Adult Fiction Print Sales Collapse: Down 25.7% In First Half of 2011 – David Gaughran

For adult fiction, at least, the downward spiral in paper is accelerating faster than anyone predicted. David Gaughran has a great post on this. Click on the main link below.

What does it mean for us as writers not locked into the Old Model?

I highlight this from David in his comments section:

I think a lot of writers are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for things to “settle down” to some kind of order. While these seismic changes won’t continue forever, and some kind of order will emerge from the chaos, it will be a far more complex set of relationships then the old linear publishing chain of writer to agent, to publisher, to distributor, to retailer, to reader. Those that dive in now will be able to stake out some ground. Those that wait gain nothing.

I’ll be running some in-depth posts next month on why you should e-publish now and forget the query process.

David has succinctly spelt out one of the most compelling reasons. Those that wait gain nothing.

Way back in April here on MWi we were asking,

are you missing out on the opportunity of a life-time by chasing the paper dream?

If your book is “ready” then the answer is an unequivocal yes. Even if you still really, really want a paper deal then proving yourself by e-sales is a sure-fire way to have the gatekeepers querying you. And you can negotiate from a position of strength. The six-figure, four-book deal with Harper Collins  picked up by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards is not the first and won’t be the last.

And earlier the same month we said:

For anyone still on the fence about e-publishing, now is most definitely the time to take the plunge.

In a year’s time it may be too late.

Three months on and that message is even clearer.

“Those that wait gain nothing,” says David Gaughran. Here’s David’s post.

Adult Fiction Print Sales Collapse: Down 25.7% In First Half of 2011.

  1. I have a feeling the boat may have sailed a little already – the Amazon summer sale, following on the sunshine sale has really shaken up the indie market and made it very hard for newcomers who now have to compete against established authors matching them on price.

    The key thing is to make sure the book is ready – a few dodgy reviews to start you off may finish you off.

    • You’re right, Dan, that most indies can’t compete with established names at the same price.

      During the easter sale on we saw the same wave of paper-based names sail in on the back of a massive amazon advertising campaign. But once the promotion ended things soon balanced out again.

      The downside for indies is that the publishers paying attention will do the maths and realise cheap prices can actually make money, especially for backlist titles that have already paid for themselves in paper.

      Great for readers. Not so good for indies. Which just reinforces the point David and I are making: get in now and establish yourself.

    • gerrymccullough
    • July 13th, 2011

    A timely warning – don’t hold back. Important stuff.

    • Thanks, Gerry.

      While David’s post particularly talks about adult fiction I think it’s safe to say YA and children’s fiction will take off big time in the new year, once the Harry Potter books go digital and the new e-readers flood the market in time for Christmas.

      But getting in there now and staking your claim seems eminently sensible. That said, small publishers like yours and Tom Winton’s can perhaps offer benefits medium term in giving you both a paper and e-outlet, and easing the burden with practical issues.

      Whether small publishers will still have a significant role when the Transition is over and most outlets are digital remains to be seen.

      • What’s interesting about e-books in the UK is that children’s/YA is bucking the trend we have seen in the US and is growing FASTER than adult. In the last available figures, children’s YA grew 500% in 2010. Astonishing.

      • I should note that the corresponding figure for adult fiction was around 300%.

  2. I agree. I think the main reason YA is not catching up to Adult fiction on e-readers yet, is because most kids/teens don’t have one and their parents are probably waiting for them to come down in price a little before shelling out for one. Or, as you said, waiting until Christmas and giving them as presents. I think this coming Christmas will see a huge bump in e-reader sales and lots of those will be going to kids.

    I sure am glad I got my name out there sooner, rather than later. I am now getting teachers e-mailing me, telling me they enjoyed the books so much they are going to recommend my books to their students when school starts again. I was blown over. That’s happened twice in the past couple of weeks now.

    The YA market will catch up, as parents realize their kids will start reading more if they can do so on a “gadget”. All of a sudden reading will be seen as ‘cool’ again. That’s my belief anyway, for what it’s worth 🙂

    • Alison, that is great news!

      Anyone with any sense will be planning now for Christmas marketing. There will be huge numbers of e-readers being fired up for the first time on Christmas Day, and huge numbers of new readers looking to buy for the first time. Those authors lucky enough to be in the top of their genre charts are going to see huge impulse-sales boosts.

      Alison will be appearing here at MWi in the near future to tell us more about her own marketing srategy.

  3. I have to confess to being scared here. I’m only a rung or so up the ladder and with mainstream publishers pushing to get above me with their authors, all of whom have publicity machines behind them, good book or not I’m feeling that this is going to be a big battle.

    I’m not sure I signed up for a battle and in a way, I think Amazon owes Indies some loyalty, care and attention. WE have given them something on which to sell their Kindle brand… we’ve done the marketing, we’ve done the hard yard. Come on Amazon… give us a bit of a break here. You either support Indies or you don’t. You don’t slam our sales in favour of cheap sales of mainstream titles!

    • mesmered,

      Don’t hold your breath. Amazon are a huge corporation. Like all corporations they are legally obliged to only make decisions that advance their interests. Sometimes their interests align with indies and they tweak things that benefit us. Sometimes it’s the opposite and they run a Big 6 sale.

      The point is, you should construct your business plan so that it needs no extra assistance from Amazon other than listing your books and paying you royalties. Anything that fortune blows your way can be a bonus.

    • As per David Gaughran’s response, Amazon are a business and are loyal only to themselves.

      We have to be thankful that Amazon let indies upload without some convoluted vetting process. A lot of e-stores make it difficult or impossible for indies to all.

      The cheap mainstream title promotions are few and far between, so it’s not all bad news, and the promotions help raise the profile of ebooks which benefits us all.

      For dedicated indie writers it would make sense for us to look at setting up “collectives” where we could pool resources and expertise and share the burden, and perhaps set up a not-for-profit “indie publishing house” umbrella that might get us into the more restrictive e-stores.

      I’ve seen a few start-ups along these lines in the US, but not aware of anything comparable this side of the pond.

      Dan’s eight cuts is maybe the closest.

  4. @David Gaughran. Those figures are astonishing. I can’t imagine there are that many younger Kindle owners – it’s neither child-friendly nor chic for the teens to be seen with, and the Nook is pretty useless in UK.

    Perhaps UK teens are more savvy with smart-phones and iPads or whatever?

    Potentially good news for British authors, but I wonder how many younger readers will be familiar enough with the market to seek out indie books rather than stick with the brand names they’ve known on paper.

    Would love to see how the figures break down.

  5. @Mark

    I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal evidence that kids are reading on phones in the US, but haven’t heard much from the UK (but I have less contacts there).

  6. Time’s winged chariot does seem to be hovering near, doesn’t it? Damn. That means I’d better get off my derriere. I think I’ve convinced my (famous) co-author of our nonfic book to go indie. Her query for our book has been sitting at a mid-sized press for 3 months–and they haven’t even bothered to acknowledge it. F*** them, I said last night.

    • Can’t believe you’d ever use language like that, Anne.

      Though given what you describe, maybe I can. Even for a completely unknown name that sort of utter disrespect for the author typifies everything I loathe about the Old Model.

      To think it happens to the likes of your co-author (Anne chooses not to name her so I can only say, trust me we’re not talking some unknown wannabe!) is unbelievable.

      Anne has run some great posts on her own blog about why you shouldn’t rush to self-publish. And before you do rush in, I suggest you get across there and read them.

      If your book’s not ready it’s not ready. Period.

      But if it is ready, get yourself organised, and go it alone.

      Be realistic. Making the top 100 on Amazon is only marginally more likely than making the plinth in B&N or Waterstone’s. For most of us it just ain’t gonna happen.

      Chasing agents is no longer necessary, so why demean yourself and put your life on hold for three months // three years / never? Trust in your own work, prove the market exists and the agents will come to you.

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