The book market as we know it today is the result of hundreds of years of development. In business-speak, it is a great example of a massive but “mature” market. So what does this mean for you as a self-published author trying to market and sell your books? Here are 7 things a self-publishing fiction author needs to know about the book market.
1. The advent of self-publishing shook things up, but some things never change.
This means that there are existing structures in place, and certain things that readers still expect, despite self-publishing now being mainstream. Keep in mind that:
- Genres are still important – readers use these as sign-posts when looking for new books. Failing to write and position your book to fit into at least one clear genre and audience can negatively impact your marketing efforts.
- Readers want a great experience, not just a great story – we talk more about this below, under the section headed “Traditional publishers still set the standard”.
2. Amazon dominates the marketplace…
The recent trend has been for self-publishing authors to sell their books directly from their websites. This is great if making money is not your primary concern (and you should have an author website, anyway – see below). The fact is that Amazon sells as much as half of all books purchased in the United States, the biggest single market for books written in English. You simply can’t ignore this platform if you want to earn money and gain traction in the market. (Whether or not you should sell your book on Amazon exclusively is a debate for another time!)
3. …but you still need your own author platform.
The vast majority of self-published authors don’t have so much as a blog, let alone a website or email list. Instead, they rely exclusively on social media to get the word out about their book and promote links directly to the online stores. This means that they are over-reliant on third-party platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and cannot track or start sales efforts, or have lasting conversations with true fans. As a self-published author, you need your own corner of the internet!
4. Traditional publishers still set the standard.
The majority of readers have probably read more traditionally-published books than self-published ones up till now. It is important to realize that these readers have come to expect the quality offered by traditional publishers, and will feel cheated if they don’t get it. Self-publishing is not a cottage industry anymore, and so releasing unedited books with home-made covers just won’t cut it. Keep in mind that you will be competing with traditionally-published books and that your novel needs to meet their professional standards. Luckily, it is relatively easy to do this and, with some investment, we can help you achieve that level of quality.
5. Print is not dead!
With access to on-demand printing, it has never been easier to have a print version of your book. Print is not dead! It is still a popular format with many readers. What’s more, print books can be an important part of your marketing efforts, as they allow you to hold signings and giveaways. As an added benefit, having a print version of your book can get you into bookstores (see below for more on this).
6. Bookstores live on.
While large chain bookstores are going under at an alarming rate, there has been a surge of small, independent, and specialist bookstores. These independent stores present a great opportunity for self-publishers, as you can walk in and speak directly to the person who is responsible for buying their stock (and they will probably be willing to listen to you). Also, the fact that many of these bookstores specialize in certain genres means that you can target the ones that are the most likely to want to buy your books (genre is still important). Do a search for independent bookstores in your area – you may be surprised by what you find.
7. Distribution is easy; publishing is hard.
It is a misnomer to say that a book is published simply because it is on Amazon or has been printed. To truly say you have published your book, you need to write, produce and actively market it. Simply being on distribution platforms is not enough!
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