Business Basics for AuthorsPublishing Fear Free

Flooded Book Market

The Digital Reader has some interesting advice for indies in the new year:

One, the days of releasing the first title in a series as permafree have passed. All that accomplishes now is to flood the market and make it harder to sell ebooks.

Two, the idea of writing and publishing your next book as the best marketing strategy is also going to have to be reconsidered.

Three, getting in to or out of Kindle Unlimited isn’t nearly as important as some thought it was a few weeks ago. As I noted when I first reported on this story, this problem is affecting authors both in and out of KU. Read more here.

The middle advice is the most troubling. The premise of the argument is that the book supply is higher than demand (the market is flooded). This drives the price down. Because the market is so diluted, purchases can be spread out among zillions of books, leaving individual authors less revenue.

Some thoughts

  1. Book supply has always been higher than demand. There have always been more books than readers.
  2. It’s true that the addition of a single book dilutes the market as a whole, but it increases the market share of the individual author.  To make the math easy, let’s say that there are a million books out there. Let’s say an author has published 1 book. That gives her .0001 percent of the market.
  • Adding 1 more book (total of 2) would give that author .0001999998 (2/1000,001)
  • Adding 9 more books for a total of 10 would give that author .0009 percent of the market (10/1000010)

    Those numbers aren’t huge, and this does not take into account that other authors are also adding books to the market. Yes, flooding the market dilutes the value of an individual book, but it’s still the the benefit of an individual author to write as many books as they can because they claim a bigger fraction of the market, even if the market is always expanding.Taking this to an extreme, that’s like saying the book world would be better off if authors would take their books off sale because there would be fewer choices for the reader and the market would be leaner. Sure, the market would be better, but now the author is out of work.

The way that markets even out is by not by limiting supply. It happens by letting the cream rise and the dregs fall to the bottom. The authors who write good books and gain fans will get sales, and they will be motivated to keep writing good books. Authors who write crap won’t get sales, causing them eventually to stop writing. Most people don’t keep doing something that isn’t working for them. Eventually, the market will settle out.


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