The results of our annual book marketing survey are in.
Once again, mystery and thriller titles currently dominate book sales charts. It’s clear that there are more ways to sell, promote and cross-promote books than ever.
So how are publishers, writers and publicists marketing their books? What are the most valuable formats, services and channels? What about email, social media, book reviews and discount campaigns? What about book awards?
And who does most of the marketing, anyhow: publishers, writers or publicists? (no surprise there: authors still do most of the marketing, even when they have publishing deals. A whopping 61% of publishers claim that authors take the lead on book marketing).
We reached out to 613 authors, publishers and publicists involved in creating and promoting mystery and thriller books (for the sake of simplicity, we refer to all three groups as “publishers” throughout the survey). While publishers representing the largest American publishing houses are represented, it should be noted that most surveyed were from smaller indie publishers.
Looking at the data, here are four predictions we think will happen as the book sales and book marketing landscape evolve over the next couple of years.
Prediction 1: Audiobook creation will grow slowly until Audible has more robust market competition or provides self-service marketing options
Audiobook sales have been booming for years, but unlike most markets with non-monopolized competition, product creation lags far behind sales. Audiobook sellers reported gains of 25% in 2021, for $1.6 billion in sales. In contrast, the number of titles grew by only 6% (data from Publisher’s Weekly).
How can growth in supply and demand be so imbalanced? BestThrillers.com research indicates that the reason for the slow growth may be the lack of audiobook competitors in the space, as well as poor audiobook marketing options for small and indie publishers on Audible.
Our 2021 survey indicated just 4% of publishers said they had an effective audiobook marketing strategy, with 34% saying they had no plans to create audiobooks. The 2022 BestThrillers.com Marketing Survey reveals that the frustration with the lack of self-service marketing options on the Audible platform are increasing. Amazon.com’s ACX provides a variety of audiobook development options for independent authors and publishers, but compared to the pricing, pre-release and giveaway controls offered for eBooks on the Amazon.com platform, Audible offers relatively few promotional options.
While more publishers reported selling on Audible, publisher confidence in audiobook marketing continues to fall.
Just 2.9% reported that they had an effective marketing strategy, and 5.9% reported that they were looking at podcasts as an alternative to publishing audiobooks. That’s both an interesting and also scary prospect, since podcasts are very easy to create, but not particularly easy to monetize. In almost all cases, publishers would be reliant on creating huge audiences they can sell advertising to.
For the first time, we asked publishers whether they are publishing in podcast format. Surprisingly, nearly 6% said yes. Could that be another factor eating into the slow growth for audiobook creation? Despite huge sales, just 44.1% of publishers reported publishing audiobooks. The format continues to rank far behind softcover book creation, which is still holding strong.
Prediction 2: Multichannel marketing strategies will become the norm among indie publishers.
Publishers aren’t banking on a single strategy or service, and we see more diversity among publishers in terms of marketing outlets and tactics than ever before.
For starters, authors are selling in increasingly diverse locales. Once again, all publishers reported selling on Amazon, but we see publishers selling in local independent book stores (44.1%), on iBooks (41.2%), Audible (47.1%), Nook (52.9%) and elsewhere. Sales on Kobo fell to 38.2% from 46% in the 2021 survey.
Unsurprisingly, Amazon Advertising, Facebook, BookBub, Kirkus, GoodReads, The Fussy Librarian, BestThrillers.com and NetGalley were the platforms most often cited. Other services gaining less than 5% of respondents were numerous, and included Bargain Booksy, Written Word, Kindle Nation Daily and others.
While not as popular as reader communities and advertising, most publishers still consider email marketing to be important. Just 27% of publishers reported that it was not an important component of their book marketing efforts. Last year, we asked whether publishers maintained their own email lists, and over 60% said they did so.
BestThrillers.com asked about advertising for the first time, and it’s clear that publishers are using it heavily. Just 11.8% reported that advertising wasn’t an important part of their book marketing strategy. Our 2021 report showed that Facebook and Amazon were the two most-used advertising services.
Authors still view social media as an important part of their strategy, with nearly 90% reporting that it is at least moderately important, and 44% reporting that it is very important.
Prediction 3: Upstart reader communities have huge opportunity, but will struggle for market share
GoodReads has been a revolution for readers, having emerged as the clear winner among the numerous Facebook reading groups in that emerged in the late 2000s and early 2010s. For readers, Amazon has made very few changes to the site since acquiring it in 2010. For publishers, Amazon has removed most of the self-service marketing options once available.
A whopping 73.5% of publishers reported that reader communities are important or very important to their book marketing efforts. What’s also clear is that the category is dominated by GoodReads.
So far, it looks like upstart book community apps like Copper and Booqsi – which markets itself as an “Amazon-free” alternative to GoodReads – have had little success with market penetration. These communities seem to have more options for indie publishers than GoodReads at this point, so time will tell whether they can gain momentum.
Prediction 4: Book reviews and awards will remain the most important marketing tactics.
There are book awards for seemingly every type of book, ranging from children’s books to science fiction. And they apparently exist for good reason, as over 73% of publishers report that book awards are important or very important to their book marketing efforts.
Publishers were asked to rate how important book reviews are to their marketing strategy on a scale of one to five, with five being the most important. Among marketing tools and tactics, book reviews were the most highly rated marketing tactic with 91.2% reporting that book reviews are important or very important. This is no surprise, as countless studies of consumers all industries consistently show that in terms of influencing sales, online reviews are as statistically powerful as recommendations from friends and families.