What will you do when your eBook sales slow down?

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How to boost book sales when your eBook sales declineSurvey says: print books are here to stay

According to a recent study called “The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers,” almost 70% of book buyers say they are likely to continue purchasing printed books through 2016. Perhaps more shocking was the finding that 60% of all eBooks that are downloaded in the United States are NEVER read.

Why the fierce loyalty to printed books? Oh, the usual reasons: a “sensory attachment” (as eContent calls it) to the physical item, the desire to place the book on a bookshelf, and the fact that you don’t have to strain your eyes staring at another electronic gadget.

Given the fact that eBook sales were flat in 2013, it seems these benefits are keeping the printed book safe from the extinction that digital publishing pundits have been predicting for years. But what does this mean for you?

3 ways to keep your book sales up as eBook sales slow down

You should be selling printed books

If you’re serious about your writing career, you should be offering a printed version of your book as well as an eBook. That’s no secret. But this new data states the case even more strongly. The majority of readers still prefer printed books, and that preference doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

If you’re only ePublishing, you’re missing out on a huge potential customer base. [Check out BookBaby’s printing services, the highest quality printed books — guaranteed.]

You need to find your readers — NOT the other way around

Many self-published authors that’ve had success selling ONLY eBooks seem to fall back on a kind of faith that the future is always sunny, and that their sales will stay steady or even increase as eReader and tablet adoption rises. Sure, there will ALWAYS be plenty of people online waiting to discover your book; but if the eBook boom is dampening, those numbers won’t be as rosy as you’d hoped.

You can’t sit back and rely on previous sales history and Amazon rankings to keep reeling customers in at the same rate forever. Sales for your older eBook titles will eventually fall off — especially if eReading plateaus — so you need to roll your sleeves up and get back into the genre forums, do another blog tour, launch a reading series, or anything else that will help you connect with new readers.

Give your customers a reason to finish reading your book

Your current readers are your best future customers. What I mean is, if someone reads and enjoys one of your books, you’ll have a far easier time marketing your next book to them than you would marketing to a total stranger. That’s common sense. But if 60% of purchased eBooks are going unread, that means many of your own customers might not even BE your readers yet.

Is there some way you can incentivize your customers to read and finish your books (especially your eBooks)? Some kind of contest, quiz, or prize? An online survey where you display your favorite answers? A spot on your website where you show pictures of your fans holding up their eReaders or tablets once they’ve made it to the last page? The more fun and community-focused it is, the better.

By encouraging your customers to finish your book, you’re priming them for your next publication.

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Well, those are just a few tips for authors who want to keep selling as much as possible in a world where eBook sales are slowing down. But I’d love to hear from you. Should we assume that the popularity of eBooks has reached a temporary plateau, one that could last a couple years or more? And if so, how will this change your publishing strategies? Let me know in the comments section below.

Printed Book Design 101

[Question mark image from Shutterstock.]

Chris Robley
is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

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