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  • Writer's pictureMichael Parker

When a glut can spoil the whole barrel

I sense a slowing down of indie book sales; not just here in the Parker household, but generally across the whole spectrum. I could be wrong and way off beam, but I have read opinions on the web from people working at both ends of the publishing industry. In the continuing battle between Amazon and Hachette, a claim has been made that they are each trying to eliminate the other. This sounds like one trying to gain a territorial advantage over the other. The product, i.e. book sales, is being spread too thinly. I also read yesterday of a publishing company laying off staff and generally rearranging the furniture because of the sales drop off they are experiencing. But their genre authors write mainly erotic romance, and it is there that I suspect the underlying malaise in sales can be found. Since Fifty Shades of Grey took the world by storm, a lot of writers (hacks?) jumped on the bandwagon and wrote steamy novels. The result meant the genre was over populated and effectively sewn up, leaving little room for writers who were more or less mainstream in this area. Their world has been overtaken and their market ruined.

It isn’t just the implied overstuffing of that genre that leads me to think the indie business is going down the tubes for many, low ranking authors: I believe most of the other genres are suffering too, and the mainstream publishers are reasserting their dominance. They are responding to the challenge and reducing their prices, offering quality against quantity; and once again leaving the low cost indie writer, particularly writers without any backing, floundering deep amongst the bottom feeders.

Another problem for the writers who publish a book and hope to see it do well, is the advent of box sets. Just over a year ago I purchased a box set of nine thrillers. Each one was purported to be a gem: top of the genre stuff by established thriller writers. I think I read one, got half-way through a second and realised I’d been sold a dummy. How much did I pay? $0.99. I won’t buy any more and yet see a definite explosion of box sets (and not just books by the way).

So what does the future hold? Which is the best way to sell a book? Well, think about the old days when we had book stores and libraries. You could go in, browse, flick through the pages and make up your mind. I know, they exist still but not in the same quantities as they used to. And they exist on line I hear you say. But how many allow you to browse the entire book? It should be technologically possible to block several sections of the book while it is being looked at. The Amazon ‘Look Inside’ facility comes close, but never enough. So we need some entrepreneur to come up with an on-line library that stocks quality authors in all genres giving the reader an opportunity to browse and buy. Would it solve the indie road block? I don’t know, but I would like to see some significant change where the good stuff comes to the top. An unanswerable puzzle.

Five weeks to go now and me and Pat will be heading back to England for good. I hope to reinvigorate my writing career and have some ideas running around in my head. Finishing my current WIP would help. Wish me luck!

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