Book Sales: Strategy Change for 2016…or Not

By | December 8, 2015

Book sales

Book sales for print rise in 2015 compared to flat ebook sales. That’s the headline that’s made the rounds in Q4 of 2015.

As we near 2016, it’s time to start thinking about your publishing strategy. What do you need to do to be successful in 2016? Should you focus book sales more on print and less on ebook sales?

Every year at this time I review the statistics for book sales, e-readers sales, and other stats that help me see the trends in reader habits.

For 2015, two ‘reported’ reader habits caught my attention:

  • Book sales for print rose compared to ebook sales, which remain flat.
  • The sale of e-reading devices dropped, while large-screen mobile phone sales skyrocketed.

Notice I wrote ‘reported’ reader habits. Things are not always as they seem.

e-readers for online reading

What Do 2015 Book Sales Mean for Your Publishing Strategy?

Let’s evaluate.

Your first thought may be to up your print publishing game. That was indeed my first thought when I saw a headline from a New York Times article that read “Plot Twist: E-book Sales Slip, and Print is Far From Dead.” eBook sales, it seems, have slowed from their rapid rise in the last few years.

But when I did further research, I found the headline didn’t quite tell the entire story about books sales for print and ebook and industry reporting. News media use headlines to grab attention and attract readers. We all know that. But we also know that their stories are not always balanced.

Here’s what I discovered about book sales.Books Sales Publishing Strategy

Book Sales Stats Ignore 30 Percent of eBooks Sold

Even today, when independent author and publishing company books are more mainstream than a few years ago, the industry has still not acknowledged this fact in reporting stats. Most publishing stats come from major publishers and all of the market research companies who do these studies acknowledge that their figures do not include many indie authors and publishers.

In fact, these stats do not include any books without ISBN numbers, and a large portion of ebook sales are from ebooks lacking ISBN numbers.

To learn more details about how the publishing industry gathers and reports stats, read the January 2015 Author Earnings Report published by an independent group.

Prices of Traditionally Published eBooks Rise

Another fact to consider is that the big publishers, after gaining some ground in their battles with Amazon over ebook pricing, have raised the prices of ebooks. In some cases, the ebooks are more expensive than the print versions. Readers will obviously and logically buy a print book over an ebook when the prices of the two are comparable. Most indie ebooks, on the other hand, remain below $10.

The assumption we can make is that readers have decided to buy more print books from the big publishers, but continue to buy ebooks when the prices are reasonable, often from indie authors and publishers. Print books have ISBN numbers. As much as 30 percent of ebooks purchased in the U.S. do not have ISBN numbers.

The fact is that the average indie sells more ebooks than print books because it remains difficult for indies to get their books into bookstores.

Reading on Mobile Devices Gaining Popularity

Regarding the dip in sales of e-reading devices, one research company noted that people have reported reading more on their phones now that large-screen phones such as the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy are now so popular. Their phones are with them all the time; e-reading devices, not so.

Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch also believes mobile phones are the reading devices of the future. “New forms will emerge for mobile devices, as millions abandon e-readers with phones already in their pockets,” he stated in a Wall Street editorial on the future of publishing.

How Should You Target Your 2016 Publishing Strategy?

Well, it’s not time to ditch ebooks and scramble to get your books into print, although that should always be part of your marketing strategy. But it is time to re-think your ebook marketing strategy.

The large-screen phone phenomenon means it is more important than ever that your readers can find you and your books on their mobile devices. It means that if you are selling books from your own website, your site should be mobile friendly. Your marketing efforts should be focused in places where readers are frequenting while out and about and using their phones.

In last week’s blog I posted some graphs based on this year’s print and ebook sales: Is Reading Books on the Web the Next Trend?

And I write about a possible trend toward reading Web books now that readers are always connected. So, your strategy for 2016 may include revisiting the format of your books. I write about a WordPress plugin publishing tool I’ve mentioned to you before and how it could revolutionize the way readers view books on their mobiles.

Fine Tune Your Marketing Strategy 

Here are some ideas just to get you started thinking in the right direction for book sales in 2016:

  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. In fact, this is really important because as of 2015, Google started ranking non-mobile friendly websites lower.
  • Facebook and Twitter remain the two most popular social networks accessed on mobile devices. Most people have notifications set to pop up on their phones when they get new messages from people they follow.
  • Video viewing on mobile is beyond a new trend. It’s here and it’s sticking. YouTube is the largest search engine in the world after Google. Video provides an opportunity for you to get intimate with your readers.
  • Twitter and Facebook have also ramped up their video offerings. Twitter’s Periscope app is hugely popular, and marketers all over the world are taking advantage of this tool to have direct contact with their audiences in a meaningful and personal way.
  • Email remains one of the best ways to have a personal conversation with your readers. And everyone checks email on their phones. Do you have your readers on an email list? This email you’re reading right now is the perfect example.

3 Strategic Steps You Can Take for 2016

  1. Evaluate your current publishing strategy.
  2. Set goals for upping your game in 2016.
  3. Select one item from the list above to implement by January 1.

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