I have done a small poll about book sales in 2021 around my author friends, and I would like to share the results with you.
Not all of the authors surveyed had books in all of the categories below, and I am not taking genres into account. Still, I think that the results are interesting. Let me know your opinion, please.
eBooks: ebook sales seemed to be at best flat, but several authors reported a definite dip in sales. Some said that this was probably due to the profligacy of ‘lenders’ like Scribt, Overdrive and the dozens of others, including local public libraries. Some reported a drop of as much as 66% on the previous year.
Indie book sales in 2021
Paperbacks: This has been a surprising, but very welcome sector for those who have made the effort to provide paperback copies for their readers. One author reported a 300% increase in paperback sales over 2021, which is quite a leap considering the extra cost. Perhaps, people are coming around to, or just remembering, the fact that paperbacks make better ornaments than ebooks.
Hardbacks: hardbacks are in the same class as paperbacks, but are hideously expensive, and no-one reported a significant swing in that direction.
Audiobooks: the audiobook sector has been the winner of the year by far! Many authors have brushed them aside as a fad, but how wrong they were. At least in as much as sales are still booming.
Never say never, though, eh? Perhaps, they will go the way of ebooks one day, but somehow, I don’t think so.
An audiobook is like listening to a play on the radio, isn’t it? So, you can listen while doing the ironing, driving the car or even falling asleep.
Several authors reported that audiobook ( will we ever call them abooks?) sales outstripped their sales of all other formats combined by ten to one!
Translations: some people are getting into having their books translated, but sales are sluggish. The problem seems to be that foreign translators are not used to having to promote their work. They are used to getting paid for the job and moving on to the next one. However, what would the average writer do with a book in, say, French? Does he/she have any French friends, or even speak French well enough to write promotional material?
Mostly not. Therefore, the translator is vital for successful sales revenue. Few of them seem to grasp this concept though, and seem to be waiting for the end of Covid so that everything can return to normal.
It’s a shame, and a missed opportunity
Having said that, at least one author is seeing a slow but steady gentle rise in foreign sales.
Did Covid increase book sales? I think that most writers would say that it didn’t much. People had a lot more free time, but then the children were home too. Perhaps, the TV and Netflix benefitted the most, although it seems that some people were listening to audiobooks too.