Monday, April 11, 2011

One Last Thing About Signs

On two different occasions I’ve talked about the possibility of the existence of signs and how they could relate to my writing career as a whole.  Before moving away from the topic, there’s another, more tangible, sign I want to discuss—a sign of the times.
Last week, I received a sales report from the publisher. It’s a very nice excel based spread sheet that outlines all of my sales for the prior month. Imagine my dismay to learn for the fourth month in a row, I haven’t sold one book. That’s particularly disheartening when I have four titles available to purchase. I try to assuage my sorrow by telling myself the lack of sales isn’t due to a lack of talent. After all, my books get great reviews. Not just from my friends and family but from independent reviewers as well. The more I think about this, the more theories I devise and the more I realize I’m one hundred percent on the money with regard to this.

In case you haven’t noticed, brick and mortar book stores are becoming a thing of the past. I’m not just talking about the mom and pop stores either. Even the industry giants, such as my beloved Borders, aren’t immune to a downturn in profits that forces them to close their doors. So, what’s the cause of this and how does it relate to my loss of sales? With the advent of devices such as the Kindle, the traditional book is being replaced by an e-book and consumers are embracing it. E-readers offer a variety of conveniences. The consumer doesn’t have to brave lines at the bookstore or wait out shipping if she’s ordered on line. She can shop in her pajamas and have the title delivered instantly, but that’s not even the best part. The best part, perhaps the biggest motivating factor of all, is the cost of e-books versus paper books. Most books are substantially cheaper when purchased through an e-reader. I recently read an article in which self-publishers claim to be raking in the sales because they’re offering they’re books for ninety-nine cents per title. Ninety-nine cents? I don’t know what kind of royalties you can net from that, but it’s a price that fully supports the theory of why traditional book sales are falling by the wayside.

Maybe it’s my age, or maybe it’s because I’m a kinesthetic learner, but I prefer a real book to an e-book. I want to hold it and feel those pages in my hands. I want to pick it up and put it down at my leisure, which I suppose you can do with e-readers. And if I get lucky enough to get a signed copy, I’m not sure how the author can sign my Kindle version of her story.

It’s not just the e-readers honing in on the book business. There are numerous You Tube like web sites where authors, both published and unpublished, can upload their work. Readers have unlimited and free access to these stories. Let me just say, I belong to one of these, and I absolutely love it. This site has allowed me to gain more exposure for my work, which I hope will one day translate into sales of other titles.

E-readers and free book sharing web sites aside, there’s another and more difficult reality facing us all. Our country is in a recession and has been for quite some time. Financial experts say we’re on an upswing, but that’s difficult to digest when gas prices in the United States are upwards of four dollars a gallon and a head of lettuce is two dollars. I’m going to date myself when I admit this, but I can recall when gas was ninety-nine cents a gallon, and I thought that was high. And wasn’t it just last summer I was paying one dollar and twenty-nine cents for a head of lettuce and complaining that was too much? Oh, what I’d give for those prices now. It’s no wonder ninety-nine cent e-books and book sharing web sites are flourishing. Readers need an affordable way to meet this entertainment need.

So my sales are down? The cost of everything from gasoline to lettuce has more than doubled. Desperate times call for desperate measures. When it’s a choice between spending fifteen dollars on a book or ninety-nine cents on a book, it’s a no brainer.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the book sharing web site where I gain new fans each day. I’ll be grateful I’ve got some medium to explore my talent and reach the readers. Most of all, I’ll recognize this lack of sales for what it is—a sign of the times. 

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