State Of The Book Market

The challenges facing a new writer in the quest for a publishing contract are enormous. Yes it is still possible for a new writer to be offered a six figure deal from one of the Big Four but that is rare. So rare in fact that when it does happen it is front page news and bearing in mind that lottery millionaires are no longer reported in the press it puts into statistical perspective the chances of it happening.

The book world is changing and changing fast. Whilst industry experts are desperately trying to anticipate where all these changes will lead, all we know for sure is that the way books are going to be distributed in the next five years will look nothing like the way it does today.

Traditional bricks and mortar bookshops are struggling and collapsing and yet the supermarkets and charity shops are showing staggering growth in book sales.

Sainsburys alone currently has 5.5% of all book sales market in the U.K. and is increasing exponentially. The best sellers are Jamie Oliver, Stephen Fry, John Grisham and Sainsbury’s own Winter Recipe Collection. Their Value Book range sales are up 27% and they are planning on publishing fifty more of their own titles this year. They are also planning on offering ebooks later this year. Supermarkets now sell more books than Waterstones.

Great news for Jamie and Stephen then, but not much hope for a new fiction author landing on the shelves next to the cornflakes.

In fact Jamie Oliver was the biggest selling author in the market last year. In March 2012 he had two books in the top ten. Whilst cookery books and politician’s memoirs dominate the best seller lists, sales of paperback novels are dropping. The amount spent through BookScan’s Top 5,000 bestseller list was down 16% on last year

Now, while the supermarkets are scrambling to enter the high volume book market it looks like the traditional bookshops want to start behaving like supermarkets! Waterstone’s Managing Director, Dominic Myers, said the range of different products on offer within bookshops needs to diversify further. Ultimately this will mean less space for books and more space for other products. The example being held up is Chapters Indigo in Canada, which has a $1bn turnover of which 30% was non-book.

In addition, Waterstones recently announced they are cutting orders for new titles from March 2013 by about 20% to save costs. And in Australia, the country’s largest bookshop chain Angus & Robertson has collapsed.

Meanwhile in The States Barnes & Noble, America’s largest book chain, saw profits slump by 25% causing a massive crash in its share price of 11%.

So, as the High Street struggles the internet thrives. Latest figures indicate 56% of the book buying public now go online for their books. Recent surveys showed internet book retailers had increased their volume share from 17% in 2008 to 26% in 2012. Chain booksellers decreased market share from 37% to 30% over the same period.

The clear winner in all of this is Amazon which currently has 80% of the online book sales market.

The bright hope on the horizon though is the ebook. In the U.S. 13% of book buyers purchased at least one ebook in January 2013.

If one is to take note of these trends then the efforts of a new fiction author are probably best directed towards online sales and to give up the Holy Grail of trying to gain shelf space in the local book store. It’s going to be full of saucepans anyway!


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