As the publishing industry continues to go through tectonic changes, overall unit sales continue to grow, but overall revenue numbers are not doing as well.
According to BookStats (a collaborative effort by the Book Industry Study Group and the Association of American Publishers), net unit sales grew by about 12 percent industry-wide over the four-year period from 2008 to 2011, reaching just under 2.8 billion units. This growth is largely a result of the exponential growth of e-book sales.
Net dollar sales, on the other hand, managed to squeeze out only 2.9 percent growth over that same four-year period, finishing 2011 at $27.2 billion. And overall net dollar sales actually declined from 2010 to 2011, by $700 million. According to early reports on 2012, the trend is continuing.
How do these numbers relate to the independent publisher segments of the industry? For smaller publishers, the BookStats numbers paint a very different and quite positive picture, so positive that you can convincingly conclude that we constitute the industry’s healthiest and fastest-growing segment.
Smaller Publishers, Bigger Gains
During the past four years, from 2008 to 2011, publishers with annual net sales between $500,000 and $5 million grew unit sales by more than 25 percent, double the industry growth rate. And publishers with less than $500,000 in annual net sales also far exceeded the industry average, growing unit sales by nearly 23 percent in the same four-year span.
Revenue growth for each of these two publishing segments is even more impressive. Publishers netting $500,000 to $5 million annually grew at five times the industry average, at a rate of over 15 percent, while publishers netting less than $500,000 annually grew at four times the industry average, at a rate just under 13 percent.
It could be argued that these two publishing segments—the segments that include IBPA members—were responsible for the overall marginal industry growth.
The independent publisher segments are also impressive in terms of the industry’s total value. In 2011, publishers with annual net sales of less than $500,000 contributed nearly a half billion dollars, while publishers with annual net sales between $500,000 and $5 million contributed just under $1.7 billion, for a combined total of $2.2 billion.
It is a little tricky to estimate how many publishers there are in these segments. But we do know for sure that smaller publishers—defined as those publishing fewer than 10 ISBNs a year—are multiplying quickly. A recent study published by R.R. Bowker estimated the growth rate from 2006 to 2011 at over 69 percent, and noted that this group of publishers now numbers nearly 21, 000, excluding companies such as Smashwords and those who publish through them.
Causes for Celebration
Often the press of day-to-day operations can leave you feeling as if you are on your own, fighting an uphill battle to make, and make known, the titles you work tirelessly to produce. I believe it is important for IBPA members to know two very important things as we celebrate these numbers.
1. Collectively, your segments of the industry are making a significant contribution to the publishing community in the United States. At this moment, they are the only ones showing significant growth in all categories, revenue, units, and population.
This means that not only is there a place for publishers of your shape and size, but you are helping the industry continue to grow.
2. You have an association that is driven and designed exclusively around the goal of helping you succeed in your publishing efforts. From the services to the educational programs, from the awards to the marketing opportunities, everything your association does is dedicated to helping you become more successful.
I hope you are aware of and taking advantage of what IBPA has to offer. In my brief six months as a member of IBPA, I have been impressed by the efforts both staff and board members make to provide amazing value. A case in point is the new Website. Because of its quality and professionalism, this site is not just useful; it represents IBPA members in a way we can all be proud of.
So, when we look at the numbers, we should see tremendous opportunity, be encouraged that book readers are responding to the messages we are creating, and know that we are taking the right pathways to create growth. Your association is committed to helping you take advantage of today’s opportunities. Let’s grow together!
Kelly Gallagher is vice president, content acquisition, at Ingram Content Group. He can be reached at Kelly.Gallagher@IngramContent.com.