If you're an author watching your ebook sales and rankings, you've no doubt noticed the decline and may be wondering what happened. It all relates to the ebook boom and its subsequent collapse. In order for something to go down, first it had to be up. And ebook sales were up, up and up.
When Amazon came out with the Kindle, customers not only bought it like crazy but downloaded books in huge quantities to fill their new devices with reading material. This led to the ebook boom of 2009, and it lasted about 2 years before things changed. What happened?
In 2011 and 2012, ebooks were being published as fast as people could write them, everyone wanting to get in on the big money. In 2013, the ebook market had become highly competitive, with new titles still flooding Amazon while readers had become more discriminating.
As a result of these two converging elements, sales dropped considerably. Also, during this time, Netflix and Amazon Prime with their streaming of movies and TV shows were growing larger, their offerings expanding as more people began live streaming entertainment, a strong competitive force to books and reading.
In 2014 and 2015, publishers who rode the ebook wave from 2009- 2012 and invested unwisely began closing up shop. Many writers have become discouraged because they aren't seeing strong sales, when the promise was so sweet only a few years ago.
Being sensitive artistic types, we tend to take it personally, thinking it's our fault for not marketing enough or not writing well in the first place. Some blame the publisher for not promoting, or for a weak cover, wrong pricing or any number of mistakes they imagine were made.
Poor sales are not your fault, not the publisher's fault, not even Amazon's fault, although you'll see numerous complaints about what Amazon has done to hurt ebook sales.
Don't look for someone to blame. It's simply the nature of the book publishing business reflected in ebooks. In the time it takes to write and publish a few new books, this market went crash and burn. Both publishers and writers have felt the pain.
For a couple glorious years when ebooks were new, high sales fueled high investment, and people were making money. Those who in the past wouldn't have sold many books, like the self-published selling not very good books for .99, and small publishers who normally struggled to break even, were surprised and astounded to discover a gold mine with books on the Kindle.
But like all bubbles this one had to burst, and it has. About the only entity not feeling the pinch is dear old Amazon. Besides their highly profitable self-publishing services, Amazon is also a traditional publisher with a dozen imprints. No matter which way the coin falls, they're prepared to win big in the book industry.
In addition, they've consistently pushed for lower ebook prices. I can't fault this thinking. For a few dollars a month, people stream unlimited entertainment into their homes, creating very strong competition for books. This explains Amazon's Kindle Select program, which offers the consumer unlimited ebooks for a monthly fee, similar to Netflix for movies.
The current lull in ebook sales is due to very real reasons. A million new books a year! All while Kindle owners are jaded, swamped with promotional notices, and no longer downloading free or bargain books in huge numbers. Everyone has become much more discriminating with what they download to their devices.
The bubble has burst. I'm not happy about it but I accept it. What to do next?
Believe in your talent. Believe in your work. Believe in the joy of writing and reading. But be extremely realistic about book sales, and try not to get discouraged when they don't happen like you hoped.
Also, in such a competitive arena, now is no time to give up on marketing!
For me, if I hear about a book on Kindle Unlimited that looks interesting, I'll download it since I'm a member. If it's not on Kindle Unlimited, probably not. KU has been a huge selling point for me as a reader.
What kinds of promotions do you feel work best as an author or as a reader?