The Pressure Is On

For anyone creating material in any media, pressure is high, not only to gain users but to keep users.

Just because someone subscribes or buys what you create doesn’t mean they are using it. I’ve seen several studies indicating for an average book only 60% that are purchased are ever opened.

Let that statistic sink in.

And since dedicated e-book devices and smartphones are two-way communicators, e-book companies gather a lot of information about their users. Sample data shows some best-sellers have less than 50% of their content read. Several other examples of major titles place the number in the single digits. (That’s 25 pages or fewer read of a 250-page book.)

My guess is the tech companies also know how many people read the last chapter of a novel first to see how the story turned out. They know who you are. No hiding now!

YouTube videos, a major piece of the media puzzle, count a “view” of a video if it is watched for 30 seconds. Producers feel good about their productions if 80% of the video is watched, but some videos have only 20% or less watched by an average viewer before exiting.

Social media is a numbers-driven industry, with any one post read by a small percentage of one’s followers. You might need thousands of connections to make sure a few dozen of them see something you post without paying money to advertise it.

This is not new.

It wasn’t that long ago that companies or organizations would postal-mail a million pieces of something in hopes of getting 20,000 responses.

In the digital world of email marketing, the information is sobering. According to Constant Contact, the list-management email marketing firm, the industry average for all marketing emails indicates less than 20% of subscribers open a particular email and far fewer click on a hyperlink to access something.

The advertising industry is built on the full knowledge a publication or media event might have a million users, but only a small percent sees any one thing like an advertisement.

When you come to the full realization that of the 10,000 books sold with your name on them, only 6,000 were opened and maybe only 1,000 read through entirely, the pressure is on.

The explosive growth of on-demand media in recent years gives interesting insight into habits of users. Of course, print materials are the original on-demand media. And as technology expands, we see several similarities when people start, stop, or drop.

Good editors are immensely important in the book-writing process. A section that is confusing, loosely written, and slow to track can be identified and fixed. Otherwise, readers might not make it past that section.

Best (or worst) book review ever was written by Mark Twain: “Once you’ve put one of his [Henry James] books down, you simply can’t pick it up again.”

The truth about books is they must be the tightest, most-compelling, attention-holding, and interesting of all media from start to finish. It is too easy to stop reading and close the book, never to resume. This is not something churned up by short attention-span, 21st-century society. It has always been true.

The pressure is on.

But don’t worry, next week my blog post is titled “The Pressure Is Off,” so relax, get some tea and cookies. In a little over a week, it will be just fine.

9 Responses to The Pressure Is On

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 28, 2021 at 6:29 am #

    The market-pressure’s always on;
    statistics make this all to clear.
    The days of laissez-faire are gone,
    but they were never really here.
    Your work is not a bright Athena
    who leapt full-formed from Zeus’ head;
    no, friend, you must be gleaner
    of wheat for word-child’s daily bread.
    It’s up to you to make connexion
    with readers, and to state your case
    that they look in your direction,
    and after buying, tender grace
    of actually opening your book;
    many, purchased, get no further look.

    I once ran a mass-mailing business; a response rate of 0.7% was outstanding, and allowed a profit.

  2. Rosemary Althoff July 28, 2021 at 7:10 am #

    Your article helped me by moderating my expectations. I see that I can still achieve reader success, if not 100%, then 50%. Those people can be reached by my stories’ healing messages.

  3. Virginia Graham July 28, 2021 at 7:42 am #

    I’m so relieved to know there are many like me who “scan” a book or immediately realize they don’t care for it and skip to the last chapter to see how the author pulled it together and sewed up the loose ends.

    It’s disappointing to know I will be treated the same way, but I’m excited for the readers who can’t put my books down and read them all the through.

  4. Kristen Joy Wilks July 28, 2021 at 8:10 am #

    Well, I will definitely be looking forward to next week’s post, ha! But seriously, this does remind me of the importance of tight editing. Thank you!

  5. Carol Ashby July 28, 2021 at 9:13 am #

    Interesting article, Bob, and that Mark Twain review is priceless!

    I use Mailchimp for my emails, and they report an average opening rate for “Media and Publishing” of 36.8% today. I’m thrilled with my open rate that exceeds 50%, but I mostly get new subscribers from the signup link at the back of my ebooks. Those folks have already read one of my books (probably all of it if they got to the newsletter signup page) and decided they liked it enough to want info about future ones. I get some from participation in giveaways where people sign up for the newsletter to get more chances to win a book (mine or one of the other author’s books in the giveaway). People added through a giveaway open at the 50% rate, too.

    Do you have an estimate of the ratio of subscribers to an author’s newsletter relative to the total numbers of their books sold? I realize a reader only subscribes once even if they’ve read all of my books, but it would still be an informative number.

    • Carol Ashby July 28, 2021 at 9:18 am #

      Dan, not Bob. I knew better. Fingers engaged with keyboard without checking with brain first.

      • Dan Balow July 28, 2021 at 9:42 am #

        Ha! Bob is easier to type.

        There is no definite relationship of subscribers to purchasers, but maybe noticeable sales “bump” after an email goes to them. You can still track it though and get a rough idea of cause and effect. The % of sales you get might be different than another author.

  6. OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU July 29, 2021 at 2:00 am #

    Thanks Dan! God bless you,Amen.
    Very realistic but reassuring to understand the pressure in the book industry. You are so right about the value of editors in this industry. God bless you for this post and I pray I don’t miss ‘The Pressure is off’ post!!

  7. Kathy July 29, 2021 at 1:06 pm #

    The statistics in this post are a little daunting, but reality checks are important! Thank you. But now, I’ve got my tea (actually hot chocolate) and cookies (chocolate chip) and am ready for the Pressure Is Off!!

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