Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ebook Sales Down?

I've been asked to speculate about the future in several emails, mostly from panicked authors whose Kindle sales have gone down in June. My sales have also dropped off about 15%, pretty much across the board. I was averaging 831 daily sales in May. So far in June, I'm at 725 a day. On Nook, I was averaging 50 a day. This month, I'm averaging 40.

In the print world, it's normal for sales to slow down. But this is the first time I've noticed a downward trend in ebook sales.

Here are a few reasons this might be happening. Again, this is speculation.

1. June is usually slow. Kids are getting out of school, lots of graduations, people planning vacations, spending more time doing outdoor activities. Buying ebooks isn't their priority.

This may be true, because this seems to be happening across the board for all authors.

2. Amazon had their summer sale and dropped the prices on 600 ebooks to under $2.99, which hurt a lot of authors' rankings.

While that could explain Amazon sales, mine haven't rebounded since their promotion ended. It also doesn't explain my 22% drop in Nook sales.

3. More competition from a huge influx of new ebooks, both indie and legacy, is making it harder for ebooks and authors to be discovered.

Possible, but not probable. If this is oversaturation, it happened really fast. To account for a 15% loss in sales, that would mean Amazon had an influx of at least 150,000 new ebooks in June (Assuming they already have a million Kindle titles.) I say "at least" because that would assume all 150,000 of those new titles are selling well enough to hurt my sales by 15%.

That doesn't seem likely.

4. Perhaps there are too many ebooks for too few ereaders.

Possible again, but there are millions of ereaders sold, and hundreds of millions of devices capable of reading ebooks. Plus, ereaders continue to sell well. It seems impossible to ever fully saturate this market.

Hit books like The DaVinci Code or the Millenium Trilogy or Harry Potter are bought by hundreds of millions of readers, but they still haven't reached everyone. An ebook author should be able to sell several million ebooks before this becomes an issue.

5. While ebooks do sell for longer periods, there is a natural decline in sales, just like print books.

I believe ebooks are forever, but what goes up must come down. Neither Locke nor Hocking have also seen slower sales, based on their rankings.

6. People have grown tired of ebooks, and are no longer interested in buying them.

If that's the case, they must have gotten tired of books in general. Both Borders and Barnes & Noble have recently posted big losses. But B&N had a digital sales jump.

Obviously, we need a few more months of data to see if sales continue to drop, if they stabilize, or if they rebound.

That said, here are my thoughts.

Ebooks will continue to rise in popularity and become the dominant form of reading. This hasn't changed.

Obviously there will be more competition as more authors publish ebooks, but a constant influx of new customers buying new ereading devices (and an eventual global market for ereaders) will continue to drive sales.

Summer is slow. But once the holiday season comes around again, there will be another boost in sales across the board. This year should be bigger than last year, as ereader prices come down and move from early adopters into the mainstream.

In other words, no one needs to panic. No business has constant, unstoppable growth. Sales fluctuate. This is normal.

So what should authors be doing?

1. Keep writing. New ebooks will buoy the sales of backlist titles.

2. Cultivate a fanbase. Make sure they know when you have a new ebook released.

3. Experiment with different marketing techniques. Facebook, Twitter, bundling, putting ebooks on sale, using freebies, excerpts, clickable bibliographies, and so on.

4. Cultivate relationships with the epublishers. This is very difficult to do, but getting in good with the people selling your ebooks can only help your sales.

5. Be patient. I've heard from countless authors who are concerned that they aren't rich yet. Building a backlist, and a fanbase, takes time. Don't expect instant success. As I've said, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

I've also said that ebooks are forever. That's a long time to accrue sales.