Book Sales Are Nothing to Write Home About: What is going on?
Guest Post by Irene Watson
What IS going on? Every day I get at least two emails from authors expressing concern that their books aren’t selling. They’ve done everything right: marketing, publicity, social media, blogging, website, signings, promotion, promotion, and more promotion but it just isn’t happening. It’s very discouraging. Some blame it on economy and others blame it on availability of cheap (99 cent) or free e-books.
The economy may have something to do with it – I don’t know. In a recent discussion with author Theodore Jerome Cohen on this topic he said:
It’s difficult to say. But if ePublishing is the future, and it’s so easy to bring a book to, say, Kindle, the market will be flooded…with junk! Without good reviews, the ‘indie’ book market will flounder as readers abandon it and move to the more established writers, where there is some pedigree. Not a good thought, is it?! I certainly don’t want to put out the effort and money in the future if the response to my latest book, House of Cards, , which has only seen moderate sales, is what I have to look forward to. My earlier novel, Death by Wall Street, had a much bigger jump in sales right out of the gate just a year ago. Importantly, its release was heralded by reviews on Amazon.com from Reader Views, Pacific Book Review, and Feathered Quill. Now, these three reviews have been removed by Amazon management, and no such professional reviews, though available, have been allowed on Amazon.com for House of Cards. Which doesn’t make sense, because if my books don’t sell, neither Amazon nor I make money.
I can’t disagree with Ted, but I’m also wondering if sales are down due to the fact that we are just inundated with books right now. For example, in 2010 near 3,100,000 (yes, that’s three million) titles were published.
In 2005 the total was 282,500. Comparing that to 2010 it’s eleven times more over a period of five years. It will be interesting to see how many titles have been published this year because it almost tripled from 2009 to 2010. Will we see four or five times more for 2011? It’s very possible. Could it mean if we published in 2011 we are in the mix with 6 to 9 million other “new” titles? If that’s the case, it’s not much wonder sales are low. We end up being a tiny pebble on a huge beach and it’s only by luck that we get picked up because someone notices us. (The stats are available from Bowker.)
Not long ago I saw a book on Amazon.com that was ranked over 8 million so that means they have cataloged over that many books for sale. But, not all books are on Amazon.com. There are many online sites that offer e-books not available on the major sellers’ sites because they haven’t been converted for Kindle or Nook. So, taking all that into account it’s possible there could easily be 10 million or more books on the market right now.
So, what is the alternative? How do we get noticed? Is it really worthwhile publishing a book when there are no readers for it?
Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.