Where Have All Our Reader’s Gone?

There’s been a lot of discussion amongst the “Indie Author” community of late about a big drop in sales over the last few months. Most of this is anecdotal, but like everyone else, I’ve certainly felt the effects of a downturn in sales.

For me, a downturn doesn’t necessarily mean as much as it does to some of the more established authors. Although, I am a full-time author these days, I, at least, have a wonderful wife who continues to keep in the manner to which I have become accustomed, regardless of my sales.

Nevertheless, this downturn in sales is disturbing, for all of us struggling authors in this community. It got me to thinking about what might be behind the drop. I’m no expert and I’ve only been in this community for a couple of years, but there are a couple of things that struck me instantly.

1/ There seems to be a proliferation of “ridiculously priced” (my words!), what I call multi-author boxed sets. I have been involved in a number of promotions over the past few months for such sets, so I guess in some ways, I am just as responsible and guilty as anyone else, for this. When I see a thirteen story, multi-author, boxed-set based around Halloween, for example, on sale for 0.99c, in my particular genre (Paranormal/Horror), my immediate reaction is, “how can my book, The Photograph, (priced at $2.99) possibly compete against that?”

I’m not being critical of authors entering into these collective arrangements. We all have to do whatever we can to succeed in this cut-throat self-publishing game, but when I try to analyze the drop in sales of full-length novels, therein may lie one of the answers.

2/ The dumping of “free” books into the market is certainly not helping the sales of “non-free” books. I know the idea of offering a “freebie” to stimulate interest in an author’s other titles, is a long established practice and one that I’ve participated in myself. I think the last free book I offered had over 1,000 downloads, which I was thrilled with.
How many reviews did I get from those downloads? As far as I can tell – ZERO! How much extra interest in my other titles did those downloads generate? Fairly impossible to tell, of course, but anecdotally, I would offer, not much. My sales had a big spike in July and August, on one particular book, which I put down to a promo I ran at the time, but apart from that, sales have been very flat, as have other author friends of mine.
Without any scientific knowledge to back up my assumptions, I can’t help but wonder, if readers, with Kindle’s full of free books, would even bother to look at other books for sale. That is worrying, in and of itself.

3/ The sheer size of the marketplace now. We all know Amazon has a massive share of the ebook market – I think 86% was the last figure I read. What we also know is that there are many, many more books on Amazon than there were, even two years ago, when I started. I noticed the other day one of my books (which has actually had a few sales in the past) was ranked at over 3 million on the sales ranking. I find that very scary. What does that tell us about how many ebooks are actually listed on Amazon now?
I remember when I started someone told me there were over three million ebooks on Amazon. I suspect that number may now be close to six million, or even more. With so many new entrants into the market, has it become impossible to be noticed?

Now, there are many successful “indie authors” out there. I know that. I talk to and am inspired by them every single day. So, what is the answer for those of us struggling to survive in this incredibly saturated marketplace?
We have two options, in my opinion.
Firstly, we can get beside these successful authors and find out what they’re doing, that we’re not doing. In my experience, this community is incredibly giving and supportive of each other. Find yourself a successful “indie author” and emulate them. The one rider I would have on this is: “swallow your damn ego and understand you don’t know everything there is to know”. Be prepared to humble yourself and ask for help. I know we all love our “babies” and believe them to be perfect and beyond reproach, but the reality is, anything we can do to make them more accessible, more enticing and more appealing, to the buying public, we need to do.
The most common problem I see with authors is their inability to accept that their “masterpieces” can be improved. The key here is; don’t just listen, nod sagely and then do nothing. You must also ACT on the advice and ideas of other successful authors.

The second option is simple. Do nothing. Enjoy your passion and love your writing. Try and remember why you started writing. For me, that answer is simple. I write because it is my passion and my bliss. I always remember a quote from billionaire businessman Richard Branson. “I never sought to make money, but what I discovered was when I had fun doing what I love to do, the money just came along.”
Do not think there is anything wrong with writing for the sheer joy of telling a story. Perhaps that’s exactly what we all need to do, from time to time; remind ourselves why we got into this business in the first place. For most, I suspect, it was a need to express ourselves, not to sell millions of books. Don’t focus on the outcome – just focus on the process you love and that fulfills you. I’ll take happiness and fulfillment any day, over a book contract or a ton of sales. I don’t kid myself, though, I’d still love both, but for now, I’ll accept the happiness and fulfillment of being a full-time author.
Until next time, have a wonderful, peace-filled day!






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