Workshop 12: Fiction By The Numbers
Mark Kuyper, president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), believes the publishing industry is entering into its golden age.
In his ACFW conference workshop Fiction By The Numbers Kuyper noted that 40 percent of book sales are online, according to Bowker Market Research. “The opportunity we have to communicate and to take the communication around the globe is unmatched,” he said. “As Christians, we’ll have more opportunity to share our message and mission than ever before.”
Kuyper noted that there will be challenges along the path. “Things are changing for everybody and transitions are tough, but there’s a lot of opportunity.”
He suggested that by the end of the decade, all but the most impoverished people will have some kind of communication/content device. To what must have been our doubtful looks, he noted that just eight years ago there was no such thing as an iPhone.
Steady sales climb
Kuyper said sales figures have indicated a climb each year since 2008, with only a relatively minor decrease statistically in 2011. “Even through the recession and digital revolution, we’ve seen book sales climb,” he said. “We are seeing many more units go out. People who are buying e, are buying more books than they did before.”
From 2011 data: Net revenue in broad book categories
- Juvenile books: 21 percent
- Religious books (all, including religious fiction): 14 percent
- Adult nonfiction: 25 percent
- Adult fiction: 40 percent
Think of these numbers as a pie chart depicting 100 percent of the net revenue from all book sales. In that chart, religious books of all kinds accounted for 14 percent of revenue.
Kuyper then broke down that 14 percent and noted that the sale of Bibles accounted for 51 percent of the dollars spent. Fiction claims 7 percent and nonfiction claims 38 percent.
But when the data is examined not through a revenue lens, but through a units sold lens, Bibles account for 38 percent of units sold, nonfiction books account for 41 percent, and Christian fiction accounts for 16 percent of books sold.
“What does this mean about the value of Christian fiction if you’re a retailer of books?” Kuyper asked. “Consumers are buying more books. Consumers of Christian fiction buy more books than consumers of Christian nonfiction.
“Thus, Christian Fiction is a great traffic driver.”
The Amazon effect
Kuyper said Amazon.com is selling more fiction than any place else—compared even to a Christian bookstore. Why?
“They do a great job of cross-selling (if you like this, then you may like this). And, most of the time, they’re cheaper.”
Plus, he notes, Amazon provides great discoverability.
Kuyper shared some industry speculation, saying it was just that—speculation, not fact.
“There is speculation that Amazon may offer a free Kindle to their Prime customers to go after market share,” he said. “The market gets flooded with more devices and more devices translates into more books sold.”
E-book vs. Print
He also cautioned authors to be “format agnostic.”
“Businesses trend to their most efficient means,” Kuyper said. “The fact that the book is electronic, the consumer can get it quickly and not use a lot of resources, means things will continue to trend that way.
“It’s consumer preference. What consumers want they will continue to get. It’s not a philosophical/romantic battle, it’s simply consumer preference.”
Picture of the average Christian Fiction buyer
Kuyper shared many statistics about the average person who buys Christian fiction.
- Gender: Female=81 percent; Male=19 percent
- Age: Over 50=50 percent; Gen X=20 percent; Gen Y=20 percent
- Annual income: $75,000 or less=70 percent; $25,000 or less=18 percent
- Children: Adults 18+=33 percent have children at home; 67 percent do not
- Geography: South=40 percent; Midwest=25 percent; Northeast=15 percent
- Type of living environment: Rural=41 percent; Suburban=38 percent; Urban=21 percent
- Social media usage: Facebook=78 percent; Twitter=13 percent; LinkedIn=11 percent; No social media=19 percent
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