Friday, September 28, 2018

How To Market Books To Fewer Readers

It’s hard enough to convince people who actively buy and read books to give of their wallet and time to your book, but a new report indicates fewer people are reading books.  How are authors to win over those who are falling off the reading grid?

In 2017, the percentage of adults 18 and over reading a book was 52.7%.  That means nearly half of our adult population did not read a single book last year that was not for school or work.  Apparently, reading a book for fun, improvement, curiosity, learning, or escape is a dying experience.

These discouraging findings are from a report issued by the National Endowment for the Arts. They surveyed nearly 28,000 adults and found that though there was an increase, in the past five years, of those attending a visual or performing arts activity, only 54% of adults took part in such an activity.  

There’s a pattern here – 1 in 2 American adults care about books, museums, plays and the like – and almost as many do not care at all.

In 2012, the NEA found 54.6% of U.S. adults read at least a book that year, down from 56.6% in 2002.  The trend is disturbing.  In the past 15 years, the number of adult book readers is down.  The study did not indicate if the number of books read by readers is up or down.

So why are the number of book readers down?

Is it because there are not enough books, especially good ones, available?  Of course not.  There’s been an explosion of books in the past 15 years, where there are over a million new titles released annually.  With the advent of print-on-demand and digital books, millions of titles that would otherwise by inaccessible or out-of-print are now available.  Though the quality of some books is questionable, there are tons of critically-acclaimed, award-winning or best-selling books (in every genre) available at the click of a button, visit to a library or a trip to a bookstore.

Is it that people can’t afford to buy books?  

This study was about readership, not purchasing, so with so many books given away online, available for peanuts at used bookstores, retailing well-below cover price on Amazon, and available for free at libraries, affordability doesn’t appear to be the issue.

Is it because people don’t read anymore?  

The Internet has greatly increased time spent reading.  We read newspapers, magazines, blogs, newsletters, websites, and emailed documents – for hours every day.  Obviously America, with a high literacy rate is reading plenty of stuff – just not books.

So what’s the reason?

Rather than speculate, I’ll leave it up to the experts to figure it out, but my earlier question is about how authors will market their books to a shrinking pool of book readers and the answer may be an ugly one.

Will authors and publishers have to start treating the books by others the way corporations treat competing products and services?  Will books get sold not by touting their merits but by scolding titles of the same genre?  Will books be marketed the way a political candidate seeks your vote -- by tarnishing the opposition?

If only so many people read books, and even fewer buy them, authors and publishers will need to come to some tough choices:

·         Should prices be raised with fewer books sold?
·         Should fewer titles be published?
·         Should books be shortened, to cut costs?
·         Should certain genres get ignored for publication if they are not so popular?

Rather than downsizing the quality or quantity of books or making other drastic changes, we need to do the opposite.  We must expand the number of literates as well as the number of book readers.  We need public service announcements to raise our book-reading consciousness.  The book industry – and the American public wins when more books are read by more people.  We must reverse the ugly trends of decreased readership or we’ll see a book world that will move to eat its own to survive.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America and participated in a PR panel at the Sarah Lawrence College Writers Institute Conference.

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