Get Published

E-Book Sales: Behind the Stats

There is mixed news with regard to book sales in May of this year. Store sales were down 2.6% but publisher sales were up by 9.8%. Read all the various stats here. Remember these are simply comparison of 2010 monthly numbers with 2009.

The biggest area of growth, percentage-wise, is in e-books (up 162.8%).

But let’s look at actual dollars, not percentages.

Publisher sales (according to the Association of American Publishers) were $715.3 million in May. Of that total, e-books accounted for $29.3 million…or about 4%. If this was a 162% jump over 2009, then e-book sales in May of last year were $11.2 million.

There is no question that this is a huge leap. But it still means that 96% of all sales are still in hard copy.

Many experts claim that in five years (by the year 2015) that e-books will “tip” and account for over 50% of all book sales. I’ve heard this from two major publishers (one was the head of the digital initiatives for that publisher) and from my friend Randy Ingermanson in his excellent e-zine (read pages 2-11 for his full report on the issue).

For that to happen a 100% growth rate would have to be sustained. That would mean 2011 would have e-books at 8% of sales, 2012 at 16% of sales, 2013 at 32%, etc.

I’m not arguing that it won’t happen. Just that it may not happen quite so fast. Sustaining that rate of growth is a lot harder than it looks on paper (no pun intended). Please read my earlier blog post “Is Print Dead” to go further behind these type of statistics (in that post I attempt to show that hard copy CDs still account for nearly 70% of all music sales).

I’ve written earlier that I own a Kindle and like it. I have bought a number of books for the device. And in fact have purchased many books that I already owned in paper…sort of a “best of” or “favorites” bookshelf. Why? Because I’m a collector. And having those books with me at all times is a neat thing. Plus they become searchable. It also means that I can have access to these books forever and from wherever I am. And I’m not in fear of losing books when the corner of the garage collapses in a big rain storm (true story). However, if there are a lot of people like me, then the “growth” is somewhat skewed.

I hesitantly compare this to the transition from record albums to cassette tapes to compact discs. Or the transition from VHS to DVD (and now to Blue-Ray). I suspect many of you purchased albums or movies that you already owned because you wanted them in the new format, for whatever reason. They were your favorites. So initially some of your expenditures were not for new material. Of course, eventually we began purchasing 100% of all new music or movies in the new format. And that is where the direct comparison with books breaks down.

There are legion of readers who will not convert to e-books. An amateur poll I’ve taken of folks (family, friends, professional acquaintances) has been very interesting. Most are intrigued by the Kindle device. One showed me their iPad (with an accompanying gloat). But few were ready to embrace switching from p-books (paper) to e-books (electronic). And none were prepared to go all digital any time soon.

I reiterate what I’ve said before. This is one of the most exciting times to be in this industry. The changes are rapid, they are innovative, and they are creative. Writers who can create dynamic content have nothing to fear. The consumer continues to demand great content in whatever form they can get it. Literary agents like myself, make it our job to watch these developments carefully and to continue to safeguard our client’s revenue and their ideas.

Leave a Comment

ICRS Observations 2010

Some have asked for my thoughts on this past week’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in St. Louis. I’m glad to answer. This was my 29th consecutive booksellers convention. At its height there were approximately 14,000 in attendance, many years ago. That is no longer the case. Statistics released indicate …

Read More

Incoming Proposals

To your left is an actual picture of the pile of proposals our office has received since December 1, 2009. About 30 days worth of incoming mail…during a slow time of the year. The stack of books next to the pile include books sent for review (consideration) and recent publications that I want to look at.

That does not include the myriad of email submissions we get (many simply ignoring our guidelines regarding email submissions)…inquiries from those who use the contact form on our web site (many of those ignoring the request to “Please do not copy and paste your entire manuscript into this form.“)

Or the poor soul that failed to proofread their email before sending this sentence, “I would like to send you my quarry letter….”

Nor does it include those that do an Internet search and call us. Recently we got a call that went something like this:
Agency: This is the Steve Laube Agency…
Caller: What kind of agency are you?
Agency: We are a literary agency.
Caller: What does that mean?

Read More

A Year in Review

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The Christmas glow is still present and since the publishing world is, in essence, on vacation, it is a perfect time to to reflect on the past twelve months.

This was a hard year for many as the economy touched everyone in some way. And yet, despite the ominous cloud of doom and gloom, there were many exciting things to celebrate.

On a personal level our middle daughter was married at the end of June. What a joy to see God at the center of the ceremony. And our oldest daughter had a blast playing keyboards for Alice Cooper (singing “School’s Out”) in front of 50,000 people at the ASU graduation ceremony in May.

Read More

The Wave of Digital Creativity in Books

I went to high school in Hawaii (I know.. a rough life) where I learned the joys and perils of body surfing. That experience is a great metaphor for the new “waves” of digital revolution we are seeing in the publishing world.

The key to great body surfing is waiting for the right wave and then time your push just right. The ride is exhilarating (I still remember riding inside the tube of a perfect wave off the beaches of Kauai). BUT if you catch the wrong wave or mistime the push, there is no ride. Or worse, catch a wave that throws you wildly into a bunch of rocks…

But unless you are in the water and making attempt after attempt you will never achieve the perfect ride.

I see this metaphor applied to the new world of digital publishing. It is really fun to play a small part, but even more fun to watch others be extremely creative in their experiments. There are some very bright and exciting people trying new things in merging the traditional book with all things “interactive.”

Read More

2009 ICRS Observations

Like many going into the 2009 ICRS convention (aka CBA or the Christian Booksellers Association convention) I was wondering what would be found. It was great to see that instead of the projected doom and gloom there was light and hope. (Yes, that is Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber in the photo to the left – courtesy of Christian Retailing Magazine.) A few observations:

1) The total convention exhibit floor was about 30% smaller than in past years and the middle section, housing CBA’s events and displays was HUGE. In fact you could walk through the entire book section very rapidly for the first time in years. Everything seemed condensed.

2) The net effect of the smaller sales floor was that you felt the crowds. There was noise, energy, and excitement in the air. This was a major change over previous years where it always felt so quiet.

Read More

ICRS / CBA Bookseller’s Convention

Today is the official opening of the convention in Denver. This year will be my 28th consecutive ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) or CBA as we veterans still call it (Christian Booksellers Association Convention). I absolutely love the experience. I’ve attended as a retailer, as an exhibitor, and now as an “industry professional.” I find it amusing that each name badge is color-coded to help exhibitors know whether the person in their booth is a bookseller (and thereby a potential customer) or a browser, like me. What makes it particularly fun is that the “agent” color is black….the color of an agent’s soul.

PRO: There is nothing like the experience of walking the floor of the world’s largest Christian bookstore. Everything is there, the good, the bad, and the outrageous (like the balloon art crucifix or the painting of a junkie shooting heroin into the arm of Jesus). The spirit is electric. It can be overwhelming, but ultimately it is a picture of God at work. As a writer you can meet key people, network with fellow writers, collect catalogs (those that aren’t digital), and simply increase knowledge of what the industry is all about.

CON: Unrealized expectations. Too many writers think the convention should be all about them. It isn’t. Disappointment is palatable with some folks at the end of the experience. Their publisher didn’t pay enough attention to them; not enough people came to their signing; no editor was available for an appointment…etc. Go to the convention with modest expectations and the chance of disappointment with be minimized.

Read More

Christy Awards

Tonight was the tenth annual Christy Awards which honors the best in Christian fiction. We were very proud to have six clients as finalists!

To my eternal delight two clients won!

Marlo Schalesky won in the contemporary romance category for her book Beyond the Night (Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group).

Tracey Bateman won in the contemporary series category for her book You Had Me at Goodbye (Faithwords).

Since neither Marlo or Tracey could attend, I had the privilege of accepting their awards and reading their speech. A thrill and an honor.

Read More