Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Too Much Competition to Sell Books?

Someone on a forum lamented that, with so many books on the market, the competition makes it nearly impossible to sell books. So let's say that there were 400,000 new books published last year. Many are by big-time publishers and big-time authors. Are we small-time authors crazy to compete in this game?

In the end, perhaps it makes little difference whether there are 100,000 books published next year, or 2,000,000 books. Our real competition is against books that are #1 - well-written and #2 - well-marketed. Sure, there are exceptions that get a lucky break and make it big, but typically those that lack #1 or #2 (the vast majority of books) are buried so low that they're not really competing with us.

In marketing my non-fiction book, I'll e-mail (this week) about 20 popular financial blogs or financial magazines, asking if they want to look it over to bring out tips for graduates. About 4 typically respond. If I follow-up well, I get reviews out there, with links pointed back to my book on Amazon. Another small-time author friend likes radio and is finding this response rate when he queries radio. I interviewed him last week. You might like to see exactly how he goes about it:


When another friend who writes novels puts his book into local (not chain) restaurants, he's not typically finding any competition. He's the only book there. It doesn't matter if 150,000 novels were published last year. The people in line at the restaurant don't have the 150,000 before them; they see my friend's novel.

That's all to say, although it's gonna be very difficult to get into the channels that everybody's competing for, like Publisher's Weekly or Kirkus, once you go to other channels, there's lots of room to sell good books. We just have to be creative in how to get the word out there. We're not competing with all the books that are published, just all the books that people are aware of, which may be no larger a group than we were competing against 20 years ago.

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