The ad campaigns I wrote had audiences in the millions. Yet for my first novel I’m looking for just 1000 readers.
(And in some ways that’s harder, given the average novel sells fewer than 50 copies.)
Looked at glass half full, this is why nobody makes a living telling stories. For all but a smart few, writing’s a hobby. A labour of love, not a business.
So how can an author maximise his chances of getting into the smart set? One way is to approach writing as a marketing project in itself.
First, size your market. The US book market is around $30bn, the UK’s around $5bn. (In proportion to their populations.) Fiction totals around $5bn of that. While the ebook segment is only 10-20% of the total.
But here’s the thing: while adult fiction is only 15% or so of the market for all books, in ebooks it’s over half. And ebooks are growing fast. PwC and two other studies estimate ebooks will be over half the market by 2017. Anecdotally, more people are reading fiction because it’s now easier to do so. For most people in the West, spending £5 on a paperbook isn’t the issue: it’s that it’s not worth giving space in your house to something you’ll read once. Kindle doesn’t have the same problem: an ebook takes no shelf space.
Optimistically, the market for good ol’ telling stories is growing.
The US adult fiction ebook market was $1.8bn in 2012, rising to 20% of the total market from 15% in 2011. Now we’re talking. In the UK ebooks were about £200m total, fiction around £120m. We’re talking a $3bn space within three years and $5bn within 5.
That’s $600m spent on thriller, crime, suspense, mystery, what you call it. Even assuming fiction falls as a percentage of that – and it will, as e-readers get better at magazines and cookbooks – it’s looking like a new author of thriller/suspense in English today is playing in a market fast approaching a billion dollars.
A billion dollars isn’t a big market in absolute terms, but it’s not a bad space for one guy and his laptop. Especially when there are only 750 players to worry about.
Sources for 2011-2012 from Association of American Publishers, market projections from PwC report. Crosschecked from Publishers Weekly. All include roundings.