This last week it was announced that ebooks are now about 25% of all trade book sales. (From a survey of over 1,200 publishers.) And the rate of increase has slowed and is leveling out.
Yup, about what I expected for the last year or so.
Over the last year I have been saying that I thought ebook sales would eventually climb to 30% of all trade book sales. Of course, my opinion pushes right back at all the people who think there will only be ebooks in the future and that all physical bookstores will die off.
And it pushes back at the people who thought ebooks would reach 50% of all trade, which for a time early on in the growth spurt, I thought it would as well. Now I can’t imagine that number ever happening, at least in my lifetime, and I plan on living another forty years or more.
Why I settled on the 30% range (with help from a foggy crystal ball) was because things have changed in the last year.
Initially, I figured electronic books would replace mass market paperbacks and put a dent in hardbacks. But interestingly enough, even though mass market paperback sales have dropped through the floor and adult trade hardbacks are down some, the decrease is now slowing. And mass market paperbacks are staying very strong in many genres. It seems that instead of replacing mass market, with electronic books we have just added in another form of distribution to readers.
That’s wonderful for all readers and for all writers. To get our stories to readers, we have five major distribution forms. Mass market, trade paper, hardback, electronic, and audio.
And our markets have expanded from regions to the entire world at the same time.
So why, right here at the time period (end of 2012) when so many people declared the end of traditional publishing would happen, did that doomsday picture not come true?
Two major reasons. First off, writers signed over most of the money from electronic books to traditional publishers. When those predictions were being made, electronic books were still getting 50% of cover price of electronic sales. Writers and agents signed over that amount and signed up for 25% of net, giving publishers a huge windfall.
Second reason is that the people figured that when paper sales dropped under the 25% decrease number, the math of the returns system and distribution system and labor contracts and shipping costs would tip over the industry. I thought it might happen as well. (And it will still cause problems with some publishers who haven’t moved very fast in the face of these problems.)
Many writers at workshops here two years ago heard me worry about this coming problem as well.
But those of us worrying didn’t count on the amount of money the publishers would have from their own electronic sales, enough to cover the losses from the paper side, thanks to the writers. (I still have contacts in play that I get 50% of electronic sales. I never signed one of those additions to contracts giving writers 25% of net.)
I have to admit I was one of the people worried about that 25% decrease in print sales swamping the industry and sending many major publishers into bankruptcy. Let me say simply: I was wrong. And when I saw writers caving to the new rate, I knew then that there would be no major problems. There was just too much money to be made in electronic sales for publishers with writers only getting 25% of net.
So now we sit in late 2012 (a couple months before the end of the world (grin)) and major publishing is growing. And indie (small press) publishers are exploding everywhere.
It’s a great time to be a writer.
And even with the end of the world predicted near the end of December, I plan on redoing my series in early December on how to plan for the new year in your writing and publishing. (I republished my earlier posts a couple years ago and they are now dated. So time to redo them just in case the world doesn’t end.)
And I have one more post on promotions to join the first two. It is almost done.
Stay tuned. Publishing is great fun. Writing is more fun.
I do love this business.
And I am very thankful it’s not going anywhere.