What Just Happened?

© savoia | istockphoto.com

© savoia | istockphoto.com

Okay, not gonna lie. Something weird happened with book sales this past summer. I had, without a doubt, the worst three months of my entire book-selling life this summer. And I know, I know, I haven’t had any substantial new releases since April, which could have something to do with it. The thing is, it’s not just me. I’ve heard just about ALL of my writer friends say that their sales dropped severely over this past summer. Like, to panic-inducing levels for some people.

And just recently I started hearing all about what’s going on with Ellora’s Cave being in big trouble. For those who just went “Huh?”, Ellora’s Cave is one of the publishing industry pioneers in erotic romance. They are in serious crisis mode right now, though, with executives resigning and problems brewing all around. Part of this was inexplicably low Amazon sales this summer. Now, part of that is due to the change in how Amazon is listing erotica and how they’ve changed the “parental controls”, for lack of a better word, that makes erotica searchable. (This is a huge sore spot for a lot of people, btw, and I don’t feel qualified to get into a discussion about the ethical implications, but that’s worth considering too) The bottom line is that books sales have taken a hit.

I know a lot of authors who are blaming Kindle Unlimited. That could be one answer. Amazon inaugurated its Kindle Unlimited program at the end of July. The program is basically Netflix for books. You buy a subscription, and then you can download an unlimited amount of books. For authors, only books that are part of the KDP Select program are eligible for this service. Some of my author friends who ARE in Select have been saying that they’ve seen their sales and borrows go way, way up in the last month. Some author friends who are NOT in Select say they have seen a big drop-off in sales. But I also have a lot of author friends who have not seen a significant change one way or another in the sales of their Select and Non-Select books.

So is Kindle Unlimited to blame for the pathetic sales across the board this summer? One theory on that front is that KU may be seeing an upswing in activity because the first month has been offered for free on a trial basis. This is just what I’ve heard, btw. I haven’t looked into it or signed up for anything myself. The theory is that we’re seeing the novelty surge at the beginning and that that will drop off soon. I also heard somewhere that sign-ups for KU weren’t what Amazon had hoped they would be. I know a lot of people who think that KU isn’t a factor in the weirdness of this summer too.

The other thing to note, for me, at least, is that my sales started tanking a month BEFORE Kindle Unlimited started. So for me, it wasn’t a matter of KU killing my sales.

Okay, so what could it be, then, if not KU?

Maybe it’s the ongoing battle royale between Amazon and Hachette and all of the authors getting involved? I don’t really think that’s it at all. Frankly, I think that most readers have no clue what’s going on there and don’t really care.

Maybe it was the weather? You have to admit, this was one freakin’ awesome summer, as far as weather goes. A good portion of the country experienced balmy, pleasant weather. Great for going outside to play. I mean, you can stay outside without being fried and you don’t have to hide out indoors in the AC reading to stay cool. But to me that doesn’t make sense on one level, because I always read MORE books in the summer, not less. So back in July, when I first began to have trouble, I did an informal poll of a lot of friends who read, asking them if they read in the summer. The long and short of that was that, yes, people do read a lot in the summer, but a lot of the people I talked to were reading all the books they bought before and hadn’t gotten around to reading yet.

I'm not a fan of blaming Amazon for everything...which seems to be really popular these days.

I’m not a fan of blaming Amazon for everything…which seems to be really popular these days.

Hmm. Could that be it? Was everyone reading their back-stock? Clearing out all those Kindle books they had purchased through the spring but hadn’t had time to read yet?

I really want to know, but I also recognize that I’m missing a few key pieces of information. In fact, I think all of us who are scrambling to try to figure out what happened this summer and who may be jumping to conclusions about Kindle Unlimited and other causes are missing vital information to determine what’s what.

First of all, the majority of the information I’ve gathered comes from indie authors who publish primarily in digital form. But here’s what I would like to know: Were sales slow for eBooks only or were print book sales down too? Is it only indie authors who took a hit or were trad pubbed authors struggling as well? Was it just the Romance genre that ran into trouble or were other genres having problems too? For the people that actually did do well, what did they do differently that the rest of us didn’t? And most importantly, have sales bounced back now that we’re in the months of pumpkin spice everything?

My sales HAVE rebounded, I’m happy to say. I have high hopes for them increasing even more with the release of the first book of my new series next month too. I’ve heard other authors say that their sales are beginning to inch back up to normal too. But what about you? Authors, how was your summer and how is your fall beginning? Readers, how many books did you buy this summer and have you signed up for Kindle Unlimited? I’d love to know!

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4 thoughts on “What Just Happened?

  1. I experienced none of the above. In fact, sales this summer were excellent. Not sure what the answer is, except the market shifts, like any market. We have to be prepared to ride out the hard times and celebrate the good ones…

    • Very interesting, Patti! I’m glad someone from another genre is having a different experience. I wonder if it’s just historical romance that’s taking a hit. Of course, you’re just brilliant one way or another, sooooo…. 😉

  2. I can’t venture a guess at what happened with book sales – but I’m a website designer who has, for about a decade, been constantly busy – and this summer, there was no work. Clients on every single project were waiting. Waiting to get content over, waiting to pay, waiting. I had numerous projects lined up – but nothing would move forward. I don’t know what happened, but it wasn’t just me. Many, many of my contacts in this industry were scrambling desperately for any kind of work. It was as if, this summer, everybody held their breath for some reason.

    … I’ve been reading too much and just finished The Way of Kings, so at this moment I feel like it’s the Desolation coming, lol. Aside from that, from one professional to another, it wasn’t just you. But now things are picking up and I’m getting offers, near-demands, for work, and from all corners, so I’m glad to hear that your sales have rebounded. I actually bought several of your books this summer because I had no work and was constantly reading! I read 5-7 books a week for several months – so if anything, I was trying to keep my favorite authors in business. 😀

    • Woo hoo! I’m so glad to hear that it was all aspects of this world and not just writers. It kind of strengthens my thought that maybe it’s as simple as the weather. Maybe the weather really was just so nice that people were out doing stuff instead of seeking out AC and books? I’m just glad life is slowly getting back to normal.

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