In January 2010 Amazon.com announced that, for the first time ever, ebooks had outsold print books during the previous December.
It was an epochal announcement. It was not only a first for Amazon, it was a first ever for the entire publishing industry. The long-heralded era of the ebook had finally arrived.
Although print books continued to outsell electronic books over all, the tide was clearly turning. Meanwhile, sales of ebooks were booming at Sony’s own ebook store, as were sales at B&N’s new ebook store.
These sales were fueled largely by the availability of a new generation of ebook reading devices that could wirelessly download books from ebook stores, and several of which, notably Sony’s newest iteration and the new Nook from Barnes & Nobel, were multiplatform, capable of reading ebooks in a variety of formats.
Amazon claimed to have sold 200,000 units of the Kindle well before the holiday shopping season, while Sony reports having sold over 300,000 of their ebook reading device, and B&N recently said that the Nook was the single bestselling item at their site over the holiday shopping season. Between these three companies, then, about one million or more ebook reading devices will have been sold to readers by the end of 2010.
Meanwhile all kinds of apps for buying and reading ebooks on “smartphones” – as well as laptops, ipods, various palm held devices, and the newly emerging tablet-sized computers – are turning almost any portable device that will read or transmit any kind of digital data into an ebook reading device.
That means there are many times more ebook reading devices and people reading them than ever before, and ebooks have a growing market that should continue expanding for years to come.
Again, that market is still tiny compared to print books. 3000 to 5000 copies is a big initial sale for an $8.99 ebook (unless by Dan Brown or some other giant of the print bestseller lists) while the initial sale of, say, an $8.99 paperback is more like 60,000 to 100,000 copies.
As I know from talking to writers at various conferences, writers of popular ebooks in popular categories, especially if prolific and capable of writing a new book every month or two, can earn $30-40,000 per year. Some even more.
What are the most popular, bestselling ebook categories? In no particular order: Business/Self-improvement, science fiction/fantasy, romance, and erotica. Everything else is distant second.
Of these, erotica is unique in a very important way. You can go into a bookstore and buy business/self-improvement, romance, and science fiction. But you can’t go into 90% of all bookstores and buy erotica.
Why is another whole magilla we don’t have time to go into deeply. In part, it has to do with the vulnerability of chain stores (which are 90% of the market) to pressure from conservatives and religious groups. Which means chains aren’t going to carry erotica in the south, certain Western states, and any moderate-sized towns in any state with a conservative slant. That severely limits the bookstores chains can carry erotica in to all but the biggest and most cosmopolitan cities and some decidedly liberal college towns. Considering the logistical nightmare of having a category of books that can only be shipped to a few stores, and worries about such a book accidentally being shipped to a store in, say, Alexandria, Louisiana, it’s easier for chain booksellers to just say “no”.
Deduct from the independent bookstores those that are religious (a very sizable chunk) and those that cater to specialized markets like fishing, handicrafts, etc., and you can see that all that would be left would be one or two bookstores in each of the biggest cities – and a few college towns.
Some erotica collections and anthologies do get published in print form and reach those one or two bookstores in each big cities and those few college towns But they are mostly from smaller, independent presses and, sadly, the current economic depression has impacted the small print publishers of erotica heavily, with many going out of business and others cutting back on new releases and even cancelling contracts they had signed for future books.
Clearly if print was the only market for erotica, it wouldn’t be worth discussing the subject at all.
Over on the internet, however, among ebook publishers, sales and the market for erotica are booming.
There are a lot of reasons the market for erotic ebooks is hot right now.
First and foremost is, as noted above, you can’t get them anywhere else.
Equally important is the anonymity of ebooks. They can be purchased over the internet and downloaded immediately to the privacy of your own computer or electronic reading device. No standing in line at a brick and mortar bookstore where a book’s title might be a dead give away of your secret kink to the person behind the counter or a friend you found unexpectedly standing alongside you in the checkout line.
Also erotic ebooks are priced competitively with regular supermarket paperbacks (most erotic ebooks selling for $6-7.99).
There is another reason erotica sells so well in ebook form. People who read, say, an erotic novel, read more than one a month. Females and males, we all know, read erotica to get off. Once they have read an erotic book a couple of times it loses its potency and they need a brand new book to help get them off.
That means there is a near endless demand for new erotic ebooks.
So, for anyone interested in writing erotica, as a career or part-time, the present is a very exciting and rewarding time to enter the field.
It is safe to say that, due entirely to the internet and the rise of ebook publishing, more people are making more money writing erotica than at any previous time in history. And even with all the authors already writing in the field, there is still a greater need for good new writers than ever.
Jean Marie Stine