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View Full Version : Which genres work in self publishing and which don't?



Osiander
04-14-2011, 11:51 AM
This is just a quick question. Which are the hot genres in self publishing and which ones sink without trace?

I'm guessing paranormal romance, thriller and crime would be at the top, while literary, memoir and children's would be at the bottom, but that's a complete guess.

Any thoughts?

Terie
04-14-2011, 12:08 PM
I'm guessing paranormal romance, thriller and crime would be at the top....

That seems to be a pretty accurate reflection of the self- and micropress-pubbed books that sit in most of the top Kindle spots. Romance, and particularly erotica, seems to be the top-selling genre in the world of commercial (including micropress) e-books at the moment. It'll be interesting to watch how this develops over the coming year.

efkelley
04-14-2011, 01:31 PM
Heh. Doesn't surprise me that Erotica would be high on the list for e-readers.

"What are you reading there?"

"Oh, um, er....' <hits an inconspicuous button> 'Shakespeare's 'Hamlet.' See?"

/snarf!

Maryn
04-14-2011, 05:35 PM
I have two relatives who've self-published to modest success. Each did non-fiction aimed at a niche market they could reach at little or no cost, one tarot and one industrial archeology.

Maryn, not sure self-pubbed fiction is making much money

Irysangel
04-14-2011, 07:11 PM
I think you'll see a lot of romance successes because the romance market has been e-friendly for about ten years now. There have been lots of smaller e-presses so the audience is conditioned that e-books are not necessarily 'bad'. So romance does well, yes.

I think horror does really well also, mostly because the market lends itself well to a shorter work and frankly, no one in NYC seems to buy horror anymore. The fans are just as rabid as they ever were.

As for not making money, well, I made my rent payment last month with my e-published money. That's something! It's not ridiculous money, but it's nice to pad the income. :)

Osiander
04-14-2011, 08:16 PM
Thanks for this.

Any ideas about genres that definitely don't work? (As yet, anyway.)

brainstorm77
04-14-2011, 08:42 PM
I think you'll see a lot of romance successes because the romance market has been e-friendly for about ten years now. There have been lots of smaller e-presses so the audience is conditioned that e-books are not necessarily 'bad'. So romance does well, yes.

I think horror does really well also, mostly because the market lends itself well to a shorter work and frankly, no one in NYC seems to buy horror anymore. The fans are just as rabid as they ever were.

As for not making money, well, I made my rent payment last month with my e-published money. That's something! It's not ridiculous money, but it's nice to pad the income. :)

I agree with everything in this post.

pixiejuice
04-14-2011, 11:41 PM
Yes, I see a lot of paranormal romance in the self-pub crowd. Thriller, crime, and horror too.

I don't see much YA in self-pub, but that could be because YA does really well traditionally right now.

I also don't see much women's fiction/literary, which I happen to write and plan on going self-pub with. But ah well, I can't change what I write ;)

dgaughran
04-15-2011, 01:51 AM
I think genres like literary fiction and historical fiction, where authors don't tend to be anywhere near as prolific, won't do as well.

I think the demographics of the readership will have a part to play too.

Libbie
04-15-2011, 02:31 AM
There have been a few rare bit hits in fiction (Amanda Hocking, obviously, is one) but in general fiction is hard to sell. Hocking seemed to be so successful not only because her books were high quality (I assume by her sales -- I've never read one, since her usual subjects really don't appeal to me) but also because she had something like fifteen novels done and well-edited already by the time she was ready to start self-publishing, so she entered the scene with an instant backlist -- and a big one, to boot. So people who tried her out once and liked her were able to very quickly get many more of her books.

I think that's the only way fiction authors will make decent money with current self-publishing models -- being able to produce a very large backlist very quickly. That sets you apart from your competition and gives readers a reason to talk about you a lot. If all you have to rely on for marketing is word of mouth, giving people a reason to talk about you a lot, everywhere, is key.

If that's how you're defining "doing well" (making good money), then genre fiction with a big backlist is probably about the only way to make it happen. "Doing well" can mean different things to different people, though. Typically niche nonfiction finds success with self-publishing, but there success is defined more in terms of reaching as many members of your niche audience as you can. For example, I am a rockhound and I have a lot of great self-published books on specific areas to collect cool rocks. Not something a typical traditional publisher would see much money in, and the books probably didn't make a lot of money for their authors, but they are the go-to sources for rockhounds, so their authors are very successful in that they've become authorities in their fields.

movieman
04-15-2011, 02:42 AM
I think horror does really well also, mostly because the market lends itself well to a shorter work and frankly, no one in NYC seems to buy horror anymore. The fans are just as rabid as they ever were.

That's my primary interest in self-publishing, because I still like writing and reading horror but the kind of stories I like mostly seem to have disappeared from the bookstore shelves in the last few years to be replaced by sparkly vampires. I'll probably still try to sell the SF novels I write through the traditional routes, but publishing ebooks myself seems the most likely to work for the horror. Plus I have a bunch of unproduced horror movie scripts that I could probably convert into novels fairly quickly.

KellyAssauer
04-15-2011, 03:21 AM
I think genres like literary fiction and historical fiction, where authors don't tend to be anywhere near as prolific, won't do as well.

As a lit fic writer, I hope to never see my own recent work available in an ereader format.

So it might not be just sales thing,
it might be an author thing as well.

Sheryl Nantus
04-15-2011, 04:14 AM
I think nonfiction works out well - I just bought a book on writing by James Scott Bell who has plenty of professional credits and it's a faboo read!

Depends on the author and what you're looking for...

Sift Book Reviews
04-15-2011, 04:36 AM
A lot of the self-pubbed books I'm seeing lately that gain a lot of attention are science fiction and fantasy but I'm talking about the big blown-out-of-the-water type successes.

As far as midlist, I don't know what's doing well.

rsullivan9597
04-15-2011, 05:03 AM
There have been a few rare bit hits in fiction (Amanda Hocking, obviously, is one) but in general fiction is hard to sell. Hocking seemed to be so successful not only because her books were high quality (I assume by her sales -- I've never read one, since her usual subjects really don't appeal to me) but also because she had something like fifteen novels done and well-edited already by the time she was ready to start self-publishing, so she entered the scene with an instant backlist -- and a big one, to boot. So people who tried her out once and liked her were able to very quickly get many more of her books.

I think that's the only way fiction authors will make decent money with current self-publishing models -- being able to produce a very large backlist very quickly. That sets you apart from your competition and gives readers a reason to talk about you a lot. If all you have to rely on for marketing is word of mouth, giving people a reason to talk about you a lot, everywhere, is key.

If that's how you're defining "doing well" (making good money), then genre fiction with a big backlist is probably about the only way to make it happen. "Doing well" can mean different things to different people, though. Typically niche nonfiction finds success with self-publishing, but there success is defined more in terms of reaching as many members of your niche audience as you can. For example, I am a rockhound and I have a lot of great self-published books on specific areas to collect cool rocks. Not something a typical traditional publisher would see much money in, and the books probably didn't make a lot of money for their authors, but they are the go-to sources for rockhounds, so their authors are very successful in that they've become authorities in their fields.

Hocking actually has 9 not 15 books out - and her genre paranormal romace does very well in the self-published and small press communities.

Her editing has been a struggle and she cites that she did not do it well and one of the reason for going traditional.

I agree that "multiple books" are a key to success in self-publishing and after you get a bunch out releasing new ones quicky is important - just don't sacrifice quality.

efkelley
04-15-2011, 05:30 AM
I agree that "multiple books" are a key to success in self-publishing and after you get a bunch out releasing new ones quicky is important - just don't sacrifice quality.

That certainly seems to be a common factor. Makes me glad I write so damn fast. :)

juniper
04-15-2011, 05:31 AM
I got led to a CreateSpace book on Amazon by a "friend" on FB. The author, on FB, has posted that she's sold over 1100 copies so far. It's a .99 Kindle book. The reviews aren't kind (except for the obvious 5 stars friends) - and she's posted on FB asking for more 5 star reviews.

It's got the "look inside" feature so I did ... and was appalled. Horrible writing, horrible editing.

It's a cozy mystery but it's got the Christian hook going. Some reviewers have said they only read Christian books. Author says if you search in the Kindle store for "Christian mysteries" hers is #1. And it's terrible.

I think having a niche book like that would help a lot. Built-in readership, rather than a more general genre, like just mystery.

<thinks about writing for money rather than pleasure. is it ethical to write positively, persuasively about a religion if you're not of that religion? or any religion?>

Writer'sNotes
04-19-2011, 02:42 AM
I've been reading through these threads to learn a little about Kindle and ebook publishing, and I'm still wondering: do authors posting here feel that it's been worth it to go the Kindle route?

I have a book I love that was marketed by an agent (unsuccessfully) as a dark thriller but that I feel it YA post-apocalyptic sci-fi. I've knocked on every door and was considering letting it be a drawer novel. Now I'm weighing the pros and cons. Do apocalyptic sci-fi novels do well on Kindle? It is a bit literary. I was also considering having a cover designed professionally and getting interior layout done professionally, which costs money. Not sure if it's worth it for my genre.

ResearchGuy
04-19-2011, 03:04 AM
This is just a quick question. Which are the hot genres in self publishing and which ones sink without trace?

I'm guessing paranormal romance, thriller and crime would be at the top, while literary, memoir and children's would be at the bottom, but that's a complete guess.

Any thoughts?
Since neither the thread nor the question pertains to e-books, my answer does not pertain to e-books (although it does not necessarily exclude them as an ancillary product).


I've seen the following self-published with considerable success (large sales):

Textbooks (in a specialized field)
Business/technical books
Historical fiction
Light historical nonfiction
Thrillers (with a local setting; don't know his sales, but publishing book after book over years suggests success)
The success in each case reflected the expertise, professionalism, and relentless work of the author/publishers.

I have seen author/publishers who have had satisfactory (to them, apparently, although I don't know sales numbers) outcomes with children's books (young readers through YA). All of the above were offset printed.

The above pertain to individuals I know, and their books, not to genres per se.

--Ken

P.S. Dan Poynter, self-publishing guru, sells vast numbers of books. Total sales in the millions by now, I imagine. See www.parapublishing.com (http://www.parapublishing.com) to learn more about his books. Wide trade distribution.

P.P.S. Self publishers who do everything right, with a publishing company name separate from their own name, writing and publishing to trade standards, and with trade distribution, have books in the trade that are indistinguishable from books from large publishing companies. That is, you would not know that the author is also the owner of the publishing company.

P.P.P.S. I think that the question is not necessarily which genres work, but which author/publishers do what is necessary to make their books successful. Even in the hottest of genres, a book will fail if not promoted and marketed well. And even in the least-active of genres or specialties, a book can succeed if the author/publisher effectively packages the book, targets the audience, promotes to that audience, and facilitates sales to that audience.

KevinMcLaughlin
04-19-2011, 01:41 PM
Seems to me like it's not hard to view which genres are doing well yourself. I'd rely less on hearsay and more on doing a little footwork. ;)

Amazon sells about 70% of the ebooks in the US, so while it's not "everything" by any means, it's a good place to get estimates about sales. Go to the site, click on a genre, and scan the first fifty or one hundred titles in the genre. See how many are indie published, and how many come from corporate publishers. Most of the $.99-2.99 books will be indie; some won't, so watch for those. The $4.99-6.99 range is harder, as these are a real mix. Most of the books above $7 are from major publishers, although even there you'll see some indie fiction as high as $9.99.

Took me about fifteen minutes to go through the current bestsellers for science fiction, for instance. I checked the top 50, even using Google to track down a half dozen publishing names, and realized that 38 of the top 50 bestselling SF ebooks are self published.

Yikes. Hadn't realized it was quite that big.

In contrast, only 22 of the top 50 bestselling fantasy ebooks were self published. Not even half.

I don't want to try to analyze those data points, just mentioning them, and how it's fairly simple to do the same for the genre of your choice. =)

Bookmama
04-21-2011, 01:18 AM
Rather than thinking of genres, you may want to consider 'target audience.' Who will read your book and do you have a low-cost or no-cost way to reach those people?

Usually the more specific a target market and the more definite your action plan for reaching those people, the better your chances of success.

An example -- In general the children's genre is hard to sell to. But, consider a summer story set in a real location. People who visit that location with children would be the target audience and a way to reach them -- gift shops, restaurants, motels.

This exact formula was used by 3 children's book self-publishers that I know of. The one wrote about a sea lion and presold half the print run to some aquatic museum. Johnathon Rand created a series of books set in Michigan. Finally, Adirondack Kids series is another self-published children's book series by a father/son team that follow that formula.

Another example of the:

target audience + way to reach them = good sales

formula is Grandma's Scrapbook was self-published after its original publisher felt it wasn't worth reprinting. In this last case the author posted on scrapbooking forums about its availability.

Outside of children's genre, I could come up with many examples. The majority of them are non-fiction, but NOT ALL.....

poppyseed
04-24-2011, 04:07 AM
As a lit fic writer, I hope to never see my own recent work available in an ereader format.

So it might not be just sales thing,
it might be an author thing as well.

Can I ask you why you feel this way?

KevinMcLaughlin
04-24-2011, 10:21 AM
I'm kinda curious too, Kelly. I mean, I understand wanting to have a print version *as well* - it's nice to have that physical book there. And print sales ARE still the majority (2/3) of book sales, for now. And my mother refuses so far to buy an ereader, so I'd want anything I published to have a hard copy she could read. ;)

But why would you want to exclude the (growing number of) readers who read digital primary, or even exclusively? Seems to me like that would be counterproductive. Not to mention that if you publish with a large press, you simply don't have that option anymore - your work will go into ebooks, or they won't buy it from you.

Old Hack
04-24-2011, 11:08 AM
Kevin, one of the bigger publishing houses claimed recently that e-books now made up 25% of their sales--not 33% (unless you're talking about total copies sold, in which case I'd love to see your source: I've not been able to find any reliable figures on that).

I'm a bit surprised by Kelly's feelings about e-books too. The agents I know are delighted to have another format to sell their clients' books in; and the higher royalties per copy sold are an extra bonus.

KevinMcLaughlin
04-24-2011, 07:58 PM
Kevin, one of the bigger publishing houses claimed recently that e-books now made up 25% of their sales--not 33% (unless you're talking about total copies sold, in which case I'd love to see your source: I've not been able to find any reliable figures on that).

I'm a bit surprised by Kelly's feelings about e-books too. The agents I know are delighted to have another format to sell their clients' books in; and the higher royalties per copy sold are an extra bonus.

I answered that last time you asked, but maybe you missed it; 29.5% based on February AAP reports; which although not perfect *is* considered the best-bet numbers in the industry for tracking sales. It's also conservative on ebooks, because they only tracked a small number of publisher's sales - so the $90.3m they tracked in sales for Feb didn't count any sales by most publishers, although it did track 16 of the biggest.

Anyway, link here: http://www.publishers.org/press/30/

Medievalist
04-24-2011, 08:18 PM
Not to mention that if you publish with a large press, you simply don't have that option anymore - your work will go into ebooks, or they won't buy it from you.

Where on Earth did you get this idea?

It's not accurate. All sorts of things are on the table when you negotiate with a publisher, especially if you have an agent in your corner.

Old Hack
04-24-2011, 08:50 PM
I answered that last time you asked, but maybe you missed it; 29.5% based on February AAP reports; which although not perfect *is* considered the best-bet numbers in the industry for tracking sales. It's also conservative on ebooks, because they only tracked a small number of publisher's sales - so the $90.3m they tracked in sales for Feb didn't count any sales by most publishers, although it did track 16 of the biggest.

Anyway, link here: http://www.publishers.org/press/30/

Thanks, Kevin, I didn't see that last time.

Figures like that can't really track all publishers' sales: but so long as they track the same sample of both print and e-book sales, they should be pretty representative.

I've had a quick read of the page you linked to and can't find the point where it says that e-books accounted for 29.5% of total sales; and I've played around with the figures a bit and get all sorts of answers, depending on what I do with the numbers. For example, do you include downloaded audiobooks as e-books, as they seem to do in the summary? Or do you count that as a usual trade format, which is what I'd do?

dgaughran
04-24-2011, 11:38 PM
(Figures from AAP press release here (http://www.mediabistro.com/ebooknewser/ebook-top-trade-publishing-format-in-february_b9154))


E-book sales = $90.3m

Adult Trade combined (Hardback, Paperback and Mass Market) = $156.8m

Children's/YA combined (Hardback, Paperback and Mass Market) = $58.5m

$90.3m + $156.8m + $58.5m = $305.6m

E-book sales ($90.3m) is 29.5% of $305.6m

***

Audiobooks are separate, and have also shown a huge boom - up 36.7%

Print was down 34.4% overall, hardback almost halved.

This could still be a post-Christmas boom, and could plateau (and no doubt Borders was a factor affecting print here). Next month will be interesting.

KevinMcLaughlin
04-24-2011, 11:54 PM
@OldHack: What dgaughran said. That's the math. It's admittedly NOT precise - but it's the best guess anyone has right now. Also, it's a snapshot and we might see really different numbers from March if print bounced back some and ebooks slumped a little. It's the trend tracking that I think is most important there.


Where on Earth did you get this idea?

It's not accurate. All sorts of things are on the table when you negotiate with a publisher, especially if you have an agent in your corner.

Go ahead. Go find someone who is *not* a 'guaranteed bestseller' writer who is able to sell print rights to a large press without selling digital rights. Seriously.

You can't. You won't be able to. Publishers know most books they buy this month won't be in stores for about 18-24 months (less for some, more for others, but that's a pretty typical range). And it's already looking like ebooks are the biggest format. In 24 months, it's distinctly possible - even likely - that ebook sales nationwide will exceed all print sales combined.

If you're one of the tiny handful of biggest writing names in the world, you might be able to wrangle a print only deal. But even for mainstream regular bestsellers, it's not happening. Publishers have to treat digital as the primary rights on any book they buy right now, because by the time the book comes out, print will be a subsidiary media.

Medievalist
04-25-2011, 12:16 AM
Go ahead. Go find someone who is *not* a 'guaranteed bestseller' writer who is able to sell print rights to a large press without selling digital rights. Seriously.

Me. For this book. (http://www.amazon.com/Handlist-Rhetorical-Terms-Richard-Lanham/dp/0520076699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303675571&sr=8-1)

And this book (http://www.amazon.com/Electronic-Word-Democracy-Technology-Arts/dp/0226468852/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303675645&sr=1-1).

For the two Lanham books, the author wanted me to produce the electronic versions; I did. The publisher distributes them, and RAL owns the electronic rights. We negotiated a distribution deal with the two publishers; this is much easier with scholarly books and university publishers, but I've had success with others as well. RAL gets a royalty; I performed work for hire, paid by RAL.

Often mass market fiction is just as negotiable for e-rights as well. There's frequently an agreement to share royalties if the publisher provides the file for ebook production. Many authors go this route because they want to produce enhanced ebooks and not all publishers are set up to do that.

Currently I'm negotiating with a publisher for DRMless ebooks.

It helps that I'm fairly well known in terms of ebook production, but I don't think it's impossible for anyone. The thing is, you can't expect the publisher to give up something without getting something, any more than a publisher can expect an author to give up something without getting something.

Sheryl Nantus
04-25-2011, 12:20 AM
Maybe it's just me, but I understand why a pubisher would want ebook rights...

I sell my book to XXX publisher and keep the ebook rights. I don't get the benefit of their editing or cover art and instead put out the book under my own label.

As a consumer I'm getting two different books. The edited, commercial version may be MILES different from the freelance edited version out in ebook form. The cover art will not be the same and a reviewer will have to clarify if it's the ebook version being reviewed or the print version. Frankly, it's too much work for the publisher to take on if you're going to try and compete with the e-version of your book. If you undercut the print version (not hard to do) with your self-pub version, why on earth would a publisher want to put out a print copy?

Not to mention confusing the consumer to death. I see XXX book out by this author but it's not the same as the print version I bought at the store. Different cover art, different editing and all that. What am I buying? Why is it this way?

I realize that some of the self-pub gurus scream blue murder about letting this right go, but there's actual common sense behind it. As a publisher why would I want YOU to compete with ME with the same book?

KevinMcLaughlin
04-25-2011, 03:34 AM
Me. For this book. (http://www.amazon.com/Handlist-Rhetorical-Terms-Richard-Lanham/dp/0520076699/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303675571&sr=8-1)

And this book (http://www.amazon.com/Electronic-Word-Democracy-Technology-Arts/dp/0226468852/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303675645&sr=1-1).


1991 and 1995? Ebooks basically didn't exist at that point. Even in 2009 they were fairly small, and publishers thought they had until 2015 to reach where they are *today*.

I said "able to sell", as in today, this month, last month. Right now. Not two decades ago, sheesh. ;)

Edit: I could be wrong, but I didn't think the U of Chi and U of Cali presses are considered "large press"? We're talking about contracting rights to a book to one of the major publishers out there, not to a small press (where things can definitely still vary, because a lot of folks are still struggling to understand where the industry is going).

Medievalist
04-25-2011, 04:05 AM
1991 and 1995? Ebooks basically didn't exist at that point. Even in 2009 they were fairly small, and publishers thought they had until 2015 to reach where they are *today*.

Dude, you are so wrong. Also? You have an interesting habit of shifting goal posts.

The arrival of the Kindle and Amazon's push absolutely made ebooks a bigger part of the market, but they were thriving quite nicely before then.

This is part of the problem with some of the stuff I'm seeing in these threads--ya'll have no idea that ebooks are better than twenty years old as consumer commercial products.

I worked for the Voyager company; we invented ebooks--right down to the common UI elements. I also worked for Calliope and Night Kitchen.

I was a member of the Open Ebooks Standards committee; I helped create the ePub file format as well as TEI standards. I consulted for Apple on ePub standards for non-Roman languages and for adaptive tech support.

I've produced well over a hundred ebooks, by authors like Walter Mosley, Douglas Adams, Crichton, and many titles from Random House's Modern Library.

I'm currently working to help main stream presses streamline their conversion processes--and create visually appealing ebooks, instead of text dumps.


I said "able to sell", as in today, this month, last month. Right now. Not two decades ago, sheesh. ;)

I'm still collecting royalties darlin' on the ebooks and the codex books are still in print. We're mulling over doing new editions, to take advantage of better opportunities for "enhanced" ebooks.


Edit: I could be wrong, but I didn't think the U of Chi and U of Cali presses are considered "large press"? We're talking about contracting rights to a book to one of the major publishers out there, not to a small press (where things can definitely still vary, because a lot of folks are still struggling to understand where the industry is going).

Actually, yes, they are both considered fairly heavy weight presses, University of California more than University of Chicago.

How about Random House ? How about Peachpit? Have you actually talked to authors of mainstream books?

Part of the problem with enthusiastic but naive writers--and I'm looking at you--is that you think ebook production is new.

It isn't.

A lot more is on the table when you negotiate than you seem to realize; publishers realize that enhanced ebooks have added value--but they're not set up to create them in house. So there's opportunity to negotiate--to provide recompense to the publisher for their editing and production on the pre-press file, but keep the e-rights.

You can't have what you don't ask for--and it doesn't hurt to ask.

HapiSofi
04-25-2011, 06:04 AM
Y'know, Kevin, the only way you're going to win this argument is by knowing more about ebooks than Digital Medievalist. I'm not sure that's an option.

HapiSofi
04-25-2011, 06:24 AM
I think you'll see a lot of romance successes because the romance market has been e-friendly for about ten years now. There have been lots of smaller e-presses so the audience is conditioned that e-books are not necessarily 'bad'. So romance does well, yes.

It's not a matter of the audience being conditioned to think ebooks are good or bad; what matters is that there's an audience of romance readers who've already been taught to use ebooks to get the stories they want. Bookmama got this one right: "target audience + way to reach them = good sales." Romance has tiny subcategories that have devoted fans, so they're your target audience. The existence of ebook sales channels romance readers are already familiar with are your way to reach them.


I think horror does really well also, mostly because the market lends itself well to a shorter work and frankly, no one in NYC seems to buy horror anymore. The fans are just as rabid as they ever were.

Nope. Horror has never regained the mass audience it had before the genre collapsed in the late 1980s. Some fans are as enthusiastic as ever, but there aren't nearly as many of them as there used to be. The reason the NYC market is still not buying horror is because it still tanks.

Horror has become like the romance subcategories: a genre with a small, well-defined audience that knows what it wants and where to look for it.


As for not making money, well, I made my rent payment last month with my e-published money. That's something! It's not ridiculous money, but it's nice to pad the income. :)
Congratulations. Making the rent is a nontrivial achievement.

HapiSofi
04-25-2011, 06:25 AM
As a lit fic writer, I hope to never see my own recent work available in an ereader format.
That's fine. Means you're no one's problem but your own.

KevinMcLaughlin
04-25-2011, 07:23 AM
Dude, you are so wrong. Also? You have an interesting habit of shifting goal posts.

The arrival of the Kindle and Amazon's push absolutely made ebooks a bigger part of the market, but they were thriving quite nicely before then.

This is part of the problem with some of the stuff I'm seeing in these threads--ya'll have no idea that ebooks are better than twenty years old as consumer commercial products.

Yes, but represented under 1% of the market in January 2009. So tell me, what percent of the market did they represent in 1991?

It's a different world today. Different, really, than even two years ago, let alone fifteen or twenty. Fifteen years ago there were ebooks (actually, ezines, too; I edited and was briefly producer for an intl trade zine that did an e-edition back in the mid nineties). But they were small potatoes, in terms of sales. So small that publishers bought the rights as an afterthought, sometimes (and often didn't at all - which is why there's lawsuits pending regarding some large publishers now claiming they have ebook rights to older works and writers contesting that).

Push it forward to 2008. Ebooks are growing again. This time, it might really happen. The Kindle was released in Nov 2007, and 2008 saw early adopters buying Kindles and buying ebooks in greater quantities than ever before. Publishers got together, cranked some numbers, and figured that by 2015, ebooks might actually be pushing a billion dollars a year. That's about 1/16th of the US consumer publishing industry right now.

Fast forward to 2010, and things start changing fast. Kindle 3 and Amazon's huge push, plus iPad, plus the availability of good quality ebooks and good quality reading software for cell phones, and some other factors = a big surge. Ebooks rise from maybe 2-3% in January to 8% in December, based on conservative estimates.

Around Dec/Jan, B&N announces they've already hit their sales targets for 2014.

In April, the AAP announces that Feb numbers show ebooks outselling MMP.

That means ebooks if not right now very soon will be the primary publishing format - the format where the most sales are made, the most revenue won. And the result of that is pretty easy to anticipate: publishers are demanding digital rights. In fact, newer contracts are also demanding "interactive multimedia" rights, because *those* rights probably (untested in courts so far, but likely from what I've been told) include most forms of enhanced ebooks.

I don't know if some folks are negotiating to keep the interactive multimedia or not; I'd have to ask around. But what I am hearing with *extreme* consistency from every writer I talk to is that no "big publishing" corporation is buying just print rights anymore. No digital means no contract. They'd be fools to do otherwise; by the time any book bought today comes out, digital will be their bread and butter, and they know it.

I get you have a background here. I'm not a total neophyte myself, and I do know most of the history involved here, although it sounds like I lack your depth of experience on this. I respect that. But I can only tell you what I am hearing - with complete consistency - from writers, and that is that they cannot sell print rights without digital anymore. If anyone has recent personal experience to the contrary, I would love to hear it.

HapiSofi
04-25-2011, 07:27 AM
You're basing this on anecdotal information from writers? You really don't see a problem with that?

===

Ebook sales are showing a respectable rate of increase, but the reason they've outstripped mass market paperbacks is because the mass market distribution system is collapsing. That's a dysfunctional market, not an indication that people no longer want hardcopy books; and it certainly doesn't amount to proof that ebooks will "very soon will be the primary publishing format." When you say things like that, you've crossed over into wishful thinking.

Old Hack
04-25-2011, 10:36 AM
(Figures from AAP press release here (http://www.mediabistro.com/ebooknewser/ebook-top-trade-publishing-format-in-february_b9154))

...

Audiobooks are separate, and have also shown a huge boom - up 36.7%

Print was down 34.4% overall, hardback almost halved.

This could still be a post-Christmas boom, and could plateau (and no doubt Borders was a factor affecting print here). Next month will be interesting.

Thanks for that. What I find interesting is how malleable those statistics are, and how with very little trouble I can make them "prove" that e-books took 40% of the market if I want to, or 22% (I think that's what I got to yesterday--I don't have my workings to hand right now).




Go ahead. Go find someone who is *not* a 'guaranteed bestseller' writer who is able to sell print rights to a large press without selling digital rights. Seriously.

You can't. You won't be able to.

Ah, but I can. A good friend of mine who is unpublished was recently taken on by an agent, and within three weeks of signing up with that agent she's got a huge deal with a major UK publisher, a good deal with a European publisher and an auction still ongoing in another European territory, with half a dozen publishers involved.

This is for hard copy only: her agent hasn't sold e-book rights and is working on those now.


Maybe it's just me, but I understand why a pubisher would want ebook rights...

I sell my book to XXX publisher and keep the ebook rights. I don't get the benefit of their editing or cover art and instead put out the book under my own label.

As a consumer I'm getting two different books. The edited, commercial version may be MILES different from the freelance edited version out in ebook form.

This shouldn't happen. A good contract makes sure that the author retains copyright on the work in all its forms so although the original publisher edited it, the author retains copyright to that edited version and can use it however they want to, so long as it doesn't impinge on the original publisher's rights. Meaning that if the original publisher doesn't own e-rights you should be able to use that edited version as your e-book without any comeback.

ResearchGuy
04-25-2011, 06:41 PM
. . . the mass market distribution system is collapsing. . . . .
Really? Hard to tell from the racks and racks of mass market books I see in bookstores, grocery stores, drug stores, and of course the equivalent on amazon.com, bn.com, etc., etc., etc. (And stacks of trade books in bookstores -- bricks & mortar and online-- and in book club emails and websites (History Book Club, Scientific American Book Club . . .).

Dunno about you, but I now buy the large majority of my books as Kindle downloads for convenience (books arrive in one minute, don't have to leave my living room to order and receive, don't have to add more to my piles of books or figure out how to unload the ones I've read and can bear to part with, and I can carry hundreds of books with me, including my current reading books, anywhere, all at onece) and (usually) price savings. My book-buying habits changed on a dime the day my Kindle arrived last September. I doubt that I am the only one.

--Ken

ResearchGuy
04-25-2011, 06:47 PM
As a lit fic writer, I hope to never see my own recent work available in an ereader format. . . . .
Ah, yes . . . reminded me to buy literary novelist Bill Pieper's latest (What You Wish For, Nov. 2010) as a Kindle download. I ordered it before typing the last sentence. It arrived before I finished typing it.

--Ken

dgaughran
04-25-2011, 07:37 PM
Thanks for that. What I find interesting is how malleable those statistics are, and how with very little trouble I can make them "prove" that e-books took 40% of the market if I want to, or 22% (I think that's what I got to yesterday--I don't have my workings to hand right now).


I think 29.5% is a fair read though - assuming that the e-book figures only represent all trade e-books, then it's fair to calculate the portion of the market they hold of Adult Trade Print + Children's/YA Trade Print + E-books.

But it is only one category. All trade e-book vs all trade print is $90.3m vs $215.3m - that's over 70% of the market for print.

And, as has been pointed out elsewhere, these figures do come with health warnings.

First, it's only one month (although trends are obvious).

Second, we only have 16 houses reporting e-book sales and only 84 reporting print sales. While that could lead you to think that e-book market share could be even higher, that is a tenuous conclusion for all sorts of reasons.

Third, no-one was shipping to Borders.

Fourth, we could still be seeing a temporary post-Christmas e-book purchasing boom (although in every year from 2005 'til this AAP figures showed a drop in e-book market share from Jan to Feb, but that doesn't mean much either).

Full figures for Feb are (I believe) out in May, so we may have a better picture then. Also, we should have the preliminary March figures in a couple of weeks, and we can see if various trends continue.

Irysangel
04-25-2011, 08:00 PM
Really? Hard to tell from the racks and racks of mass market books I see in bookstores, grocery stores, drug stores, and of course the equivalent on amazon.com, bn.com, etc., etc., etc. (And stacks of trade books in bookstores -- bricks & mortar and online-- and in book club emails and websites (History Book Club, Scientific American Book Club . . .).

MMPB fiction performs best with sheer volume. Also, you're mixing two comparisons - trade books aren't what was mentioned - mass market was. Those are the paperbacks that you see in Wal-mart and drug stores, etc. Except you can ask any romance author - Wal-Mart has cut their buys by a third. That means if they used to order 60k of your paperback, now they're wanting 20k. Grocery stores are cutting back. Borders is going belly up, and B&N is cutting back shelf-space in favor of games and toys. Oh, and B&N is buying less as well. Why buy more? They can just reorder if you sell through. Except that's part of the problem.

So you used to be able to do well with MMPB on sheer volume alone. Except now the volume has been neatly sliced down to nothing, and paperbacks don't have that margin of profitability they used to.

Anyhow, the distribution chain is all effed up right now, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of new authors debuting in TPB rather than MMPB because it's not cost-smart to debut in MMPB anymore.

movieman
04-25-2011, 08:01 PM
Horror has never regained the mass audience it had before the genre collapsed in the late 1980s. Some fans are as enthusiastic as ever, but there aren't nearly as many of them as there used to be. The reason the NYC market is still not buying horror is because it still tanks.

I'm not entirely convinced of that; I've bought far more horror novels as ebooks this year than paper horror novels in the last five years. I didn't stop buying because I lost interest in horror -- I've probably bought a hundred horror movie DVDs in that time -- but because I would rather read about sneak up and rip your throat out vampires than sparkly ones. Last time I went to a bookstore I looked at the horror section and there simply wasn't a single book that appealed to me, they all either seemed to be parodies or Twilight ripoffs.

In addition, I suspect one reason why horror was so big in the 70s to early 80s was because the whole world seemed to be going to hell; people in general aren't so interested in horror stories when everything seems to be happy and fluffy. If that's the case, then there should be plenty of demand out there right now.

ResearchGuy
04-25-2011, 08:06 PM
. . . trade books aren't what was mentioned - mass market was. . . .
But I was not sure whether the reference was to mass market paperbacks specifically or to wide (mass) distribution of books regardless of format. Hence how I wrote what I wrote.

--Ken

Gravity
04-25-2011, 08:08 PM
I think nonfiction works out well - I just bought a book on writing by James Scott Bell who has plenty of professional credits and it's a faboo read!

Depends on the author and what you're looking for...

Jimbo's a good friend of mine, Sheryl; I'll pass on your kind words to him! :)

KevinMcLaughlin
04-25-2011, 08:48 PM
I think it's premature to say that the print distribution system "is collapsing".

But it does look like we're at or past that 20-25% ebook margin where Shatzkin predicted that the current print publishing system would enter a phase of catastrophic upheaval. If he's correct, then past that point publishers would not longer have the economy of scale to keep print book prices as low as they are. Print prices would go up. As print prices go up, that feeds more people buying cheaper ebooks, which feeds less economy of scale and higher print prices.

We're also looking at Walmart and other big chains cutting back on purchases; Borders in bankruptcy - and my bet is they end up in liquidation; B&N closing a net of 52 stores last year and hundreds more planned for the next year or two (they intend to close most stores where they don't own the physical footprint).

Things are definitely changing, and that change is continuing to accelerate. Predicting where things will end up is pretty tough right now, though. ;)

CaoPaux
04-25-2011, 09:26 PM
Just to be clear, there are two very different distribution systems being discussed here: mass market and trade. It is the mass market system that's getting shaky, not the trade system.

And, as detailed elsewhere, Borders tanked because it was mismanaged -- not because of any lack of books or distributors.

ResearchGuy
04-25-2011, 10:39 PM
. . .It is the mass market system that's getting shaky,. . ..
Meaning exactly what? I see the usual assortment of mass market paperbacks in all the usual places (online and physical stores of various kinds). What's shaking?

--Ken

KevinMcLaughlin
04-27-2011, 12:42 PM
Meaning exactly what? I see the usual assortment of mass market paperbacks in all the usual places (online and physical stores of various kinds). What's shaking?

--Ken

Sales in MMP are plummeting like rocks, and have been for some time now. This year so far has been especially bad, based on those AAP numbers, but the trend has been downward through much of 2010. Borders issues are not helping; B&N store closures ditto. But the theory is that ebook sales are grabbing a chunk of the money which formerly went into MMP purchases.

dgaughran
04-27-2011, 12:50 PM
And because of that, presumably distributors aren't printing money at the moment, which might be what CaoPaux was referring to.

ResearchGuy
04-27-2011, 06:33 PM
. . .But the theory is that ebook sales are grabbing a chunk of the money which formerly went into MMP purchases.
My own experiences and practices, now that I have a Kindle, conform to that theory. (But my experience applies even more to new hardbacks than it does to mass market paperbacks, as my wife and I share many of the latter and she does not have a Kindle.)

But that is sales, not the marketing system. So it is sales that are falling, not the marketing system that is "shaking." That I'd not question.

--Ken

Osiander
04-27-2011, 06:50 PM
My book-buying habits changed on a dime the day my Kindle arrived last September. I doubt that I am the only one.


Me too. My whole working life has been print, more or less, and I always thought I'd be a die-hard print lover. I haven't bought anything since e-books since the Kindle arrived.

Part of my motivation, admittedly, was that I didn't want any more books in the house. I live in Europe and one day soon I have to pack and go home, and I don't want to have to put books in the recycling bin because they're too heavy to ship. Even so, the only paper books I'll be buying in future are backlist which haven't yet been converted to e-books.

ResearchGuy
04-27-2011, 06:58 PM
. . .Part of my motivation, admittedly, was that I didn't want any more books in the house.. . . .
Bingo. I have thousands I have to find new homes for. And that will still leave thousands.

--Ken

dgaughran
04-27-2011, 07:07 PM
I have lived in six different countries in the last four years. When I think about all the books I had to give away, I get very sad.

Sheryl Nantus
04-27-2011, 07:12 PM
Yep. The only paper books I buy now are those that my husband and I will *both* read, usually military nonfiction.

He works on a computer all day and won't look at a screen when he gets home, Nook or nay. So I order my ebooks and enjoy them.

KevinMcLaughlin
04-27-2011, 09:49 PM
Same here. Eight months ago, I'd have said I was a print reader for life. Got a Kindle for Christmas. I've bought no print books since. Was given three print books for my birthday by my wife (she still likes someone being able to actually open a gift - that IS something ebook retailers need to work on), but all three were non-fiction, which I sorta like having in print anyway, a lot of the time. If I'm using a book on NASA's lunar colony plans for research on a SF novel, I don't want to have to dig through a Kindle for the right page - I want to thumb to the right sticky and open the book sitting next to my computer. It's what I'm used to, so it's still my preferred method. ;)

James D. Macdonald
07-21-2011, 07:30 PM
Took me about fifteen minutes to go through the current bestsellers for science fiction, for instance. I checked the top 50, even using Google to track down a half dozen publishing names, and realized that 38 of the top 50 bestselling SF ebooks are self published.


but see:

Were sunk when readers really start complaining (http://blog.taleist.com/2011/07/19/self-publishers-need-to-start-minding-their-manners/)



They already are complaining; I only saw on a blog post this past week about how Kindle owners are now avoiding the Science Fiction category because its become so clogged with self-published junk and are sticking only to the bestseller lists instead. And as Laura Miller reported on Salon (http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2011/06/21/spamazon), the Kindle store has also started filling up with spam.

djunamod
11-16-2014, 12:59 AM
I'm responding to this thread mainly to revive it again, since it was started 3 years ago. I'm fascinated to hear now what people think, since it's been 3 years and ebook publishing has really taken off in those 3 years. My guess is that the list of what genres are successful in epublishing is going to look both similar and different.

I've been doing more searching for self-published books vs. traditionally published books on Amazon when I chose my reading material (trying to focus on SP books, since that's the route I want to go and I'm trying to support the concept in general). Someone here mentioned that women's fiction doesn't seem to be a big seller in the SP world. Since this is one of the genres I'm interested in, I've focused on a lot on that and I am finding now that there are many options and many top sellers. Women's fiction is quite broad, but many of the books I see fall into this category as well as others. So maybe this is something that's changed in the last 3 years.

Also, I think it's important to keep in mind that many mailing lists geared towards offering low cost/no cost ebooks each day have come onto the scene and they allow readers to filter by genre before they subscribe. Consequently, readers can get a daily list of deals and top sellers in their niche genres. So, for example, many of the books in women's fiction that I see come from those lists and I see usually that the are about 1-2 on the daily list. That's still not a lot, compared to books on the list from other genres (for example, I also have Mystery and Suspense and Thriller on the list and I usually see around 2-3 books from each of those genres on the list daily), but it definitely means to me that it's a genre that many readers want to see.

Djuna

byron100
11-16-2014, 01:22 AM
One genre that's hot with SP ebook fiction is post-apocalyptic science fiction. At last check, the book at the 100th spot in the post-apocalyptic category was ranked 8000 for all ebooks sold, which is pretty high, me thinks. There's a huge demand for those kinds of books, and the readers are quite accepting of newbie authors, like myself. I went from a complete nobody without a clue in early Oct to achieving the No 4 spot (!) earlier today, with a current total ranking of around 1200. Insane!

I seriously doubt I'd done nearly as well had I wrote any other kind of genre, even in the general science fiction category - it's just what's screaming hot right now.

Polenth
11-16-2014, 02:44 AM
Someone here mentioned that women's fiction doesn't seem to be a big seller in the SP world. Since this is one of the genres I'm interested in, I've focused on a lot on that and I am finding now that there are many options and many top sellers. Women's fiction is quite broad, but many of the books I see fall into this category as well as others. So maybe this is something that's changed in the last 3 years.

Do be careful to separate a genre's overall popularity and the chances of a single book selling well in that genre. Urban fantasy sells a lot of books as a whole genre, but it's a very saturated genre. A single title in urban fantasy is more likely to sink without a trace. If you're looking for where your books should go, or where to focus next, you're looking for categories where supply doesn't meet the demand. This thread has some discussion of genres where books tend to sell without doing much: http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=293909

For women's fiction, I'd say I see more of it in other categories. Cozy mystery has a big presence of books that would have been called chick lit in the past. They have the same styling of fluffy cartoon covers and same tone. Only with a murder mystery. So the focus there seems to be finding other genres where it fits.