Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Trend-e Trends

Sharon Wildwind

The writers’ lament:
Publishers, distributors, and book sellers play their business information very close to the chest. Someone, somewhere has to know something about this business, but how can I, as an author find reliable, unprejudiced information about book sale trends?

Try the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). Since 1976, this not-for-profit group has gathered and published information on all aspects of the book industry. Earlier this month they held their 6th annual Making Information Pay conference.

Slide shows of all of the audio-visuals used by the various presenters at this conference is available through a link at the BISG site. Under on Presentations Available, click on Presentations; Click on View all slideshows, and you will have before you nine presentations to choose from.

As with viewing any set of presentation slides without a speaker being there to guide you, quality varies. Some of the presentations are complete in themselves; others are representational words or photos that were on view behind the speaker,

Viewing all nine files will take a while—at least 45 minutes if you are a fast reader, probably up to triple that if you read slowly or want to take notes as you read. I suggest putting on nice background music and making your way through all of the presentation, even if it takes you several sittings to do this.

Taken as a whole, these nine presentations provide a tremendous snapshot of the publishing industry in 2009. The bottom line for that snapshot is: reading is not disappearing, but the traditional format of a book being defined as printed pages bound in a hardback or paper cover has been replaced by a variety of other formats.

The other thing I suggest is viewing this information as if you were a futurist. As you read a bit of information, ask yourself questions such as, “So, if this trend continues for 5 to 10 years, how can I capitalize on it as an author?” and “How can I use this information to get a market to open up for me?”

The average book reader last year was 45 years old. The average age of the most frequent book buyer is in the 50s.
The futurist in me asks:
If I peg my success in the next 10 years on attracting the group currently buying books, my customer base will decrease in size. How can I start to market to younger age groups?

Some 65% of buyers are women, who tend to buy in higher volumes—that is, more books per purchase, and more frequent purchases—than men. The fiction market is [bought by] predominantly female [readers].
The futurist in me asks:
How do I attract more women buyers, attract them more often, and encourage them to buy a larger volume of books at one time?

More than 50% of book buys are impulse purchases, and a large number of readers knew they would buy a book on a given shopping trip, but not what book they would buy.
The futurist in me asks:
How can I get my name as an author in those people’s heads and my books in the locations where they do impulse buying so when they go shopping for a book, mine might be the one they select?

The following information was taken from Book Awareness for Adult Books Published in 2008
7 publishers (Harper, Hatchette, Harlequin, Macmillian, Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster) provided the information and it was reported by the Bowker Company’s PubTrack Consumer

Material in brackets are my comments and were not part of Bowker’s original report.

Question to book purchaser: what factor led you to purchase a specific title? [figures are rounded to whole percents]

The top two responses were in-store display (45%)—[here’s that “I was going to buy a book today, but didn’t know which one when I went shopping" in action]—and recommended by a friend (10%).

The following sources each influenced between 9% and 5% of book purchases: the book was on a best-seller list, advertisements (see below), direct mail from a retailer or the book being in a catalog, and on-line book reviews.

Advertising as a separate category influenced 9% of book purchases. 50% of that 9% came from Internet ads; the other 50% of that 9% came from e-mail from a retailer, and advertisements in magazines, television, radio, and newspapers.

The following sources influenced 4% or less of sales: author’s personal web site; gift for a person who asked for this title; saw or heard the author on ratio or TV; publisher’s website; needed for school; mentioned in a forum, blog, or found through a Google search; book fair; book review (not on line); and saw or heard the author in person.

The last one listed is the least influential in purchasing (four-tenths of 1% of total sales). It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. Are authors’ personal appearances least influential in generating sales because that is a bad technique, or are sales from personal appearances so low because authors can’t get venues? If there were more in-person venues, would sales in this category rise?

The futurist in me asks:
If four-tenths of 1% of total sales was influenced by author appearances, and 4.5% of total sales was influenced by an Internet ad, how will marketing change when many authors choose to stay home and spend their travel money on on-line ads?

Quote for the week:

Some of us have great runways already built for us, so if you have one, take off. If you don’t, grab a shovel and build one.
~Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean


Julia Buckley said...

Very thought-provoking, Sharon! You always get me mulling over things in the morning. :)

I'm going to try to look at these presentations this afternoon.

Sheila Connolly said...

Sharon, thank you for offering this valuable information, and the links.

What troubles me most, on first reading, is that such a large percentage of buyers make their decision based on display (and probably the cover), over which we the writers have next to no control. If your publisher decides to push you (e.g., to pay for end caps or other placement), then your odds go up fast. If not, it's the luck of the draw.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Julia. I hope you're not mulling too early in the morning.

Sheila, my thoughts exactly. The number of store displays and extra-special displays like end caps and preferred placement in stores is completely out of the author's control and, unfortunately, those things seem to be the biggest sale factors. We're going to have to think our way around the end caps.

Sandra Parshall said...

Bowker also reports that women buy 71% of all fiction, 59% of all espionage/thriller novels, 71% of mysteries, and (of course) 93% of romance. In any bookstore, you're going to see more female customers than male.

Rob Walker said...

Sharon -- great post and eye-opening. IF and when I get some extra dollars, I believe I will put them into electronic ads in E-Zines or something similar.