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Book Trends - 2016

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Not sure how much it'll impact anyone, but here are some interesting book trends from 2016:

Trends for Trade by Format

In the first half of 2016 vs. 2015:

Paperback books grew 8.8% to $1.01 billion

Downloaded audio grew 32.3% to $126.7 million

Hardback books grew 0.9% $989.7 million

eBooks were down 20.0% to $579.5 million

Overall, it continues the trend away from Indie ebook sales back towards mainstream publishers print, with audio leading the way (as if anyone here could hire James Earl Jones to read a 350,000 word book?).

samuelmichaels

@Crumbly Writer

anyone here could hire James Earl Jones to read a 350,000 word book?

If they can digitize the images of Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing, surely they will sill soon have the voices of James Earl Jones and Sean Connery reading beer commercials.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

continues the trend away from Indie ebook sales back towards mainstream publishers print


Mainstream also publishes ebook. It seems the trend is away from ebook, not away from indie.

Can you provide the link to the article?

awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

Can you provide the link to the article?


Ditto, pretty please. I'd like to share it with my writers' group.

AJ

garymrssn

I suppose that there might be a number of great orator hopefuls who would work for free or cheap just to get their talents before the public. The trick being how to find them.

Ernest Bywater

Since the trends are in dollars of sales and not the quantity of book sales, I expect a good part of the print book sales going up is simply the increased prices due to rising costs. The jump in audio is to be expected with the jump in people wandering around with earplug stuck in their ears while they ignore the world around them - that's where the actual growth is.

However, the drop in e-book sales is more likely to be due to drops in the prices and many people changing who they sell through. I also doubt they track all the e-book sales due to the high number of people selling direct now.

Without access to the raw data on where they collected these figures from or how they assembled them, they're totally meaningless.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

This link

http://businessjournalism.org/2016/10/5-surprising-trends-in-the-book-industry/

has e-book sales down due to book app sales like Kindle Unlimited being up
I found many links about the trends mentioned talking about a report from the American Booksellers Association - which makes you wonder about the report process on what they counted.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Mainstream also publishes ebook. It seems the trend is away from ebook, not away from indie.

Can you provide the link to the article?

As I surmised, I suspect it's a combination of a move to best sellers, which don't price differentiate between prices of print and ebooks, making readers select the print books. The problem is, Indie publishers can't adapt because they can't cut the prices on their print books enough to make up the difference.

The blog posting can be found at Slow Turtle says you might want to take closer look at book formats.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Without access to the raw data on where they collected these figures from or how they assembled them, they're totally meaningless.

The past simply summarized the details. They didn't supply any raw data stats.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I found many links about the trends mentioned talking about a report from the American Booksellers Association - which makes you wonder about the report process on what they counted.

Even if they included Independent booksellers sales (something I seriously doubt), how many $1.99 Indie sales does it take to counter a single mainstream publishers $24.99 ebook sales?

I still content, Indie publishers can't really do much on the basis of this information. For those using traditional publishers, the publishers themselves decide what formats they use (not the authors). Indie publishers can't afford to charge the same (otherwise no one would risk reading an unknown author), and they certainly can't afford to pay a recognized actor to read their book.

Essentially, it's meaningless statistics to most authors. I'd NEVER recommend that Indie authors avoid ebooks, but I've never sold many print books (priced at either $7.99 or $14.99) when my ebooks sell anywhere from $2.99 (for series openers) to $6.99 (for new releases). There's just no way for Indie authors to compete with anything other than ebooks!

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

Essentially, it's meaningless statistics to most authors.


I agree with this comment.

Take these two quotes from the post:

The Association of American Publishers show that the Big Five publishers' eBook revenues continue to decline for the first half of 2016

Publishers' revenues (sales to bookstores, wholesalers, direct to consumer, online retailers, etc.)

..................

They show the sources used for the data are very limited, and are mostly sources dedicated to print book sales. From those quotes, I doubt they counted more than about a tenth of the e-book sales, if that much.

As to what e-books sell for, I know indie authors who sell their books for $20.00 each, and do well, while others sell on Amazon at $1.99 or $2.99 each. I've found the price point for me is $5.95 sold via Lulu.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I've found the price point for me is $5.95 sold via Lulu.

Warning: Thread-drift approaching!

I've found much the same. My book sales are (in economic terms) highly price inelastic meaning they don't change much when I lower or raise the price. Thus I'd rather not discount my books too much (or lose money on them, which sometimes happens with 'teaser pricing's.

As far as print sales go, the only print copies I sell are in person-to-person sales, in which case they pay full retail, whatever the cost, or in public auctions, in which case they start at full retail and always go up to the traditional publishers typical prices ($20 - $25).

On the other hand, when you offer your books for free, you're devaluing your books. Readers often think 'A Free book can't be any good!', thus I've even noticed sales improve when I raise prices (like when I raised my print book prices).

As a comparison, from what I've observed, offering the first book in a series does increase downloads, but readers rarely purchase the other books in the series (generally not enough to warrant the loss in potential earnings), negating the worth of the discount.

I'm considering offering an ebook for $19.99, just to see how readers respond, but I don't want to ask my readers to pay that much when I rely on them to keep me going. Guess I'll have to write that novel under a pseudonym, and see if it sells anything.

By the way, we've all heard the arguments for the different price points (.00, .99, .98, .97), has anyone here noticed any real difference in sales? Does anyone sell anymore for .99 (optimal 'discount' flag) than at .00 (designates quality, as you won't offer it below it's worth)?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  rustyken
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Thank you, you're a star. I've shared the link.

AJ

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'm considering offering an ebook for $19.99, just to see how readers respond, but I don't want to ask my readers to pay that much when I rely on them to keep me going. Guess I'll have to write that novel under a pseudonym, and see if it sells anything.


I suspect what you can get away with charging will depend a lot on your reputation as a writer, and where you sell. You'd have to be a damn goof recognised author to sell an e-book for $20.00 on Amazon, while some people can get away with charging $20.00 for the e-books they sell on their own website, but they don't sell anywhere else.

I did some basic research before pegging the baseline for a print book as $9.95 and an e-book as $5.95 for what I sell at Lulu. A few special anthologies go for a bit more, but they're really four or five books in one.

Replies:   sejintenej
sejintenej

@Ernest Bywater

I'm considering offering an ebook for $19.99, just to see how readers respond, but I don't want to ask my readers to pay that much when I rely on them to keep me going. Guess I'll have to write that novel under a pseudonym, and see if it sells anything.

I suspect what you can get away with charging will depend a lot on your reputation as a writer, and where you sell.

BUT Crumbly Writer was considering writing under a name not connected with the name he normally uses.

As he is no doubt very well aware he would be coming in as yet another "unknown" and would have to make a name afresh. OK, so he has the skills but he has to get the public to try his new oeuvre without the pull of his reputation.

This was the subject of a thread some time ago but I don't recall the conclusions (damned medicines in my 20's)

Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

This was the subject of a thread some time ago but I don't recall the conclusions (damned medicines in my 20's)


There were a lot of opinions, but no clear conclusions back then.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

As he is no doubt very well aware he would be coming in as yet another "unknown" and would have to make a name afresh. OK, so he has the skills but he has to get the public to try his new oeuvre without the pull of his reputation.

Hence my dilemma. I'd like to test how more expensive ebooks sell (the range of my price inelasticity, but to do the test objectively, I likely wouldn't sell any because no one recognizes the new pseudonym.

In short, I'm curious, but I doubt I'll ever do anything about it. I'd rather not piss off my loyal fans.

Replies:   REP
rustyken

@Crumbly Writer

I think your generalization regarding free book purchasers is overly broad. Sometimes even the preview is not enough to know if you will like the story. Having been burned a few times, I see the free book as an opportunity to see whether I like how the author constructs a story. If I like an author's style, then I will buy more of their books.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@rustyken

A lot of authors offer either free or heavily discounted first-of-a-series titles, I've just never been convinced it increases sales much. If it has, I haven't noticed it. Instead, I've found I sell more sequels by discounting the first book, but not 'giving it away'. Based on that, I suspect they'd see the the same increase in sales without the (or with a smaller) discount. But then, as I've noticed before, my sales are price-inelastic. Others, with more recognized sales, may not be in the same category. The key is recognizing what works for you, and capitalizing on your strengths.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

A lot of authors offer either free or heavily discounted first-of-a-series titles, I've just never been convinced it increases sales much. If it has, I haven't noticed it.


I know we're dealing with a very different league but Baen Books started giving away e-book copies of the first book in a series years ago (they still do it) and they saw a huge jump in sales of e-books and print books for the series involved. Mind you, they were able to track the sales to the people they gave the free copies to for most of it, and they were working with older books in sets of existing series they carried.

I've not given blanket giveaways, but have given freebies to individuals, at times, and they later bout the other books when they could afford them. I've been told by some other indie authors who do well with sales from personal sites that they feel I could charge more for my books, but I think I've got the right price point for the bulk of my regular readers who buy the books.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

But then, as I've noticed before, my sales are price-inelastic. Others, with more recognized sales, may not be in the same category.


Price inelasticity likely goes only so far.

For myself, it only goes one way. A lower price than what I would be willing to pay for a given story probably wouldn't make me more likely to buy it. However, there is very much an upper price I am willing to pay for a story of any given size.

Say around $7.99 for a typical sized science fiction or fantasy novel if it's interesting enough.

Before I would even consider paying hard cover ($20) prices for a science fiction/fantasy e-book, It would have to be at least 250K words.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

, I likely wouldn't sell any because no one recognizes the new pseudonym.


A note on your website to your loyal fans that tells them you are doing a test run of a new series under a different name would probably garner you some sales. If the description of the story appeals to readers then that would generate sales also. But as you indicate, would the sales be enough? If not, you would have the option of re-releasing the book at some point under your normal penname.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

Thought you'd all enjoy this rejoiner from Jane Friedman: Looking Back at 2016: Important Publishing Developments Authors Should Know:

The market for adult fiction is primarily a digital one

It's commonly said that in the United States, overall trade book sales are divided about 70-30 print-digital, and that ebook sales at traditional publishing houses are flat to declining. (You've probably heard the celebratory and misleading claims that "print is back!")

But the latest analysis from Author Earnings shows that when you factor in "nontraditional" publishing sales, the digital share of overall US consumer book purchases changes significantly:

- 45% of all books purchased in the US in 2016 are digital

- In adult fiction, sales in the US are roughly 70% digital

- 30% of all US adult fiction purchases are books by self-published authors

"Nontraditional" sales include self-published work, Amazon's own imprints, and other sources outside of big trade publishing.

Amazon's market share is growing—across all formats

Industry consultants such as Mike Shatzkin observe that Amazon now has at least 50% of the overall book retail market across print and digital formats. When you study industry reports of print's buoyancy, and look closely at where the sales are happening, it's fairly clear that Amazon is stealing away print market share from bricks-and-mortar retailers like Barnes & Noble. And of course Amazon continues to dominate ebook retail, especially as Nook ebook sales continue their decline.

Furthermore, Amazon owns Audible/ACX—the No. 1 audiobook retailer in the US—and has been putting more investment behind the marketing of audiobooks and original audio programming. Over the last couple years, audiobooks have been the top growing format for trade publishers, with about 20-30% growth year on year. Amazon is primed to take advantage of this growth, whether the content comes from traditional publishers or self-publishers.

Finally, there's Amazon Publishing. Amazon now has 13 active imprints and is the largest publisher of works in translation. In 2016 alone, it's believed Amazon Publishing will release more than 2,000 titles. (Remember: This isn't their self-publishing operation—it's their traditional publishing operation.)

A data point that is unlikely to surprise anyone with knowledge of Amazon: eight of the top 20 Kindle sellers in 2016 were from Amazon's own publishing imprints. This statistic was recently pointed out by Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch (subscription required). Cader writes, "Amazon's share of its own top market has more than doubled" when comparing December 2015 to December 2016. "It makes you wonder what these numbers will look like a year from now."

Amazon is cracking down harder on suspicious and scammy activity of all kinds (or at least trying)

Amazon updated its customer review policy in 2016 to be more restrictive than ever and has sued sites that help facilitate paid reader reviews. While it remains acceptable for readers to review a book after receiving it for free or at a discount—as part of a giveaway, promotion, or pre-publication marketing campaign—reviewers must disclose in the review that they received the book free.

It is not okay to leave an Amazon review because you expect to receive something in exchange afterward—such as a free book, a coupon or discount, a gift card, etc. This also means it is not okay to "trade" reviews with other authors.

Most notably and most discussed among authors: It is not okay to post a reader review if you are, according to Amazon, "a relative, close friend, business associate, or employee" of the author. Interpretation of this policy, as you can imagine, drives considerable debate.

Finally, to post a review, customers need to have spent at least $50 on Amazon. Yes, this is official Amazon policy. This helps prevent fake reviews from people who never shop at Amazon and may receive payment to leave reviews.

The other challenge Amazon faced in 2016 was eliminating scammy activity by authors enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, its ebook subscription service. KU pays self-published authors for reads of their books from a pool of money that fluctuates monthly. Prior to July 2015, authors were paid a fixed amount for each book borrowed and read; now authors are paid for each page read. In February 2016, Amazon moved to a new standard of counting pages to be more accurate and fair. Still, authors have been finding ways to game the system and rack up page reads dishonestly. This ends up hurting all authors since there's a fixed amount of money to go around each month for page reads.

To make matters worse, during the fall, authors had to deal with incorrect reporting of pages read through KU, so distrust of the system—in addition to gaming of the system—may affect indie authors' desire to remain exclusive to Amazon in 2017.

There wasn't a new blockbuster for publishing in 2016

If you look at the overall bestsellers from last year, many of them weren't even published in 2016, such as The Girl on the Train. The dry spell was noticed as far back as July, by Publishers Weekly, who pointed out that no new novel had cracked the top twenty print bestsellers in the first half of 2016. Industry observers speculate that current events (the election cycle, terrorist attacks) may have squeezed out book coverage, but also that the division of sales between print and digital formats may be a factor.

But what about the new Harry Potter book, you might ask?

The release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child lifted sales for its US publisher, Scholastic, as expected. While the power of Potter is real enough and undeniably impressive, what makes this less than boffo news for publishing is that, as Michael Cader writes, "the Potter gain was more of a movement of inventory dollars from new adult books rather than any kind of overall boost to the trade."

Self-publishing activity is still growing—with a fascinating shift

Back in 2012, there were many headlines about the tremendous growth in self-publishing output as demonstrated by the increase in ISBNs used by indie authors.

Since then, Bowker—the agency that issues ISBNs in the United States—has continued to release annual stats that still show growth in the sector, but these numbers always come with important caveats, including:

Bowker's figures don't reflect all of the self-publishing activity out there. They can't count books that don't have ISBNs, and a considerable volume of self-pub titles are published and distributed without ISBNs.

Bowker's counts are for ISBNs, not book titles. A single book title may use several ISBNs (e.g., one for the print edition, another for the ebook edition, and so on).

According to Bowker, ISBNs for self-published titles in 2015 reached 727,125, up from 599,721 in 2014, representing a 21% increase in one year. The increase since 2010 is 375%.

But I think more important is where the growth occurred. Bowker's numbers indicate more authors are using Amazon's CreateSpace, which is free to use; older, fee-based self-publishing services are falling out of favor. Here's a selected glimpse (again, remember these are ISBN counts coming out of each service per year):

- CreateSpace titles in 2010: 35,693

- CreateSpace titles in 2015: 423,718 (+1,087%)

- Author Solutions titles in 2010: 41,304

- Author Solutions titles in 2015: 23,930 (-42%)

The only area of Author Solutions' business that saw an ISBN increase in 2015 is WestBow, the Christian self-publishing imprint marketed through Thomas Nelson. Note that Penguin Random House, which used to own AuthorSolutions, sold it off in January 2016, unloading what was probably seen as an albatross.


By the way, I've never heard of AuthorSolutions either.

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