Episode 123 – Jet.com, Too Many Books, and Virgin Airlines

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Question of the Week: Will there ever be a point where there are too many books in the world and will that affect books sales in the future?

Vinny O’Hare visited the show today while Bryan was on vacation. Vinny and Jim chatted Facebook, brand awareness, and writing more books, as well as the five latest news stories. After thanking the show’s latest patron, Kirsten Oliphant (and her book Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers https://amzn.com/B01HLLYCA4 ), the Internet marketing powerhouses discussed stories on Virgin Airlines, VAT legislation, audio choose-your-own-adventure books, whether or not “too many books” is a good thing, and Wal-Mart’s purchase of Jet.com. This week’s Question of the Week: Will there ever be a point where there are too many books in the world and will that affect book sales in the future?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How authors can use new Facebook changes to their advantage
  • How authors can improve reader awareness by creating a series’ brand
  • Why writing more books doesn’t guarantee increased income
  • How one author spread the word about his books in the skies
  • How authors can influence ebook tax legislation
  • How authors can create audio adventures using Amazon’s Alexa
  • Why there can never be too many books
  • What actions Wal-Mart is taking to increase its online presence

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Question of the Week: Will there ever be a point where there are too many books in the world and will that affect book sales in the future?

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  • Crissy Moss

    QOTW: There are already too many books. There are literally too many books for me to read in one lifetime already. There are too many books for me to read just on my personal book shelf. I’ll probably never read them all because I keep buying or borrowing other books before I finish them.

    But will it effect book sales in the future? It will effect book sales just as much tomorrow as it does today. We already know there were millions of books published before we ever started self publishing, and there are only so many eyes to read those books. Most people probably read less than ten books a year. But what happened to all the books that were written 20-30 years ago? A large majority of them were forgotten, while a few seller examples are still read today, and recommended to their people who love that genre. Prolific authors, and really, REALLY, good writers tend to stick around while the not so good authors tend to disappear into obscurity. That’s how it’s always been, and how it will remain. And just like in the times before self publishing there will be groups that gravitate to certain styles, cult classics, and genre busters.

    Write well, write often, and stop worrying about the rest. Marketing can help, but only so far. It’s the good writing and storytelling that will really put you above the crowd.

    • Simon Goodson

      Absolutely. There’s been too many books ever since things went digital and the backlist was available for as long as you wanted, but it won’t stop someone sampling a great book and choosing to read everything else from that author.

      Also – many books age. Not all genres, but many. While some books are still great to read, many show their age. The film bladerunner is a great example of this – excellent though it is, how comes he has to go find a payphone to make a call? Did he lose his mobile?

  • “Too many” books? It depends on how you define it. Too many “incredible, flawlessly written, riveting” books? Or just too many “titles on Amazon?” Very different thing. The quantity issue means we’re dealing with a readers’ market. That’s not a reason to give up on writing, but it is a reason to set your standards even higher. Like Crissy already said, regardless of quantity, quality always stands a better chance of being discovered and celebrated.

  • Simon Goodson

    For the VAT question, I’m UK based but it’s really no different than for someone who is US based. We only have to factor in VAT when selling to the UK or Europe, same as you do, and it’s all handled by Amazon or other stores. It just means anyone selling into those regions loses some profit.

    The only time that might change is if my UK + Euro sales passed the VAT threshold (about £50k or £60k from memory) but even then the fact Amazon is the actual seller makes that unclear. And as I sell about 10 to 1 in the US vs the UK I’d be on about $750,000 dollars of sales a year in the US and REALLY wouldn’t mind sorting out VAT in that case! 🙂

  • Simon Goodson

    For more isn’t better – this was a real edge case. 6 books a year, rising to 10 books a year? Yes – it’s possible you’ll overwhelm many of your readers with that many, but for the vast majority of authors with just a couple of books and putting out one or two a year that doesn’t apply at all.

  • Laura Martone

    I utterly agree with Joanna Penn on this one: There’s no such thing as “too many” books. After all, you’ll never be able to write as quickly as your hungriest readers can consume them. Even if the formats continue to evolve, stories will always be craved and devoured – no matter the length or genre. Well-written stories will especially find an audience, and regarding book sales of the future, I truly believe the old adage is accurate here: The more, the merrier!

  • That’s like saying – will there every be a point where there are too many flavors of chips! Sure, I may never want to eat Biscuits and Gravy in chip form, but someone will. And I love Hickory bbq – but many others dont! I think the biggest takeaway is that as we get more books, the importance for “niching down” will continue to increase. There is no longer an “everyone”, only millions of passionate someones looking to be part of a meaningful community

    • Bryan

      Mmm, biscuits and gravy chips.

  • Let’s cut to the chase. This is a special snowflake fallacy. They really mean there are too many self-published books in the world full of typos and poor writing.

    • Bryan

      Haha, good cut.

  • QOTW – Too many books? No. So many that it causes problems? Yes.

    As more good books are published it dilutes the number books, good or bad. Readers probably aren’t reading faster and more books because there are more available, they are just spreading it around, lowering the average authors book numbers.

    Also, there are currently tons of books that are ‘obviously’ low quality, with horrible covers and samples that are garbage. Bad or not, these still show up in searches and ranks right now. That makes it hard to find the ones that are more likely to be good.

    When books don’t sell and/or are garbage at a bookstore, they send them back or stop carrying them. Amazon holds them [seemingly] forever. You have to week through them all, or at least many of them.

  • Brian Brown

    I want you to read me
    Like I’m a Potter V
    Don’t put the book down
    Until you know who survives
    So go ahead and turn the page, I will promise a good story tonight
    I wanna make you late for work ’cause you read me till the morning light


    And now because of me–just one too many books in the world
    Now a big-six writer can’t pay his bills
    ‘Cause he doesn’t have a mailing li-i-st
    (Too many books in the world)
    And a layoff for the VP of sales
    Who smokes cigars behind his polished wood desk
    Is that wood called mahogony?
    And now because of me–just one too many books in the world
    The big bad six are now a ship with a leak
    At least the deck chairs face a pretty sunseh-eh-et
    (Too many books in the world)

    • Very nice.

      • Brian Brown

        I would have spoofed the whole song, but good lordy that took long enough! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

    • Bryan

      *clap* *clap*

      • Brian Brown

        *humbly bows*

  • Jet.com advertise a lot. I keep seeing their ads in major transportation centers in NY. I too thought it was an air line. it wasn’t until I started to see more adds with items on it and text to explain. what they are.

  • There are definitely too many books for any one person but there are so many people all with different tastes that any book can find an audience. What this issue really comes back to is the struggle of discoverability.

  • It was great to hear Vinny’s voice on the podcast. I enjoyed his presentation with Deborah Carney at Author Marketing Live and I had a nice conversation with him at the reception afterwards. Very approachable and informative, this guy knows his stuff!

    QOTW: Too many books? There have always been too many books. My belief is that the vast majority of crappy books will stay on the bottom of the heap while the good works (and the well-marketed works) rise to the top. I’m not worried about it.

    • Hi Erik

      It was nice meeting you in Cleveland. Thanks for the kind words about our presentation. Had a lot of info to pack into a short period of time.

  • TheCreativePenn

    I enjoyed hearing Vinnie’s take on marketing – some great ideas there 🙂 and thanks for reporting on my blog post.

    On VAT – Jim, you know I love you but you have it wrong 🙂 It affects ALL authors who SELL to the EU, so that includes you and any other American authors.

    Prior to Jan 1, 2015, it would not have affected you because it was based on the SELLER’s country. But post Jan 1 2015, it is now about the CUSTOMER’s country – so if you sell a book to someone in the UK, or France, or Germany or other EU countries, your royalty will be based on the price minus VAT minus Amazon’s cut. So unless you adjusted your prices upwards (which most people didn’t e.g. £2.99 is still a valid price), then you are receiving less royalty on those sales.

    Go to your KDP pricing screen for a book and have a look at the EU country sites e.g. UK. You will see underneath the price you have set what price your royalty is based upon.
    e.g. £1.99 book has a price of £1.66 underneath – your royalty is now based on £1.66 NOT £1.99.

    It is so important that authors realize this – EU VAT affects anyone selling TO the EU countries, no matter where they live – and amazon.co.uk is often people’s second or third income stream.

    I have already done my questionnaire and pointed out that it’s crazy there is VAT on text-based ebooks that are the same text as the print book. I’d encourage all authors to do the questionnaire as it DOES affect your royalty, no matter where you live.

    More here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A30464Q6OVH578

    • I hope you liked my Brooklyn accent 🙂

    • Daniel Martone

      The real fun will come if you can sell direct to customers in the EU… and then they, the EU, tries to cold from you. We can give them a big ol raspberry. 😉

    • Daniel Martone

      The real fun will come when you sell direct to customers in the EU and they try to collect tax from you. Just blow a big ol raspberry at them.

      • TheCreativePenn

        I use Selz.com to sell direct – and they have a handy checkbox that says “Don’t sell to people in the EU.” You can tick that and tell people to email you if they want to purchase. Manual emailed files are not subject to the digital VAT 🙂

    • Bryan

      Thanks for clearing that up, Jo :).

  • Daniel Martone

    There will never be too many books in fiction. Non-fiction is another story. It is pretty easy to get lost in the crowd among popular topics. I think the trick for non-fiction is to find a problem the nobody or very few are writing about. Basically you need to tell readers they have a problem and they need your book to solve it.

  • More than four decades ago, a petition was circulating at movie theaters and drive-ins to prevent pay TV (cable) from entering Pittsburgh, on the belief it would mean the end of movie theaters. Instead, the market for movies exploded.

    This is somewhat apples and oranges, but I see people having more options to find books that speak to them, instead of blindly following bestseller lists.

    I have too many free books I’ll never open on my Kindle, but that will never stop me from buying something that I know I’ll enjoy.

    The glut of books means that I no longer blindly invest my time in a book if it bores me. Discoverability will continue to be an issue, but authorpreneurs will solve that problem, as they have solved many others in the past five years.

    I hand coded my first book in HTML. We’ve come a long way since then, and we’ve only just started.

  • avoura

    Putting audio too much in each ear is not a good idea, Jim is only in one ear, the other guy in the other, would prefer if just mono or just a slight stereo effect.