Over the last month or more, I’ve been approaching the same topic from a number of different ways. From what is success to how to measure differences in indie and traditional methods of publishing.
Some basics that need to be clear first before I mention this next topic.
This new world of traditional publishing has only been going on now for about four years. Before that, for a few years, the gold rush days of indie publishing happened. Before that, before 2010, basically, the only viable route to being a long-term published fiction writer was traditional publishing.
So as a few of us have come to realize, long-term data in this new world is pretty sketchy and only good for short projections into the future. There just isn’t long-term data. Yet!
Even the wonderful Author Earnings reports only go back 23 months with the new one coming out shortly.
Fantastically short amount of data in any business world.
Clear on all that?
So when I was asked if there was a similarity with what many call the “long tail” of indie publishing to any area of old traditional publishing, I instantly thought of the young adult and children’s book traditional world.
Back when Publisher’s Weekly did the yearly shipped-book results, the backlist (meaning previously published) for young adult always sold more copies than the young adult front list.
Classic young adult books and some classic children’s books constantly sold in waves as new generations of readers came up to find and enjoy them.
While at the same time, very, very few of the adult fiction books that were published traditionally before 2010 were in print after a year. Very, very few. (In fact, no reports dealt at all with backlist adult fiction titles except in the small “literature” genre.)
Then, along about 2010 comes the electronic book revolution and the unlimited aspects of book shelves. And adult fiction titles started to come back into print as authors indie published their backlist and discovered that unlike what traditional publishers thought, those “dead” backlist books could find a brand new audience.
So that is a key that I do not hear many, if any writers talking about.
The RENEWAL OF THE AUDIENCE.
When your book isn’t forced out of print, it should be able to find new waves of NEW readers every five to ten years.
And if you keep your covers fresh every three to five years, and keep up with the major changes in the business to help your books get found, there is no reason your book can’t sell just as those backlist young adult books used to do.
Lack of bookstore shelf space drove our books out of print in the old traditional world. Now that is not the case. Shelf space is unlimited. Both for electronic and for paper and audio books, since half of all readers buy online in some form or another.
Paper books have unlimited shelf space as well online, something I hope that the smaller physical stores start to understand pretty soon. (We will have two physical stores shortly and five or six major online ways to buy books and collectables from the stores.)
So back to the point: We have very little data in this new world. Very little.
But we do have the reality that the audience for all of our books will renew every decade or so as new readers poor in.
And the niches and genres will shift and people’s tastes will change and fads will drive some books to the top and pull down others.
I know thinking about the renewal of your audience takes a long-term mindset. And most indie writers, because of the suddenness of this new world, don’t think long-term or even try.
But as this new world matures, some of us are thinking long-term.
So maybe if a book doesn’t sell well at the moment, maybe it will sell better in ten years as tastes and the audience renews.
Or maybe it will just sell a few hundred copies a year on average and in ten years have sold thousands total.
I love this new world. Have I said that before?