My husband forwarded me an article this morning about how for the third consecutive week, more than a third of NYT Bestsellers sold more ebooks than hardcopies. And how B&N eliminated 45-50 jobs recently, a lot of them related to book buying for the stores. And how Borders is likely to go out of business this year. There’s been plenty of talk over the last few years about the ebook revolution and, frankly, I haven't given it much thought. But I'm starting to now.
When The Mark was published in January 2010, it wasn't even available as an ebook. Prevailing wisdom was that e-readers were too expensive for teens. They were around $200 then, down from the original $400 or so. Now they’re as low as $99. The Mark came out digitally in August and, using my shaky interpretation of Amazon rankings & sales, I’m selling about two-thirds as many Kindle versions as hard copies each month.
That’s not true at Barnes & Noble, where I’m not sure I’ve sold any nookbooks or Borders which sells the e-version, though you’d never know it since the title is incomplete, my name not listed and there’s no cover image or link from the hardcover.
A survey by teensread.com and Publishers Weekly at the end of 2009 showed only 5% of teen readers using digital readers. I’m betting by the time The Vision comes out in September, that number will be a lot higher. And for those of us writing upper-YA, there are plenty of adult readers too.
All this got me thinking about a lot of stuff like why The Mark isn’t on Apple’s iBooks and if I can get it there. And whether libraries will soon be the only buyers for hard copies. And whether bookmarks as the swag of choice for authors will become obsolete. And whether I should revisit book trailers. I didn’t do one for The Mark because they’re expensive and I’ve only bought one book because of its trailer. But when people can’t or don’t browse physical shelves anymore, will this be a bigger factor in how they choose? How will they browse? Bookseller’s homepages? Book sites like goodreads and Shelfari? Twitter? Facebook? Word of mouth becomes even more important and great flap copy critical…of course that shift’s already happened since so much book buying is done online already. So maybe the shift to ebooks isn’t that important, after all. At least not from a marketing perspective.
I’m not sure what I’ll do differently for The Vision as its release approaches. Maybe figure out how to do giveaways of ebooks. Maybe do library giveaways of The Mark in the hopes they’ll want the sequel too. Maybe tie contest entries to posting online reviews. I know a lot of what I do probably won’t make much difference. Writers (and agents and publishers) say it over and over: you want to boost your sales? Write the best book you can. And then write another.
I’ll take that advice. But I’ll be thinking about the other stuff too.