Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trends In Book Sales Impact How Authors Approach Marketplace

As an author you want your book to sell.  You know there are many formats that you can sell your book -- hardcover, softcover, mass market paperback, digital audio, CD, and e-book.  You also know there are many channels to sell through -- big box stores, bookstore chains, indie bookstores, catalogs, online, schools, etc.  But did you know how book sales are trending and where the hot markets are?

New data released by NPD Group Book Scan shows that book sales are all over the place.  The conclusion?  You should seek to sell your book in as many formats through as many channels as possible. You have to diversify your portfolio – to be available everywhere.

Obviously if you are e-book-only publishing, your marketplace is strictly reserved to e-retailers, but if you publish in other formats, the marketplace available to you is wide-ranging.

So what do the numbers show?

E-retailers move about 40% of all book units sold.  Bookstores sell 40% of all print units sold.  The other 20% comes from a variety of other sources.  None of these stats take into account certain unregistered sales, such as book sales at an event where a bookstore is not used to process sales or when authors sell copies in bulk to organizations and groups.  Further, many sales that are processed directly by an author on his or her website do not get counted in either.

2016 was either a down or up year depending on how you look at things.  In terms of unit sales – and not actual dollars – total sales of print and e-book units slumped in 2016 by 1.4% across all channels.  However, that figure excluded board books and physical audiobooks.  When they are factored in, sales rose by 3.3%.

The format that has suffered the most this decade is the mass market paperback.  Since 2010, units collapsed in sales and are down 46.4%. E-books, though they account for a lot of sales – 22.9% of all units old – dropped from being 25.7% of all units sold in 2015.  In fact, e-book unit sales have dropped every year since their 2013 peak, when 243 million units were sold.  Last year, only 179 million e-book units were sold.

Book clubs, fairs, and mass merchandisers largely account for the rest of the book marketplace.

So, as an author, you may be wondering what does all this mean?  Well, it certainly shows diversification in the marketplace works.  Just selling on Amazon is not enough, nor is being stocked at a handful of indies. Authors must make sure they have books available in all kinds of places – digital and brick.  Where possible, offer your book in multiple formats.  Consumers have a wide variety of preferences and tastes when it comes to how they consume content and where they purchase it.

Be everything to everyone – available everywhere.

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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 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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