Learnings From BookExpo America, 2019

Maria Arnt and I were proud to represent 2Nimble at BookExpo America this year and I couldn’t be happier to share our learnings with you. For those of you that are unfamiliar, BookExpo America, held annually in New York City, is the largest international convention where industry leaders meet to discover new initiatives, gain knowledge, and meet with those partners and colleagues we don’t get to see all that often. In short, this post will cover the “state of the industry,” predictions for the future, and ways that you can immediately help your publishing group make more sales. Special thanks to the members of NPD, ABA, IBPA, ALA, and Eventbrite for sharing their valuable knowledge.

The State of the Publishing Industry

(Please note the statistics below represent only those books sold with an ISBN. )

Opening Panel at BookExpo

Let’s start with the best of the news. Over the last five years, the publishing industry has remained extremely stable. As in every industry it sees its ups-and-downs but the power of the book seems to consistently keep this industry a crucial part of society. Sadly, the business of books was down 3% in 2018 as a whole. With the introduction of more and more content sources, the book itself took a hit in 2018. In addition, the industry saw a dip of 6.1% in Q1, 2019 (compared to Q1, 2018) but positively, the data shows the reason for this dip was a late Easter and consequently later gifting season. The best news is, because of this delay in the gifting season, projections for Q2 2019 are looking to be above-average. Further, the top 100 titles (50 Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games, etc.) grew by 23% in 2018 and the self publishing industry remained flat.

As far as publication types go, what hasn’t remained stable in the past five years is the eBook. eBooks are becoming less and less popular as the months pass, 2018 showing the biggest decline in sales year-over-year, and the expectation is that 2019 will show an even more drastic decline. The bottom line is a book is an escape and as most readers are connected to the internet or phone, there’s no escaping the distractions which lessen the quality of your read. Audiobooks, on the other hand, have seen an increase in sales of 37% year-over-year through 2018. Readers enjoy the ability to listen and read, or utilize the narrator as an additional, hands-off means of escape from the real world.

In genre-specific news, Adult Non-fiction and Juvenile fiction books continue to dominate the market as per usual. In the Adult Non-fiction arena, Politics, Business, and Lifestyle books saw the most growth (with Cookbooks at the top), and Juvenile Fiction books aimed at the Toddler market saw the most growth. As far as General Fiction is concerned, the only improvement seen was in the Graphic Novel and Fantasy genres.

Predictions for the Future

Gates about to open!

We are living in the age of connectivity, and that way of life will continue to grow over the next five years. That being said, connectivity works in many different ways and the way you manage your connections will ultimately gauge the success of your book.

  • Social media remains the number one way to connect with an audience. With the addition of Bookstagrammers and Facebook Groups, as well as meet-up social events, the publishing industry is moving into the 21st century. Authors and publishers alike will need to keep up with the social trend to continue seeing successful launches and campaigns.
  • Building on social media, Podcasting is seeing a huge increase in listeners. Podcasting about your publishing company or books to your base of followers (make sure you build up that follower base first) puts emotion behind your work and humanizes it. Because we are all so focused on our computers and phones, podcasting is now the new way to hear and personify the publisher or author.
  • Radio is not dead! While podcasting is seeing an increase, it is actually assisting the radio industry in regaining its market-share, so talking to local radio stations and getting booked to talk about your organization or book is still an important and powerful way to advertise.
  • Community outreach will continue to become more and more important. Stay close to your community and give back to ensure a locally famous organization.
  • It’s about time we consider the opinion of minorities. Minority groups are stretching their wings and finally putting their work out there. Don’t discredit these authors. Their voices are powerful and they have stories to tell that can help to shape not only the future of reading, but the future of our society. The publishing industry has lacked in this area in the past, but the demand is now extremely apparent. Now is the time to diversify.
Penguin | Random House asked “What book changed your life?”

Increase Your Sales Now

Maria chose A Wrinkle in Time!

There are a number of ways that you can immediately increase your sales. The above bullet points review the importance of community, social media, and connectivity. Use these as building blocks to begin your marketing campaigns. In addition:

  • Ensure your time to launch is appropriate. If, as recommended, a media campaign is being planned or a strong ARC program is being created, you’ll need at least 5 months to campaign pre-launch. Don’t sell the pre-launch campaign short. It can make or break your first few weeks of sales.
  • Find genre-specific Bookstagrammers and other social media influencers to pitch your book at launch. These individuals can have access to thousands’ or even hundreds of thousands’ worth of contacts ready and waiting to buy a book they are influenced to purchase.
  • Engage with writing groups and again, keep it local. When creating a campaign, I can’t say enough that becoming locally known is the key to becoming nationally and internationally known.
  • Modify your ARC program. Swag is making a comeback and the perfect way to create hype with ARC’s is to include that swag with the books. Is the main setting of the book a crisp, fall morning? Grab some fabric leaves and include them with the ARC. Is the main character an avid TV watcher? Create a bookmark that looks like the remote control the main character uses to give a visual to that part of the story.
I chose A Series of Unfortunate Events!

I wish I could keep rambling on about BookExpo to you, but I’m sure you’d like to get on with your day. So, take these learnings back to your team and build on them. How can you use them to improve your publishing business? Have some ideas you’d like to run by us? We’re happy to help and consult with you on taking the right next steps to publishing success.

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