1. Daniel

    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors Founder Staff

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    Featured Electronic Self-Publishing in 2017

    Discussion in 'Electronic Publishing' started by Daniel, Feb 15, 2017.

    I thought we could try something new with this thread. I really like the idea of having a featured discussion on a specific topic that we can all follow, and I believe a discussion on electronic publishing in today's market is a good place to start. If this featured thread is successful perhaps it can evolve into a weekly occurrence.

    To begin, I'd like to start by asking: what does it take to successfully e-publish in 2017?

    What are the elements of success, and how does one achieve it? What tasks must one undertake? What's the status of the industry as a whole? Is the market growing or shrinking, and how competitive is it? Assuming that as a writer you have a quality story, what activities should you be pursuing as an entrepreneur?

    The way I see it, if you're writing to make money you are an entrepreneur. You not only have to create a good story, but you need to create a unique - differentiated - product and develop your own competitive advantage for your brand. You need to understand your niche in the industry (who your competition is), who your market is (your readers), and how to reach your potential customers. You can have a truly original story, but without knowing who your ideal reader is, you won't even know how to reach them. If you cannot expose your product to your potential market - your book to your potential readers - no one will buy it.

    Before we attempt to answer the questions above, I believe it would be beneficial to paint a picture of the industry and market as a whole.

    I admit I've been out of the loop for a while, so I'm going to do a little research of my own to begin the discussion. I'll update this post if I can find some more accurate or more recent sources (I'd kill to have my University's Mintel or IBISWorld subscriptions again).
     
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  2. Daniel

    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors Founder Staff

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    Industry Research

    This research overview is still underway. It is proving more difficult to find conclusive information on the e-book publishing industry than it would for other more established industries. Feel free to add to this report or confirm/dispute it's findings.


    Growth of the E-Book Industry

    In 2015-2016 there were many well reported stories that the e-book market was shrinking or slowing down. These reports may be partially true; however, it may also be the case that e-book sales growth only declined for big publishers. If the later is the case, it may be explained by independent authors taking a larger marketshare, and/or because big publishers are artificially inflating their prices, driving down sales.

    According to this September 2015 article on Fortune.com, there was a decline in market share for established publishers, and this decline has been erroneously viewed as a decline in overall e-book sales. This is at least partly due to high e-book prices on the behalf of big publishers (you might recall of the collusion scandal involving Apple). They also claim that independently published e-book sales have been growing, even books without ISBN numbers.

    Industry Data on e-Book Publishers, aka "Big E-Book" (updated 02/23)

    This information is from a December 2016 IBISWorld Report on e-Book Publishers. It is only for the big e-book publishers, not independent e-books. I cannot share the full report but I will share the info I found.

    This report suggests that readers may be tiring of e-books and may be returning to print or may use print and digital jointly. Digital fatigue is apparently real, and younger age groups wish to spend less time on digital devices. It confirms my earlier assumption that a previous decrease in sales was due to price increases by the big publishers and confirms that Amazon/Kindle accounts for the majority of e-book sales.

    The 2016 report suggests that total e-book revenue for big publishers will fall 5.7% due to price increases if the big publishers insist on pricing their e-books high. This is very good for most of us. The big publishers are essentially giving away there market share, which creates opportunity. However, "big e-book" is still expected to grow 3.7% annually. Additionally, I think it's a fair assumption that independent e-books will continue to grow and become more competitive.

    E-book sales are driven by mobile and broadband internet connections, and a significant amount of e-books are purchased on mobile devices. Demand for e-books is determined by leisure time, literacy rates, and disposable income, and must compete with out leisure and entertainment activities (i.e. television, video games). No surprise there. E-reading devices also drive demand, as does the affordability/price and quality. Price is actually a huge factor, as books are a very elastic product with numerous alternatives. The strength of new titles also influences demand.

    The report projects slow industrial growth over the next five years. Growth in the number of new big e-book publishers is slowing.

    Presently, five companies control the majority of the market: Amazon, which discounted the prices of other publisher's ebooks - even taking a loss - to gain market share for the Kindle platform. In 2016 Amazon accounted for 65% of industry revenue. Apple is the second largest but took a hit with the antitrust suit, currently accounts for about 12.9%. Barnes and Noble prepared for e-books better than others accounts for 9.4% of the revenue. Kobo 3-5%. Google Play 2.4%.

    E-book publishers spend approximately 4.8% of their e-book revenue on marketing campaigns.

    Free e-books are also a factor on the market. 90% of consumers desire more free e-books, and 65% read both free and paid. 43% of books read in this study were free e-books. Only 18% of readers on multi-functional devices read purchased e-books. This means that free e-books compete directly against paid e-books and put pressure on prices.

    Promoting new titles is a challenge even for big e-book publishers. As bookstores have died, this has become a real problem for marketing for traditional publishers, and it is expected worsen. (bookstores are declining 2.7% annually). Suggested potential solutions are user reviews on social networking sites like GoodReads - however, GoodReads was acquired by Amazon. 31.2% of e-book revenue is from “adult trade books” which includes most fiction. Top fiction sellers are romance and suspense genres.

    Screen Shot 2017-02-18 at 12.23.17 AM.png Screen Shot 2017-02-18 at 12.49.36 AM.png

    Projected Future Growth

    According to Statistica.com (2013), e-book sales were forecasted to growth to 25% of all total global book sales, with consumer e-books alone projected to generate nearly 20 billion U.S. dollars in revenue by 2018.

    E-Book Pricing

    Via AuthorEarnings.com

    Slide-X2.jpg
    Slide-X1.jpg


    Genre Breakdown

    [will be updated as more research is compiled]

    Further Reports for Research:

    IBISWorld August 2011 World Industry E-Book Publishing Report

    AuthorEarnings Print v Digital 2016
    The Global eBook Report 2016
    2015 Trends in the E-Publishing Market
    PwC 2015 Turning the Page the Future of Ebooks
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
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  3. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    I came across this site last week while researching this with sort-of up-to-date sales figures. I'm not tuned into chart-n-graph reading so I can't separate indie info from the big five publishers—or big seven or whatever the number is that shows how few corporations control the industry.

    Also, apparently there's a way to interpret information on an Amazon page in order to glean sales info, but it's at best a guess and to gain insight into the whole industry would take more time than I have.
     
  4. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

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    You can get an estimate of Amazon sales from the ranking, but it goes up and down so fast it's hard to get anything more than a rough estimate. If you do a web search, there are sites which will convert a ranking to estimated sales numbers for you.

    Also, I believe Kindle borrows are now incorporated into the ranking, so that complicates it more.
     
  5. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    Yes, following mine pretty closely and ranking is quite volatile, especially at the opening when you do not have an established running average. If five people buy your book in one day, not unusual if you have a lot of friends who have been following your development, that can propel you into top 100K, but then if no one buys it for the next five days, you may fall back into the 500K ranking.

    One trick for cheap advertising: I have an authors facebook page (Lewis McIntyre, for those want to see it), with a buy now button on it to take the viewer to Amazon. For not much money, you can boost that page, which can reach a lot of viewers: I am currently running @10K viewers, a few hundred likes, follows and shares. And, for the first time, we are engaging in discussions with viewers posting comments, which has attracted a lot more discussion. I have sold two Kindle downloads in Australia (royalties in AUD) and I think they learned of the book through that site. The big trick is how to get out of the circle of friends who will buy the book because they know you, to reach those who have never heard of you or your book.
     
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  6. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    If you're tracking specific books, novelrank.com is really accurate for books that aren't selling too well. (Each time the rank goes up, it counts it as a sale. But the rank only updates once an hour, so if there are ten books sold in one hour, it'll only count it as one sale).

    And the Kindle Unlimited numbers absolutely mess up the "sales" numbers extrapolated from rankings - if you look at the Amazon best sellers lists in certain genres, they're completely dominated by books in Kindle Unlimited. Not because those books are SELLING a lot, but because they're getting looked at in KU. I don't think I've seen anyone with even an educated guess about how the KU pages are being applied to sales rank - does it count as sale if someone just downloads the book on KU and never reads a page, or...?
     
  7. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    There is not a particular formula, where if you do A, B, C, D and E in the proper order, and with this much frequency or effort, X amount of success (sales) will result.

    What works for one author may or may not work for another...or it may work better. That said, I think that there are a few best practices...that will enable the chance for a title or series to catch a bit of fire, and help build momentum for the next release(s).

    A quality product, in a genre that has an established, if not wide audience. Yes, one can be successful in a niche area too, but that has its own challenges. And one genre's readers are not the same as another's, and there is not necessarily cross over. If an author writes successful horror, those readers may not try a fantasy novel, even a dark fantasy one by that same author.

    Quality includes more than storytelling. Editing, quality formatting/layout, cover art, description, blurbs, etc. Yes, there are some books out there that sell well that are rife with typos and grammar gaffs, but such is often a major hurdle that can knock potential success back rather than to be ignored.

    Some marketing effort. There are intangibles that an author cannot affect, such as 'also boughts' were a title might appear with, or quality reviews posted, etc. But email lists, targeted advertising, blog reviews, and more also help build momentum. Actually, often the best advertisement for a title is another book released.

    Being persistent, learning and improving and setting oneself up for success is important. While there are overnight success stories to point to, those are very few and far between in comparison to all those who are publishing (traditional or self). There is a lot of competition...and there is never any guarantee of success. It could start and it could decline at any time...but being professional and putting out a professional product can certainly help avoid declines and improve chances of expanding a readership/fan base.

    Well, that's my initial two cents.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
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  8. Daniel

    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors Founder Staff

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    One thing I find troublesome - and rather quite annoying - is the lack in industry and market data on independent electronic self-publishing. For example, I recently gained access to IBISWorld December 2016's Industry Report on E-Book Publishing in the U.S. Market - but guess what? There data omits independent/self-published authors. They don't even get their own industry report. Any information available is through third party site's where the data itself may be questionable.

    I'd like to put forward the following hypotheses:
    1. Independently published e-books will continue to gain market share, with big publishers losing market share. This is good for most writer's.
    2. The average e-book price will continue to fall, with self-published e-books average price remaining between $.99 and $2.99.
    3. The above trend may continue towards more "pages read" or subscription-based services.
    4. The market will continue to become more competitive, and outsourced services and comprehensive marketing activities will become essential.
    5. The overall e-book market will continue to grow as access to mobile devices increases, but will grow at a much slower rate.
    Though the IBISWorld Report I mentioned above doesn't cover independent e-books, there may still be valuable information we can derive about the industry as a whole. I've updated the second post in this thread and will continue to do so. Nothing too revealing, but a little information that helps paint a picture of the industry as a whole.

    @Edward M. Grant @Lew It sounds like we can't really derive much data from Amazon sales ranking. I do find it interesting though - it sounds like their algorithm factors in momentum in a similar manner as crowdfunding campaigns. If you can get X books sold in one day, you rank higher and gain more exposure, which can lead to more sales, which can push you higher, etc. The longer you go without sales, the more difficult it will be to increase your ranking (i.e. 100 sales on day #1 may be immensely better than a sale a day for 100 days). I suspect the first few days/weeks are essential - if you can boost your ranking in the first weeks you'll gain much more overall exposure. Just a theory.

    @Lew are you using any sort of analytics to track those sales?

    I think @TWErvin2 touches on a good point: momentum. I think this is a major key to success.

    Marketing seems to be a black box in independent publishing from what I've read, but I think it's importance is only going to continue to grow. A properly outlined, calculated, tracked, and executed marketing strategy could do wonders in building momentum, generating sales, and creating a following. I wonder, what marketing activities would you consider "core" or essential? What does a comprehensive marketing strategy for an e-book release look like? (I'll think on that and get back to you ;))
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2017
  9. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I don't know if there's any point re-hashing the arguments that have already been had many times on this board (and many others), but... as a reader and as a writer, I hope you're wrong in most of your numbered points.

    I will say that I think it's completely natural that we can't get hard numbers on self-publishing, since by its very nature it's uncontrolled and unregulated. Where would these numbers come from?
     
  10. Lew

    Lew Contributor Contributor

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    I have hard data on sales of p-books and e-books from CreateSpace and KDP, so I have some knowledge of what is going on. Basically I got off to a good start but am in a lull right now, perhaps due to 1. all of my acquaintances already got one, or 2. They were waiting for the book signings (which don't count as sales on CreateSpace as I bought them). However, overall, in three weeks I have sold about 80 copies, which exceeds my goal, better than 50. With luck I may make 100 for the first 30 days, between p-book, e-book and personal sales.

    Marketing strategies? I am right now winging it. I have boosted my author's facebook, which seems to be a cheap way to reach a large audience: 13,000 have seen my page. I believe my two Australian sales (royalties in AUD) came from that source. As they were separated by a week, that indicates to me some word of mouth working in my favor. I had an on-line interview with a friend of my daughter's who runs a literature blog, and that interviewer is also going to give me a review when she finishes, so that will help. I connected to a lot of authors via my cover designer's facebook, and the connect to author support groups, so that helps. Going to the Maryland Writer's Assn conference, the Gaithersburg Book Fair, and I never go anywhere without a few of my author's business cards... you have to be part prostitute to sell effectively, so be a shameless hussy! My goal right now is to have people begin to buy the book that are responding to my advertising, rather than acquaintances or through personal interactions.

    I think the most important metric you have is your sales volume, rather than ranking. If you keep moving books, your ranking will change accordingly, though perhaps slowly, and never high as you feel your baby deserves
     
  11. joe sixpak

    joe sixpak Banned

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    Success depends on having a product the market wants to buy. And also promoting that product intensely.
     

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