Did 2016 Have a Reader Slump?

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I’ve seen posts and articles about this as well as bringing it up myself.  Now that there are only 2 months left of 2016, I feel like opening the floor.  Then again, most people might not even be aware of what’s going on.  Either you haven’t been effected or haven’t noticed in general.  Let me try to explain a bit, which is coming from my own perspective.

For some reason, 2016 has been abysmal in terms of book sales and reading.  It’s really hard to put into words.  The big names like Martin and Rowling aren’t having any trouble, but that’s easy to figure out because they’re established.  They also have non-book media that helps them.  I’m talking more about the indie authors that are plugging along and trying to figure out how to stay afloat.  I’ve done whatever I could for promotions against a tide of distractions and personal events.  Yet, I can’t get a spark and I’ve talked to other authors who are finding the same problems.

Free sales seem to help as well as giveaways, but those can only be done so often.  I’ve been told people aren’t interested in series, which could explain my problems.  Yet, I also hear that full-length novels are being ignored as well.  Perhaps people simply didn’t have as much time as they did in previous years.  Life went nuts for everyone and it was more about making it to 2017 instead of relaxing.

The flood of negativity, hate, and divisiveness caused by politics definitely didn’t help.  This added a weird dimension as I saw authors try to promote their books by utilizing the election.  ‘Stick it to Trump by buying this unassociated zombie book’. ‘Stick it to Clinton by buying this butterfly-themed cookbook’. ‘Screw the election and buy this book about a footstool that dreams of being a ladder’.  I’ll admit I tried a little of this with Crossing Bedlam since the story had a slight connection to politics.  Now, I’m saying this because it does feel like the election may have caused a lot of people to ignore ‘escapism’ stuff out of fear of missing reality.  That or the whole circus was so surreal that no amount of fiction could compare.  Either way, I do think the emotions brought out by the election had an effect on people’s interest in fiction.  Anger, fear, hate, and sadness don’t really drive people to the fun stuff unless they are consciously trying to eliminate those emotions.  I don’t know of a lot of people who were doing that.

My honest opinion is that a lot of factors have created a slump year for many authors.  I do think the negativity created by the election and other world events caused people to spend more time with the news than fiction.  I also think there are fewer marketing options unless you have a lot of money.  The cheaper or free ones have become crowded or turn into part of the background.  Every few weeks, I went searching for new sites that I could sign up with for marketing or get an interview.  I found very little and many of the old ones are gone.  Yes, there are individual reasons for each author like me pushing a series that is very long or others who have become too busy to promote their work.   It’s almost like an epidemic of slump as I watched the year unfold.

I might be alone in thinking that this year is the worst ever.  Honestly, I’ve only been at this for 3 years, but the drop in sales, social media hits, and everything was so abrupt that it was like a switch was flipped in mid-January.  I hope 2017 is better and that I can keep doing this, but this year was horrible.  Let me know what your experiences on 2016 is and if you think anything changed.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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82 Responses to Did 2016 Have a Reader Slump?

  1. Bookwraiths says:

    I can’t answer from a writer’s perspective (since I’m not one), but I do agree the mood of society has been very negative and gloomy this year. For me, the political crap has been something I’ve avoided as much as possible to keep my sanity, because . . . well, having been involved in political campaigns on local/state level in the past, I don’t care for politics or politicians much anymore. Guess, I’ve heard the “Hope and Change” speech too many times to believe it. I have found myself not feeling like reading as much as I have in the past, but I didn’t connect it to the overall atmosphere of the country, but it could have played a role. And I had no idea there was a trend toward not reading books as much, though my teenagers are definitely anti-reading these days. Will be interested in reading more about this from yourself and other writers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was trying to avoid politics for as long as I could this year. Kind of got sucked into it over the last few weeks because the people around me are making it the most common topic. Hard to stay out of the mire when you’re surrounded by it. I’ve been wondering a lot about the anti-reading thing with teenagers. I know Common Core is pushing more non-fiction than fiction, which might be working against reading for fun. It was hard enough when we were forced to read classics. Now we have to read boring biographies?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bookwraiths says:

        Only speaking about my local school, but here the librarians seem to hate anything except what they consider appropriate reading. Example: I spoke to a school librarian about donating a complete hard cover set of Brandon Sanderson’s ALCATRAZ series to the middle school library, and her response was: “It isn’t more of those fantasy books is it? We don’t need anymore of those here. If you ever have some John Grisham novels, those would be more helpful.” Needless to say, with that sort of attitude, I can see why my oldest son refuses to even enter the school library. Sad really, since the library was my favorite haunt when I was young.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Wow. Just wow. I don’t think the local library here can get away with that. They host a Star Wars Day and a small Anime/Comic Con. Banning fantasy and science fiction wouldn’t work well with that crowd. Actually, that’s the public library. I don’t remember there being much fantasy in my school libraries once I hit high school.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Bookwraiths says:

        The public library here has a nice selection of sf/f as well. The school library . . . not so much. They tend to prefer biography and classic works of literature, which my kids do not like at all and which discourages them from reading.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve heard that from friends too. For some reason, school libraries don’t put much stock in sf/f unless it’s the popular series. Pretty sure they all have Harry Potter.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Lucy Brazier says:

    You make a good point. Over here in the UK and Europe we have the whole Brexit thing going on, too, so maybe the populous are hyper-focused on reality at the moment. My betting is that people will eventually tire of it, and that’s when they will need escapism more than ever. Hang in there, writers, and keep doing your thing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post. I’m interested in the comments. There were good things about 2016 too, but they take up available time for other projects. The Olympics, a World Series with rare qualities to it, etc. I hit it harder than I ever have over the course of two months. The results were less than I got last year with half the effort. My Halloween giveaway produced less than the previous two and it had two book blasts to fuel it. I am getting more reviews than ever before. Decoding what it all means is the trick. It seems like the more serious readers are still out there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve seen dip this year too Charles and I branched out into children storytelling which took up a chunk of my time. My decision this year was that I would invest more time in face-to-face promotion (going out to local craft fairs and community etc) and focus on the fan base I have and nurture that with the hope that they will spread the word. They seem to be doing this and I enjoy good old face-to-face networking. Blogs, twitter and Facebook provide a wonderful community for the writer but perhaps aren’t the place to sell anymore.

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    • I’ve been wondering if social media is getting clogged. Facebook is a crap shoot in regards to exposure. Twitter is hyper speed and blogging tends to work off a small audience. Smart move on the face to face stuff. Something to consider for the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I also do talks on the mystery genre and raise my profile that way as well as selling a few books. The craft fairs cost me between £15 and £30 depending on the place. I usually sell enough to cover the cost and I treat it as advertising if not. You can’t get advertising that cheap to be honest. I’ve been doing them a year now and it seems to be working. I’ve had people approach me who know someone locally who’s read my books. It’s a nice feeling to know someone recommended them. Your right about Facebook etc. There’s so much white noise out there and follow for follows that aren’t an engaged audience, that in order to break through you need some serious money in the marketing budget.

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      • I haven’t had any luck finding a fair or show that I can afford a table at. Not to mention I have eBooks, so there’s nothing I could put on the table unless I save up to get some type of merchandise. I have to check again at the library to see if I could do anything. One issue I have is that I’m terrible at public speaking. Put me on a computer and I can handle myself, but face to face with a large group can make me lock up.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s tricky. The fair costs are a fine balance and I won’t be doing any in the summer next year. Winter is the place to focus and definitely when people are around to read books. I don’t think anyone minds as long as you are enthusiastic about what you do, you don’t have to be the perfect orator. The library’s a great place to start. Perhaps they’d let you have a table by the door one morning and you could talk to people as they come in, share you interest in the books you like to read and hand them a business card. You never know 🙂 Anyway I’m sure you’ll work it out and I’ll look forward to hearing all about it!

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      • Thanks. It’s something for next year as long as I can carve out some time. Things have been tricky since I’m author and stay-at-home parent. Everything has to work around my son’s school schedule. Not sure about the door table, but they occasionally let local people host Q&A types of things about various topics.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tell me about it. As a SAHM to a two-year-old I feel your plight. It’s such a balance isn’t it? Good luck!

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      • Very much so. Mine is 7, but special ed. Him being home requires more energy than I can usually muster. Thankfully, he isn’t destructive, but the kid never stops talking or overreacting.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I have to believe you are right. I have spent more money this year with less results. I refuse to give my books away. If this is what I have to do I’m going to remain in obscurity.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. portapatetcormagis says:

    This reader here makes a point to buy indie books 🙂 And whenever possible directly from the author and with signature in the book. But one can only buy so many books a month/year.
    And I’m afraid you’re not writing in my language 😦
    I love meeting authors on fairs and especially on conventions, have a short chat with them about their books or future plans and then walk away with my signed copy.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kingmidget says:

    I think the indie author market has become so crowded that it’s become cannibalistic. Okay, that’s not quite the right description, but I do think our little corner of the publishing world has become so overwhelmed with writers and books and who knows what else that people are turning away from it. It’s somewhat overwhelming when you see how much is getting published every day, week, month. At some point, readers may just retreat to the tried and true.

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    • I’ve wondered if readers are aware of it. Most seem to only pay attention to traditionally published authors. Indies seem to remain under the radar, but I can see the cannibalism. There are fewer promotional sites these days and that’s caused a lot of crowding on the ones that remain. Many indie authors are more into staying within their social media circle and only promoting themselves. You don’t get as much help as you used to. Not even sure blog tours are that effective since I see them everywhere. Maybe isolationism is a better word here.

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      • kingmidget says:

        As near as I can tell, blogs seem to be generally followed by the same group of people so I’m not sure how much blog promotions would work.

        The mystery of how to make a decent splash is one of the reasons I’ve stalled in my writing.

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      • Seems to be more elusive than ever these days. I’m still writing and keeping on my publishing schedule, but I’m a series author. Feel like stopping or taking a long break would kill what limit momentum I have. One thing I can’t figure out is what constitutes a decent splash. Winning awards? Selling 100 books? Selling 500? Royalty amounts? Everyone appears to have their own goal post for this.

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  8. Elle Knowles says:

    Interesting stuff. I’m wondering what the statistics on sales on audio books are. I believe I’ve read more this year than previous years because I’ve started listening to audio books. If I’m really busy with my “paying job” -sewing -I can go through 3 a week!
    Hopefully the stats will start rising again as I’m just about to publish my second book, Charles. It’s a lot of work for little profit at times, as you well know. ~Elle

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  9. It’s been an interesting year, for sure (if only in the sense of that old Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times). Sales-wise, autumn has been an improvement, but only because I’ve scheduled a new release each month. Every sale is hard, and, in all honesty, I doubt I’d have made that many sales without all those releases.

    For a while now, Indie publishing has increasingly been promoted by shameless marketers as a “get-rich-quick” scheme; a kind of gold rush (naturally, they were the ones selling us shovels). I get a frustrating amount of emails of the “pay me $200 and find out how this snail from Arizona makes $25,000 a second” variety. I suspect this is the year when this attitude finally blows up in many a greedy “author’s” face. Whoever’s left standing will probably reap the rewards for years to come, as the marketers move to fresh pastures.

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  10. Helen Jones says:

    It has been a strange sort of year, Charles, in a whole lot of ways. My book sales have been slowish, but then that’s nothing new – however my latest release seems to be ticking along okay at the moment *crosses fingers and ducks* I do think that social media is becoming totally clogged, though – I’m actually now looking at getting out into the ‘real world’ and actually trying to meet some readers, rather than just searching online. I honestly don’t know what the answer is to our over-saturated market – I saw a post today that said ‘offer your first book free then, if people sign up to your newsletter, they can also get your second book free’ Newsletters do seem to be the thing at the moment, but it’s just finding the time to write and produce one, along with managing all the other stuff – I would like to actually write some stories at some point, too. Plus I’m just not willing to give my book away for free. I am considering permanently discounting the first book in my Ambeth series, perhaps once the fourth comes out, but even that annoys me 😀

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    • My newest was doing good for the first month and a half too. Seems to be the way it goes and then it gets tougher once you hit Month 2. That ‘new release’ magic doesn’t last as long as it used to. Then again, I write a series and I expect newer books to sell less than the previous ones. I’ve tried that real world reader thing, but I haven’t found any in my area that are interested in publishing. Tend to be the only fantasy guy in the room or even the only fiction writer. I have my first book free, but the second sounds like it’d be going too far. Especially for a newsletter sign up. I should get one of those, but I have so little to put in there. I don’t do much beyond writing and parenting, so what do I have to use for updates?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Helen Jones says:

        Plus it’s yet another thing to write that isn’t actually another book, so I’m not sure what I’d put in there that I’m not already sharing on my blog. All that ‘free exclusive content’ stuff doesn’t float my boat, either. Maybe if I were already a super popular author, there might be a market for that. It’s a bit chicken and egg, really.

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      • Exactly. Seems like they would overlap.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Some people are still buying books like they always did. Especially people like me who like to spend more time in fantasy worlds than in the real world. But I agree this hasn’t been the best year for sales. Personally I had put it down to the fact there are so many other authors out there, and readers only have so much time and money… I thought I just wasn’t doing enough promotion…

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  12. Ellespeth says:

    2016 can’t end soon enough for me.
    Ellespeth

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