Hey, this is pretty fascinating, if you ask me. When I started creating books for clients a few years ago my understanding was Amazon simply owned like 80 to 90 % of the e-book market, and print sales were rather untouchable for self-published writers. Therefore, the books we produced and helped other self publish were simply limited to creating a MOBI file with Calibre and uploading the thing to Kindle Direct Publishing, and kind of leaving it at that. There were instances where we would also create a print version of a book, depending on a client’s purposes, and generally went with CreateSpace, which I do still recommend if your intentions are limited because it’s very user-friendly and basically free to set up a book, save the effort and skills needed to create the proper PDFs but if you’re more serious it’s Ingram all the way).
In fact, if you look over the LIST currently published by me and under the Bimini imprint this is reflected: all are available on Amazon and some are available in print. Thus far I have used CreateSpace almost exclusively for print but all of this is about to change.
Fast forward from paragraph one to about a month ago, and on a weekly call with my colleagues at Perfect Analogy Publishing (another house I am involved in and excited about) it came up that book sales no longer broke down as only a few years prior. I had gleaned from somewhere (probably my regular emails from PW/Publishers Weekly) that print book sales accounted for about 42% (?) of all book sales, and Amazon’s e-book sales were growing, but they were losing market share. This means, of course, that more and more volume of e-books are being sold, but that Amazon was no longer the only game in town. I had previously, after reading David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital decided that given my current resources at the time and the fact that e-book sales outside of Amazon were scant, to simply focus on KDP alone until such a time as I had more resources (time especially, but necessity as well) or the market had changed. All eggs in one basket…
And it’s changed. A pure self-published author, as I understand, has no chance of being looked at by Barnes & Noble but a small publishing house–well, they have a whole division that handles those. And the percentages are shifting. What makes all of this really nice is to be on the other major platforms (iBooks, KOBO, B&N) all one need do is upload an EPUB file to Smashwords. SO here’s what I found out today about how book sales currently break down:
And behold, I give you Neilsen…
If you’re involved in writing or publishing for teens, though counter-intuitive, they seem to prefer print: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2014/dont-judge-a-book-by-its-cover-tech-savvy-teens-remain-fans-of-print-books.html
And according to PW, “E-books’ market share of new-book sales increased slightly in 2014 over 2013, while the share of all book sales made through online retailers and bookstore chains dipped in the same period (http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/article/66048-e-books-gained-online-retailers-slipped-in-2014.html). It goes on to say that book sales right now seem to be divided as follows:
- 15% e-book, on a slight rise
- 70% print, on a slight decline
The article cited was printed only days ago. While one could conceivably make a nice living in e-books alone, cracking print sales would seem, well… The problem is expense. Offset runs cost moolah. Uploading to KDP and Smashwords is practically free. But for Bimini, as with any fledgling publisher, print sales is clearly on the list for the near future. Deciding what titles to invest your time and treasure in for print comes down to one of the two basics that comprise an actual career as an author: platform and backlist, the real determining factor and predictor of success in print being platform.
Things are so different today. No longer does some publisher make a calculated risk on investing in your manuscript. In fact it’s been said, “The e-book is the new query,” so no matter what direction you want to go, self or traditionally published, you need to constantly work on your platform and your LIST of titles. They say SEVEN is a critical mass number for backlist titles, maybe FIVE in romance or mystery. And you build a platform by writing not only books but all the behind-the-scenes stuff you can, and when you think you’ve given too much away, keep giving more.
Until you have something of a platform growing you probably do best to focus on e-books, but what a fantastic way to launch a writing career! It’s never been better for writers, in my own opinion.
And finally, according to a late 2014 PW article (http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/64170-e-books-remain-third.html):
- E-book sales account for 23% of “all” book sales,
- Paperback accounted for 42%
- Hardcover 25%
An up and coming author should probably use e-books and blogs and other social media to steadily build a platform until it makes sense to offer a limited edition hardcover as part of a launch, and then settle in to well organized sales of e-books and paperbacks. Selling the paperbacks is the trick for the little guys (self published authors and small pub houses), but hey, were it not, we’d all be doing it!