Part 1: Don’t Ignore Print Books
Author Earnings finalized their 2016 U.S. book numbers. I can’t personally vouch for the veracity of how Author Earnings tracks and calculates their numbers, but I also have no reason whatsoever to question any of the numbers. I like to view their reports from time to time to see if there’s any interesting information I can glean regarding market trends and what it might mean for us Indie Authors.
So what are the takeaways from 2016? This week I would like to zero in on some of the numbers throughout the week and see what valuable information we can utilize in our own efforts as Indie authors in 2017.
Today, I would like to look at (1) where are people buying and (2) in what formats. (Note: The numbers provided by Author Earnings are U.S.-centric, so I can only speak about U.S. markets in this analysis. However, I think much of the takeaways can extend into worldwide Indie Author strategies as well.)
Where are people buying books?
43% of all traditionally published books were purchased online in 2016. This is a continued increase from what we saw in 2014 and 2015.
I know what you’re thinking. “I’m not traditionally published, so why should I care about this?”
Well here’s the thing. Readers purchase books for a lot of different reasons. I usually only purchase a book if it’s recommended by a highly trusted source (e.g. friend, family member, colleague, etc.). A lot of readers will have similar requirements for purchasing a book, or they will purchase based on the title, the cover, or the blurb on the back jacker.
You know what readers don’t base their purchasing decisions on? The publisher.
Readers couldn’t care less who the publisher is in most instances. It’s the bookstores that care. Bookstores use the publisher as a sign of quality and a benchmark for making it into their brick and mortar stores. Even as the quality of Indie books has increased exponentially over the last five years, essentially making the difference between self published books and traditionally published books indiscernible, bookstores haven’t seemed to adjust their buying practices accordingly.
So if readers are now buying nearly half of all traditionally published books online, (in addition to all the non-traditional purchases they make), as Indie Authors we’re no longer relying on bookstores to put our books in front of readers. Most readers don’t care about who published it, which increases the probability that they’ll be buying an Indie title rather than a title published by one of the Big 5. This is good news.
What format are readers buying?
Author Earnings reported over 16,000,000 self published print books were sold in 2016. Most of these were via Amazon’s Create Space.
Look at this chart from Author Earnings on traditionally published books:
Over 75% of all traditionally published books purchased in 2016 were print. The numbers Author Earnings provides are that 793M traditionally published print books sold in the U.S. last year. Here’s how the numbers adjust when we take into account both traditionally and Indie publishing:
These numbers could mean a couple things. You could look at the uptick of 264M ebooks contributed by Indie book sales and contrast that to only roughly 16M in Indie print sales, and you could conclude that, as a self published author, you should be focused on ebooks. That’s a reasonable conclusion given this data.
I don’t think that is an accurate take away, though. I don’t have the numbers to support this, but I suspect the reason that there were only 16M Indie books sold in print last year is because very few Indie authors actually choose to publish their titles in print. My take away from this is that self published authors should continue to aggressively explore print for their books.
Well over half the books sold in the U.S. last year were print books. We also just learned that nearly 50% of traditionally published books were purchased online, so we don’t have the bookstore hurdle staring us so squarely in the face anymore. To me, this disparity of 264M Indie ebooks to 16M Indie print books means not enough of us are exploring print as a publishing option, and I think we’re missing out on a large readership opportunity.
Know your audience friends! If you have an erotica book, you’re probably just fine focusing on the digital market because almost 70% of erotica books purchased in the U.S. last year were ebooks.
However, if you’re like me and have a book that is literary fiction, or if you have a young adult fiction book, or any other number of genres, you are missing a large potential readership if you’re only publishing digitally. You need to seriously consider self publishing in print via Create Space or Ingram Sparks. (I published my book in print through Ingram Sparks.)
(Note: There’s a quickly growing market in Audio Books that traditional publishers are capitalizing on that Indie publishers have failed to grasp yet. I think it would be wise for us Indie Authors to look very seriously into Audio Books. However, I have not had the time to do so myself yet, so I don’t feel I can adequately contribute to the discussion. Looks like I have some homework to do, though.)
So the takeaways from today’s review of the numbers are two-fold:
- Don’t ignore print books! The numbers continue to point to Indie success in print books.
- Readers are unsurprisingly making more and more of their print book purchasing decisions online. This is good news for Indie published titles. However, it’s not the entire story, and it’s not all good news.
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Tomorrow we’ll look into Amazon’s continued stranglehold on the market and what that means for Indie Authors.
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