I’m excited to welcome Anthony Wessel to the blog today. Anthony is a book industry expert, and runs the wonderful promotion site DigitalBookToday.com, plus The Top 100 Best Free Kindle List. Anthony has very kindly agreed to share his views on the book sales cycle – and this is a very enlightening post!
Readers Are Still Buying Books In The Same Sales Cycle
by Anthony Wessel
I read Indie author’s blogs about the lack of sales in the past months. Most Indie authors have only been through one or maybe two holiday seasons. A book is a product. Just like with most products there is a sales cycle on a year to year basis.
Readers are still buying books in the same cycle as they always have. Just on a different medium.
The book industry has sales trend lines that have been consistent for the past 40 years. Sales are relatively flat on a week to week basis for 46 weeks out of the year. Slight sales increases are seen on the minor sales holidays. This means approximately the same number of books is being read in any given week compared to the previous year. The marketing efforts of authors and publishers generally do not increase the total amount of books that are purchased. The marketing effort is to get the consumer to purchase your product (book) instead of the competitor. A great example is the car industry.
Sales boom for 6 weeks (holiday season). During the last 10 days of the holidays, retail bookstores would often have sales for a day that would equal what they would do in a week during the rest of the year.
The digital book sales for the 2012 holiday was different. People received a lot of Kindles/Tablets under the tree. The only problem was that they had no books on them to read. The result was a Christmas sales season that happened in January, February, and March for eBooks. This was very reminiscent of the PC computer days of the 80’s and 90’s. Families would get PC’s under the tree and then would have to go out after the 25th to purchase software.
Book sales are relatively stable on a week to week basis. Just like grocery stores. Books are a consumable, but people only consume so much. In a nutshell many new Indie authors are not aware of the actual sales cycle of books and maybe got spoiled in Jan/Feb/Mar. Throw in the ever changing Amazon book algorithm for their book recommendations and Indie authors have been on a roller coaster of sales like they have never been on before. Great highs followed by extreme lows regarding sales (and their emotions).
Indie authors should expect flat sales in 2012 from May till December and nothing close to what they had at the beginning of the year. I would suggest authors spend this time period writing and putting marketing plans together to capitalize on the upcoming holiday season. I think there still is at least one more good bump of eReader sales yet to happen this year. The rumor of an iPad mini tablet along with other smaller tablets will also increase the amount of book lovers reading digital content.
Of course throw in a couple of extremely popular book series over the summer and you can lower an Indie author’s sales trend down another 20-30% if their books target any segment of the readers of these series. This is not abnormal in the book industry to have a single book or series to have a major impact on a large segment of books. Think Harry Potter over the course of 9 years or Oprah book club titles. For almost 20 years starting in 1984, the book industry every other year had a Tom Clancy Christmas season which is a separate blog article in itself.
The book industry while big and slow already knows what their “big books” are that they will push and sell this holiday season. That was settled before BEA (Book Expo America) in June in NYC. BEA in many ways is used as an announcement of marketing plans. Every major retail chain (including bookstores) has their national meetings for managers in June/July/August. They are presented with the complete marketing plans for the upcoming holiday season including signage/ads/catalogs.
I have seen successes by Indie authors in the past year often with a coordinated and extensive marketing plan. While the Indie author community is a very supportive group, it still comes down to convincing a consumer to buy your product over another product – which sometimes is from another Indie author.
Do you have a 12 month, 4 month, or 1 month marketing plan? You can bet there is an competitor that does. Oh by the way, don’t forget to keep writing your next book. Good luck to all Indie authors.
Just my 2 cents worth as Wilson from Home Improvement looking over the fence into the yard of Indie authors.
About Anthony Wessel
Anthony Wessel is a book industry veteran (93-2002 with Borders/Waldenbooks), PC software (87-93 with Egghead Software) and founder of DigitalBookToday.com and The Top 100 Best Free Kindle Book List which is updated daily.
Smart and well targeted advice. I'm gearing up to hit January hard. People getting new e-readers for Christmas is just like getting a new Atari and spending the first couple months of the year buying cartridges.
I think that is a great idea. One might also assume that you are a part of the 35+ crowd if you know what Atari cartridges are. :)
I love this post both for your patient and wise explanations of the book industry and seasonal sales. And, your implied tone of just breathe and plan and write. I think it's something every indie author out there needs to hear and abide by. Thank you.
Terri – thanks for hosting Anthony Wessel's post. xo
Author of Seeing Julia, Not To Us, & When I See You
Anthony, this is great information. I was planning for book 3 of my urban fantasy series to debut in the spring, but I think I'm going to bump that up to January or February. Guess I'd better start writing, huh?
Excellent post, thanks!
Thank you so much, Katherine! I agree that Anthony's post is fantastic. As indie authors, we must be conscious about our sales figures – but also about sales patterns. This advice is so valuable!
[…] here: http://blog.tglong.com/2012/08/anthony-wessel-readers-are-still-buying-books-in-the-same-cycle/ This entry was posted in Booksellers, Literary, Marketing, Tips by Tom Dullemond. Bookmark the […]
Great post, thank you Anthony! As a greenhorn to the indie publishing scene (indeed, any publishing scene) this is excellent information to have. Certainly, I find as I learn more about marketing and selling my own book, one of the most challenging aspects is managing my expectations, so when reality doesn't mesh with my dreams, I won't feel so much like crawling into a big hole. Just a little one.
Thanks so much for sharing your expertise re indie sales and patterns. I didn't know this information but am certainly happy to have it now. Appreciate your taking the time to educate us on this.
Karleene Morrow, author of DESTINIES, an epic historical fiction novel.
I think many authors will eventually get use to the rise and fall of sales.