The Bookselling Market: What’s Hot, What’s Not

Bowker recently released the “2009 Book Consumer Annual Review: U.S. Demographics & Buying Behaviors.” It was based on responses from 43,000 people in book publishing. And while it would cost you a whopping $1,000 to download and read the complete report, here are some highlights, courtesy of Publishers Weekly. This is some pretty interesting information for people who are trying to decide whether to publish an e-book, whether to try and get their book carried in bookstores, etc…

What’s Selling

  • Chain bookstores accounted for 27% of unit sales in 2009, while the e-commerce segment represented 21% of units sold.
  • The only other channel to have at least a 10% share of the market was book clubs, which had an 11% share.
  • The bookstore chains’ leadership position was more pronounced when sales are measured in dollars, with the chains grabbing 37% of dollar volume, while e-tailers, which discount heavily, taking 19% of dollars spent.
  • The study found Barnes & Noble to be the largest seller of print titles, with a 15% share of units purchased compared to 13% for Amazon and 10% for Borders.
  • Adult fiction was the largest of the major categories in 2009, generating 40% of units sold, although only 28% of the dollar volume due in part to the large number of fiction books that are sold as low-priced mass market paperbacks.
  • Young adult (boosted by Stephenie Meyer) and general fiction were the two largest subgenres, accounting for 8% of unit sales each last year. Romance and thriller/espionage each had a 6% share of units.
  • Paperbacks accounted for 59% of units sold in 2009, while hardcovers represented 36% of units.
  • E-books accounted for only 1.7% of unit volume in the year and a little more than 2% of dollars.
  • E-book buyers are using e-tailers to buy both their print and digital titles. In the first quarter of 2009, 37% of e-book buyers bought print books online, a figure that rose to 55% in the first period of 2010.

Who’s Buying

  • Eighty-one percent of both unit sales and dollar volume in 2009 came from consumers who had at least some college education.
  • Women generally buy more books than men. But not by the percentages you might think. In the Matures age bracket—readers born before 1948, men accounted for 48% of units and 54% of dollars spent, while in the Baby Boomer group (born between 1948 and 1966), men also accounted for 54% of dollar volume, although their unit market share was only 43%.
  • Examining why consumers buy books, the study found topic/subject and author to be the two most important motivating factors, although there was a distinct difference between fiction and nonfiction.
  • The most common way consumers became aware of a title in 2009 was at a store through an in-store display, with recommendation the second most popular.

Interesting information, right? I’ll post another entry in a few days further delving into why people buy specific books, but this is some good information to absorb as you begin your book publishing and book marketing endeavors.

Want to speak with us about developing an author website? Contact us today for a free consultation!

How to Create a Book Trailer: What’s Working, What’s Not

There was a really interesting article this week in the New York Times about authors and book trailers. I highly recommend you read it (but please be aware you need to create a free NY Times account to do so). Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/fashion/11AuthorVideos.html

For those of you who don’t feel like registering, or don’t have the time to read the full article, here are some highlights:

  • Most authors feel like they’re out of their comfort zone when they have to make a video. After all, writing and acting are very different skill sets.
  • Publishers want to see you and know who you are before they even speak to you about publishing your book. At the very least, they want to know you don’t have two heads or a heavy speech impairment! Hence, the video …
  • Jeannette Walls, who starred in trailers for her books “The Glass Castle” and “Half Broke Horses“, received 157,775 hits for her Glass Castle video.
  • Author videos are becoming more mainstream. In 2008, Amazon began designating its top five videos of the year. In May, book videos had their own Oscar-ish awards show, the Mobys, for best and worst book video honors.
  • Videos are a must for the next generation. According to a 2009 online survey by Teenreads.com, 4 in 10 teenage readers said they liked to see book trailers on book-related blogs and 46 percent watched book trailers on YouTube. Even more startling, 45 percent bought a book after watching the trailer.
  • What works for author videos is elusive. But we’re starting to figure out what DOESN’T work. “It’s hard to make a visually interesting video of a writer talking, even when the author is a star,” said Nancy Sheppard, vice president for marketing at Viking. “We see enough static talking heads in the media.”

So here’s the gist: Authors now need videos. The hope is that those book trailers will go viral. They should be interesting and dramatic — not just an author talking. But to get an author to do that can be a bit challenging. Who knows … maybe you’ll be the author who figures it all out 🙂

Ready to talk with us about developing an online presence for yourself as an author? Click here to take advantage of our free consultation.

Authors: Sign Up for Google Alerts!

Ever wonder where people come up with ideas on what to blog about? I’ll share my secret. It’s Google Alerts.

In case you haven’t heard of it, Google Alerts is an automated system where you sign up to be notified whenever a certain word or series of words is used anywhere on the internet — that Google is aware of, at least.

For instance, I receive several emails a day from Google with a list of links where words like “author websites” or “book websites” are used. They contain dozens of blog entries, author websites, news stories, etc… having to do with the subject matter. This not only allows me to stay on top of what other people in the industry are doing, but also gives me ideas on what to blog about.

But I also have one very special Google Alert. It’s one for “Smart Author Sites.” Once in a while, I get a Google Alert email that lets me know that my business has been mentioned somewhere. Most of the time it’s good stuff. Like this one: “Great site here all about author marketing: www.SmartAuthorSites.com.” That appeared as a forum comment on TheNextBigWriter.com. But the point is, I would never have known about that without Google Alerts.

And this is why all authors should sign up for Google Alerts. It’s simple and easy at http://www.google.com/alerts. Make sure to enter your name and book title as keywords, so that you can be notified whenever someone mentions you or your book.

And if you’re blogging, include other keywords related to your subject matter. It’s a great way to get ideas for blog entries.

Ready to talk with us about marketing yourself or your book online? Contact us today for a free consultation!

Publishing Is Like Real Estate

Catchy headline, right? You’re probably wondering what it means. I’ll get to that….

The germ for this post started with my reading an article in the New York Times about the rise of self-publishing. It basically says that it’s no longer considered more prestigious to get published by a major publishing house. More and more authors are opting to self-publish, because of the control it offers. And, of course, the potential to make lots of money. For the first time in history, some self-published authors are hitting the best-seller lists or becoming the most downloaded books on Kindles.

So what does this have to do with real estate? That idea came from one of the comments I read in response to the article:

Authors who expect to reach readers … start their own businesses, just like any businessperson would, and farm out whatever tasks they do not have the expertise to do themselves (for example, they would hire a competent editor and a cover designer) . Traditional publishing may have more prestige, but a savvy self-publisher can actually make five times as much as he would with a commercial publisher.

And that’s where real estate comes in. This gave me a total flashback to when I was moving from a co-op apartment to a house. In an apartment, you pay a flat monthly fee to cover all of the services you might need (gardening, snow shoveling, etc…). And if you have a problem in the apartment, you call the super, who will come fix it. But when you move to a house, a whole new slew of responsibility comes your way. But with that responsibility comes choice. We can choose whether to mow our own lawns, or hire someone to do it. When we need new windows, we get to call different window companies, get bids, and decide what works best for us.

Owning a house is far more work, but there’s also far more opportunity to make it your own (and make the most money, too). Just like self-publishing. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s a great option.

Just one little plug here … if you do plan on self-publishing, don’t forget to outsource your website development and/or marketing. What good is writing a book if no one hears about it? And what good is building a website if no one visits it? That’s where we come in. Contact us today for a free consultation and we’ll give you ideas (and a competitive price) for selling your self-published book online.

If a publishing company’s publicity person is the “super,” who will do what the “building” wants, we’re the “contractor” who will do what YOU want.

Marketing Fiction Books on the Web

There was an interesting article in Publishers Weekly earlier this month that I thought I would share. It’s an interview with a variety of publishers and marketing executives dealing with how they market their fiction books, with a focus on their online efforts.

You can read the full article, but here are some of the highlights that are relevant to authors looking to build an online presence. No matter what your publishing status (not yet published, self-publishing, etc…), you might be able to steal some of these ideas.

How are you using social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.) to market your fiction line? What one strategy has been most successful?

Pamela Clements, associate publisher for marketing, FaithWords and Center Street: This is a significant growth area and, I believe, the most important new trend in marketing fiction. Online provides a virtual community that provides recommendations from peers that just did not exist five years ago. We have Facebook sites for all our Christian fiction authors. We tweet regularly about them and their books and retweet positive feedback that we receive. We also have been very successful with blog tours, blogtalk radio, prerelease and first edition giveaways, and encouraging the authors to blog.

Jennifer Deshler, senior director of marketing, Thomas Nelson: 80% of the Thomas Nelson fiction authors actively engage in social media, and this offers us great ways to build tribes online. The one strategy we’ve seen be most successful is a community approach to new releases—creating a series of messages, usually with a contest or free books offering—that is sent out by multiple authors and team members in a specific time period.

Nathan Henrion, national accounts manager, Baker Publishing Group: Blog tours are one of the best uses of social media that we have seen. E-mail blasts and all the various mediums (Facebook, Twitter) are at times hard to measure as far as effectiveness. An author’s established platform seems to be the key in social media, as they use their existing network.

Mary Burns, v-p of publishing, Barbour: We are using social media to help promote our fiction line on Twitter (@FictionforGals) and a Facebook fan page (Christian Fiction for Gals). Twitter has probably been most successful for us and has the most followers. It is fueled by book giveaways, which followers retweet to their friends.

What is something unique or unusual that your company has done to market fiction—either for just one book, or for a whole line?

Barb Sherrill, v-p of marketing, Harvest House: We created a consumer Web site around our Amish fiction: AmishReader.com. All our authors writing in this genre contribute content through posts, recipes, and exclusive material fans can get nowhere else (unpublished short stories, for example). We’ve also done giveaways on this site, which have been very popular. We wanted readers to have a place to not only engage with the authors they’ve read and loved, but also to discover a new author (or two or three) in a genre they love.

Don Pape, publisher, trade books, David C. Cook: I am so delighted with the book trailers we produce for every fiction title—they really do hook the reader who is accustomed to sitting in a movie theater with popcorn and soda waiting to see the coming attractions. Through those, we have gotten a loyal following online at Facebook.

Clements, FaithWords: For our YA series, All About Us, we created a Web site with people blogging as the characters in the novels. We have also done sell-in campaigns with treats for buyers to get their attention and get them to pay attention to especially well-written works from unknown or little-known authors.

Deshler, Thomas Nelson: We’ve recently launched a new social community at www.amishliving.com for those consumers who love everything about the Amish. From recipes to travel information to forums on the different areas of Amish networks, we’ve created a place where people can come together to share stories, pictures, and discussion topics.

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Have you done anything special to market your fiction book online? Please share your ideas!

Building Your Author Media Page/Press Kit

Do you have a media page on your author website? It’s purpose is to provide the media with the information they might need to feature you in their next piece.

If you decide to have a press page on your website, here are some ideas about what it should include:

  • Downloadable Cover Art (both in 72dpi for the web and 300dpi for print)
  • Downloadable Author Pix (ditto)
  • Press Releases
  • List of Books You’ve Published
  • TV Interview Video Clips
  • Radio Interviews
  • Contact Information (for you, your publisher, your publicist, your agent…)

And even if they’re featured elsewhere on the site, you should also provide the media with easy access to downloadable/easy cut-and-paste versions of:

  • Author Bio
  • Book Pub Details
  • Book Synopsis
  • Book Promo Blurbs
  • Table of Contents
  • Testimonials

Here are a few examples of authors’ online media kits. You can see that different authors go about it differently. I don’t think any of these are perfect, but maybe it will help you formulate ideas when you see what others are doing:

I must confess that this is not something I’ve recommended for all of my clients. So if you have one on your author website, please let me know…. did it work? Do you feel like you got more press because you made this information handy? Did you include any information that’s missing from this list? Share your thoughts!

How Interactive Should a Book Website Be?

Author Anna McPartlin is doing something very interesting with her website for the book “So What If I’m Broken.” She’s actually allowing readers to interact with her characters in cyberworld. The feature is being promoted as “A book that talks back.”

Anna says, “What is really exciting is that readers might actually change the story through their own interactions with the character.  So while it will return to the universe of the book by the end, it can go for a user led meander through the public’s contributions.”

You can read more about what she’s doing here.

This is an interesting idea. I love that she’s really bringing her characters to live in the online world and allowing readers to follow their blogs and twitter posts, visit their social networking profiles, etc…

But is allowing the readers to actually change the plot going a little too far? Does that allow people to purposely sabotage the story? I would guess Anna and her crew have ensured that sort of thing can’t happen. But it’s something we should all keep our eye on. Because this could be a great idea … or a great disaster.

What do you think?

Getting the Introverted Author Out There

I just stumbled across an article in the NY Times about introverts finding a path to career success in a world of extroverts (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/jobs/01pre.html?scp=26&sq=author%20marketing&st=cse). And it got me thinking about authors…

The majority of people in the world are extroverts (experts say it’s 70%). But there are a fair number of introverts, too (myself included). An introvert is described as someone who is energized by quiet solo activities, as opposed to an extrovert, who is energized by being around people. And I would venture to guess that the percentage of authors who are introverts is greater than the 30% in the general population. It makes sense … people who enjoy spending time alone are more likely to choose career paths that don’t involve heavy interaction. An introvert would enjoy writing for a living far more than they’d enjoy going door to door trying to sell vacuum cleaners.

But here’s where it gets tricky. An introvert may choose to become an author because it allows them some autonomy and privacy. But what happens when they need to market their book? That means they have to go outside their comfort zone and do what they hate the most … “selling” the book.

I can’t tell you how many authors I’ve dealt with who know they need to have an author website but just cringe at the idea of having to blog, gab on a message board, or join a social network. Introverts just don’t enjoy those kinds of things. And in an internet world that’s becoming more and more social — with tweeting becoming a common part of everyday life — introverts begin to feel more and more like outcasts.

But here’s the thing… if you want to have a successful career as a writer, you HAVE to do some selling of the book online. It’s a part of your job — even if you don’t enjoy it.

So create that Facebook page. Start blogging and twittering. Unlike the people who do those things for fun, you don’t have to use these online tools to share your innermost personal stories. You use them to promote yourself as an author and expose as many people as possible to your writing. Just like an actor has a persona, an author needs one as well. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, here.

You can still be a quite, private and, yes, introverted person for 23 1/2 hours each day. But use that last half hour to put on your marketing hat and use the internet to advance your career. Your books will thank you for it.

Author Webcasts

On November 9th, Oprah.com, CNN.com and Facebook are holding a live Oprah’s Book Club webcast for the latest book in the Oprah book club, Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan. People can submit questions to the author now, and the chosen questions will be answered on the live webcast. The video will be streamed live from CNN.com’s video player on Oprah.com.

Now, all authors wish their book was as popular as one recommended by Oprah. But no matter how many readers and fans you may have, you can still steal this idea. Even a small-time author can take full advantage of the web and hold their own webcasts.

Collecting questions in advance is always a good idea. That way, no matter how many people show up for your live cast, you won’t be left “questionless.” If you plan to take any live questions as well (and why wouldn’t you), you might want to have a friend or two as a plant on the live webcast to start the conversation.

Webcasting has many advantages for authors; it allows you to really interact with readers, it shows people in the publishing industry just how tech-savvy you are, and, most of all, it creates a buzz. After all, what could be better for an author trying to promote him or herself than buzz?

The key is giving the webcast the proper promotion beforehand. The place to start is with your current base of readers and fans. Make sure to send them an email newsletter with the announcement — and don’t hesitate to send multiple emails. Ask them to pass it on to their friends. Contact local bookstores in your area to let them know about it. Tell your publisher. Whomever you can think of.

You never know. This could be the first step on your route to Oprah!