deluge.

So, how can you help your marketing messages get noticed? Try using words that truly speak to your audience.

Persuasive words that evoke emotion work best to motivate readers to pull out their credit card and buy your book right now. People respond best to positive emotions that give them a sense of hope, belonging, or accomplishment.

To help you craft better marketing messages using words that sell, check out the infographic below.

Words that Sell

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What influences Book Purchasing Decisions?

Whoever coined the phrase “Familiarity breeds contempt” was not talking about readers who buy books. In fact, when it comes to book purchasing, the opposite is true.

Familiarity is a leading influence on readers' book choices.

BookNet Canada conducts studies on book reading and buying behavior. In one of their studies, they looked at which element influence readers to purchase a particular book. Were readers drawn in by the awesome cover design? Were they won over by the gripping book description? Did endorsements influence readers purchase decision?

Familiarity

It turns out familiarity was the most cited influence for reading a given book. In other words, the reader was familiar with the author. Somehow the reader knew about the author. They may have read another book by that author. They may be familiar with the author because he or she is already famous. Maybe they saw the author on television or heard her on the radio. The key ingredient was that they “knew” the author somehow.
Here is the breakdown of the percentage of people who ranked each option first in terms of how they influence when books they read / listen to:

  • Familiarity with the author – 35.5%
  • Read a synopsis – 25.8%
  • Familiarity with the series – 17.2%
  • Cover design – 6.9%
  • Awards and bestseller stickers/badges – 6.5%
  • Saw an ad for the book – 4.7%
  • Author or celebrity endorsement – 3.1%

Notice in this breakdown that “Familiarity with the Author” was chosen by over one-third of the readers, and “Familiarity with the Series” was chosen by just about one out of every six readers. Combined, over half of all study participants chose familiarity as their number one influence in deciding what to read.

This means that as an author, you have to work hard to make yourself known to readers so that they are “familiar” with your name. In order for people to become familiar with you, you must be visible. Here are a four ways to increase your visibility as an author so readers can become more familiar with your name:

  1. Get interviewed on radio and television shows, as well as podcasts.
  2. Write articles and guest blogs.
  3. Speak at events.
  4. Write more books.

Reading a book sample

Book Samples

One-fourth of all readers reported that the number one influence for choosing what book to read was “Read a Synopsis or Sample.” A 2017 survey by BookNet Canada found that 15% of book buyers had downloaded a free extract/sample of a book in the previous year.

If you want to catch more readers for your books, then you should be offering free samples. Make the most of giving readers a taste of your book by:

  1. Allowing readers to read a chapter or two of the book on your website.
  2. Enabling the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon for your book.
  3. Getting wider exposure on social media for your book sample through Pay With a Tweet.
  4. Posting your sample chapters on reading sites like Wattpad, Booksie, and Noisetrade.

Through making yourself more visible so people become familiar with you and offering free chapters of your book to readers, you increase your chances that readers will by your book. After all, three-fourths of readers surveyed choose these two reasons—familiarity and reading a sample—as the most influential factor in their decision on what book to read.

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