Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bookstore Sales Are Up This Year, But Are Book Sales Up?

Bookstore sales reflect the sale of non-book items as well as books, so though store sales are up just less than 1% for the first three quarters of 2015 vs. a year ago, it is not yet known if books sold at those stores have shown an increase in sales.  Nevertheless, it’s good to see an increase.  On the other hand, such a small increase will be challenged by a rise in expenses, from land to labor.

But bookstores aren’t the only source of book sales.  Who else buys up books? Libraries, schools, and businesses.  People buy from Amazon and other websites, including directly from some publishers or authors.  Books are sold at events or bought and given away.  How are all of these sales being accounted for?

The non-bookstore sales can be more profitable to publishers and authors.  For instance, if an author speaks at an event and on her own sells 100 copies after paying the publisher 50% of the cover price, she’s left with a 50% royalty off the cover price.  Nice!  Bookstore sales yield an author 7 ½ - 15%, depending on the book's format and the author’s contract terms.

So there are two questions here: Are books sales, from all formats and all revenue sources, up or down?  Are the net funds from such sales up or down?  Is the profit per book sold up or down?

There are public indications from the Big 5 that e-book sales have dropped off, though it’s too early to say if this will continue.

Bookstore sales, according to a preliminary U.S. Census Bureau report, jumped 6.7% in September compared to a year ago.  August was down a little.  Over time, should Amazon open more stores and do as well as expected, we could see bookstore sales continue to rise.

The non-bookstore sale seems to be what authors should be striving for.  This doesn’t mean they don’t support bookstores or stop selling through this traditional venue, but it does mean that authors should look to expand beyond that revenue stream.  Look at the many ways authors can sell books:

·         Street fairs
·         Seminars
·         Conventions
·         Mail order
·         Bulk sales to corporations
·         Sales to non-profits
·         Sales to temples/churches
·         Sales to government agencies
·         Used as a premium
·         Packaged with another product or service
·         Infomercials

It’s a good thing to see bookstore sales are up.  It’s a healthy sign.  But it’s only one way to measure book sales and just one means to sell books.  Keep your eyes open for all of the opportunities around you to move books and make extra money.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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