Snow Queen and the Slump of Print
Last month, I wrote a blog post looking at my early numbers for The Snow Queen’s Shadow [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. Based on those early numbers, the print sales seemed pretty much in line with what I’d seen for other books.
“If you eliminate Red Hood, then according to Bookscan, the new book sold more print copies in its first week than any of my previous books … What does this all mean? Not too much, to be honest. I’m one author, and there could be any number of factors going on here.”
It’s almost two months since Snow Queen came out. Since then, Borders has officially gone into bankruptcy. George R. R. Martin’s new book came out, which I’m told cannibalized some fantasy sales across the board. And B&N has started cutting back on their orders.
So I put together a comparison of total print sales for the first eight weeks of each of my books:
Keeping in mind that Red Hood got some additional display space and advertising push, this is … still better than I was expecting to see. Snow Queen has slipped behind the other princess books, but continues to outsell the goblins. Not too bad.
On the other hand, the numbers for Snow Queen include a visible boost in sales when Borders declared bankruptcy and people started rushing out to buy books at 40% off. That’s a short-term gain, and I expect to see another dropoff once Borders closes its doors for good.
And of course, I won’t know how the e-book is selling for quite some time.
In conclusion … I don’t know. I’ve been pointed to more “Publishing is DOOMED!!!” articles recently, and all I can think is “Bored now.” I don’t see publishing disappearing any time soon.
Changing, yes. Continuing to work toward an equilibrium point between print and e-books, sure. Causing some people to freak out like poo-flinging monkeys on crystal meth, absolutely.
I don’t know what publishing is going to look like five or ten years from now. I don’t know if the death of Borders will lead to a resurgence in the independent bookstores, or if brick & mortar stores will continue to decline. I don’t know whether the mass market format will go away, replaced by print-on-demand and e-books. I don’t know.
But then, if I wanted a stable, secure, unchanging career, writing fiction might not have been the best choice.
I do know that people enjoy stories. Publishing is changing, but love of story has been a core part of our species for as long as we can remember. While the delivery of those stories will continue to evolve, the demand for those stories isn’t going away.
So as for me, I’m just going to keep writing, and I hope y’all will continue to read and enjoy those stories with me.
August 26, 2011 @ 9:54 am
And do you have any info about the ebook sales for those same 8 weeks ?
August 26, 2011 @ 9:54 am
I don’t think print books will go anywhere. They’re thousands of years old in one form or another, and I reckon it’d be centuries before they fully disappear. If you look at the music industry as an example, stores are selling CDs alongside tokens for digital music and even MP3 players. iPods have been common place for over half a decade now, and physical music is still kicking around. It’s arguably not as prominent in, say, supermarkets as it was (The one I go to has just two shelf ‘columns’ dedicated to music), but it’s still around.
I think that the market will reach a saturation point, perhaps along the lines of movies now. I don’t see or hear about that many people buying movies digitally. I would think that the digital movie market, at least for major releases, reached saturation point fairly quickly. I would think that music did the same a few years ago, and as such it’s in a state of balance now. Books will do the same, given time. Gaming is still working out that balance for the PC, but it’s currently quite the point of contention, especially in the UK where there seems to be a growing war between “brick’n’mortar” retailers and a certain digital one (Steam, by the way), yet for the past decade or so, our retail stores have been sidelining the PC more and more to the point where some of our major chain stores don’t have a PC section, or if they do they only stock a very limited selection of games. That’s something I could rant a lot about, but it’s not wholly relevant. I believe the retail:digital ratio is about 50:50 at the moment, and it may stay that way but shift around between indies and major releases.
I’ve personally not switched to eBooks as I hate reading lots of text on a monitor (it makes my eyes go funny), and my iPod Touch 4G isn’t exactly what I’d call the best eReader around. If I got a Kindle, which I plan to do in the future, I would likely read more eBooks, but I’m one of those daft people who quite likes to fill shelves made of dead trees with books made of dead trees.
Books and publishing aren’t going anywhere. There’s too much money involved in cons, signings, events, book releases and so forth for retailers nor publishers to go wholly digital.
Jim C. Hines
August 26, 2011 @ 9:58 am
Nope. I thought I put a line in about that, but I guess that got edited out.
I won’t have e-book information for a while.
Jim C. Hines
August 26, 2011 @ 10:01 am
I hear different arguments in these discussions, some of which make more sense than others.
The idea that books are going away? I doubt it. Likewise the idea of publishers going extinct. Both of these things may change, but I’d be very surprised to see them vanish.
Print going away? Likewise, I doubt it. We may see fewer print sales as e-books find their saturation point, but I don’t expect to see print disappear.
A shift in print format? Maybe. Mass market paperbacks are cheap and easy to mass-produce, but if the numbers shrink (cutting into that mass-production advantage) or if print-on-demand technology gets good enough to approach the same cost, I could see a change in which formats books are printed in.
With digital movies, what I see a lot more of is streaming through Netflix and such. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a similar service pop up for books, once someone works out the business aspects…
August 26, 2011 @ 10:03 am
And some would think that counting “ebook” sales would be easier than physical ones … go figure.
August 26, 2011 @ 12:15 pm
My main point about everything going digital that always seems to be ignored is that ebooks and digital comics and mp3s and digital movies are not that much cheaper if any than the actual item. In fact it is often the case especially with books and comic books that you can buy the physical copy MUCH cheaper than the digital version. Also while physical copies regularly go on sale or clearance to make room for new merchandise, digital rarely does! I mean look at barnes and noble for example.. You can with your ridiculously expensive club card get 10% off print books and more if it is a hardback best seller type, that same discount does not apply in ANY WAY to the digital! So why would I buy the digital when I can get the print for cheaper?
August 26, 2011 @ 8:43 pm
Going through my journalism college classes, this was a debate that would come up frequently (which is why I decided to also get my associates in web development since I already have some skills in it) – though granted we were looking at a more marginalized view of it in the newspaper business.
The majority of us and the teachers, still employed in the newspaper business, do not agree that “print is disappearing”. I agree wtih this too. It’s not. It will never disappear. There are too many factors.
In my own personal experience: I am a proud owner of a Nook – on which I purchased your Goblin stories. I love it because I can play my music while reading on the same device, but also because I have the option of enlarging the text – a nice feature since I’ve only got one eye and staring at small print text for too long can be an excruciating experience. GO GO LARGE TEXT!!
But saying that, as many books I have purchased and will continue to purchase I LOVE the feel of books. The musty smell they gain over time. I LOVE my boxsets. Books are also easier to read in sunlight (yes the Nook is “doable” but…) And, on top of it all, books have no battery life to worry about (please charge, my little nook, CHARGE!!). Finally, on the worst side of things, there’s the poor quality that these stories can be released in on the nook. Case in point, look up the novel Dragon Actually by G.A. Aiken. In the Nook store there are two versions, one worse than the other but both pathetically… insufficient, but at least they are “good enough” to get the story across. Still, it’s truly unacceptable. There are times that I am almost tempted to contact B&N to get my money back for it, but seeing as how I’ve finished and enjoyed the book, I’ll let the author keep his money.
I do not see why print must be argued that it might “disappear”. Can they not figure out a way so that both can coincide harmoniously? Not that I fully understand how the industry works in the first place, but couldn’t the same company that makes money putting the book out in print be the SAME one that puts it into digital and things are treated the same in regards to the author? I mean, things are treated the same on the end of the consumer. Book prices are the same on the B&N store both digitally AND printed.
Ahaha, I hope my ignorance in the subject didn’t show TOO baddly…
August 27, 2011 @ 12:02 am
This — “But then, if I wanted a stable, secure, unchanging career, writing fiction might not have been the best choice” — made me laugh out loud. Husband thought I was reading a comic strip.
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August 30, 2011 @ 8:44 am
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August 30, 2011 @ 8:59 am
E-printing can’t win. There’s no way I’d take my e-reader into the bath.
August 30, 2011 @ 9:08 am
While I don’t, some take their reader with them into the bath inside a waterproof bag, on the beach and even to the sauna…
For the bath, Ziploc bags seem to work great.