I’ve been seeing a lot of blogs and FB posts about crummy sales, how hard it is to get traction any more, how the market’s changed, how pricing power is a thing of the past and prices continue to spiral down, how even romance is seeing a 40-60% drop in sales.
This is, as predicted, the new normal.
All markets change. They get better for some, worse for others. Nothing’s static.
And last month’s gimmick likely won’t work next month. Gimmicks tend to be like fad curves – they’re steep, sucking in a certain number, and then they lose effectiveness and drop off a cliff.
What does that mean for authors, moving forward?
Same as ever, it will continue to get tougher to build a readership as the market matures. The voracious readers of yesterday are now mostly borrowers, not buyers or free downloaders, due to the subscription model. Whether that’s good or bad depends on whether you’re Amazon, a trad pubbed author who doesn’t participate, or an indie who is hoping that folks conditioned to read free content will decide they’re worth paying for.
I personally don’t see that happening. As with music, once a crowd associates content with free, it is valueless to them – the entitlement kicks in, or alternatively, they simply don’t understand why anyone would buy something when they can get so much nearly identical content for free.
These are largely readers for whom all content is fungible, all books roughly equivalent. Hardest hit are the genres where the writing quality is average, and the books are largely interchangeable. That’s not to say, you’ve read one shifter SEAL UFC billionaire stepbrother BDSM book, you’ve read them all, but for voracious readers who will be on to another book tomorrow, it’s hardly surprising they might view it that way, just as readers who viewed all Harlequin books as largely interchangeable aren’t a shocker. I believe that’s why we’re seeing the dip, for example, in romance – for authors who haven’t built a distinctive and recognizable brand, a franchise perceived as being different and special, you can swap out one tattooed hunk for another, and the tropes are largely the same. I use that as an example only – it’s happening in other genres, too, although the ones that are dominated by trad pubbed authors are getting hit the least, far as I can tell, either because reader behavior is different, or because most of the quality product isn’t available via subscription.
What this means is that authors who have honed their craft, package professionally, push the envelope on quality, and publish with clock-like regularity, will have the best chance. Those that don’t will fall by the wayside, whether in their third year, or third month, of publishing.
I believe we can expect royalties from subscriptions to shrink (safe bet based on the trend), and pricing power to disappear in many of the most popular genres. That means that those whose strategy is to depend on the subscription model will earn less money as the months go by.
And before I hear the usual arguments about how Amazon’s program increases visibility, and thus, discoverability, by treating borrows as sales for the purposes of rank, consider this simple test of that theory: If higher rank = greater visibility with folks who buy, vs. borrow, and those buyers use rank (whether on POP lists or not) as their new author discovery mechanism, you’d expect your sales (not overall revenue, unit SALES) to increase once you go into Select. That’s testable. If sales remain flat, or decline, then you have discovered that the ones using rank as a discovery mechanism are borrowers, not buyers. That runs counter to the established wisdom that higher rank equates to greater sales due to enhanced discoverability, but like most theories, when tested, it might just fall apart (it certainly does in my case – sales go down, borrows increase, and revenue increases due to increased borrows, but the type of reader I’m getting isn’t one that’s willing to pay for my work, as evidenced by the decreased sales).
What does it all mean? Strap in – I believe 2016-2018 are going to be very difficult years for the U.S. economy, as the chickens of fiscal recklessness come home to roost and it becomes painfully clear that the country’s in a recession, if not depression, and that’s going to translate into a tougher business environment for all.
Sorry to be such a bummer, but I know too many authors who were thinking they could quit their jobs three years ago, who have just thrown in the towel as the market’s gotten tougher. To expect it to get anything but harder is magical thinking, unsupported by any of the evidence I’m seeing. I’d love to be proved wrong. The irony being that indies will continue to command a larger chunk of the ebook sales, but those sales will be concentrated in fewer authors. Which is neither good, nor bad. It just is.
Will there be lightning strikes – books that come out of nowhere and become fads that everyone just has to read? Sure. Although if you look at trad sales, there haven’t been any must-read blockbusters everyone on the bus or plane just has to read for a little while now. I’m talking The Firm, Da Vinci, GWTDT, Harry Potter, 50 Shades level blockbusters. Reader behavior may be changing in that regard, too. Shrug. Wish it was my problem…
That’s my state of the union observations as we watch another year pass under our bow. Good luck to one and all, and most importantly…
Buy. My. Crap.
Thrills, spills, betrayal, deceit, a race against the clock, murder, mayhem, thousands of lives hanging in the balance…
In other words, all the usual elements you’ve come to expect from the Assassin series in this final installment – Rage of the Assassin.
El Rey is on the run, battling insurmountable odds as his body begins to betray him, the neuro-toxin in his veins a silent killer intent on silencing him forever. Meanwhile, a diabolical plot unfolds, threatening countless innocents at the hands of a madman that Captain Romero Cruz must stop – before the unthinkable can occur.
Rage of the Assassin was a hoot to write, and blazes along at breakneck pace, with enough twists to keep one guessing and a climax that tops any of the previous Assassin efforts.
It can be read as a standalone, but is probably most satisfying as the final in the series, which has proved popular over its lifetime, and is certainly a reader favorite. I’ll miss the exploits of El Rey and Captain Cruz, but this is a fitting end to their story, and I hope you’ll enjoy it. I mean, I hope you first buy it, and then enjoy it, because even expat malingerers have to eat.
Which is my seamless transition into the subliminal message to buy my crap. Which you should, early and often.
See what I did there?