Get Your Book Selling Wide

Should fiction authors be paying attention to the best audio search engine?

I’m challenging myself to share a crème de la crème tidbit of interest about each book in my new series, Book Sales Supercharged. I’m trying to pick things that I haven’t seen other authors talking about or sharing. So here we go with the first one for Get Your Book Selling Wide.

First, a note: Some of the things I share during this series will be in the category of, “maybe the market will go this way in five years,” while other things will be in the category of, “implement this today to increase your sales quickly.” I know some people resonate more with one or the other, so I’ll try to alternate between these two.

A Little About the Book

Get Your Book Selling Wide is eventually going to be free/price-matched where it can be and is focused on giving a solid overview of the many ways in which independent authors can make money from their work. It’s also meant to be an overview of the book industry as a whole and specifically of various retailers and their place within the larger ecosystem.

So the tidbit I’m going to share is to start paying closer attention to fiction-based podcasts and audio search engines in general. #Legit. Hear me out.

Exhibit A: Global Ecommerce

Amazon can reach 13% of the global ecommerce market. Kobo (via Rakuten, their partnership with Walmart, and partnerships with other international retailers) can reach 2-3% of the global ecommerce market. Apple holds 1% of the market and Google holds less as its focus has historically been outside of ecommerce.

These four companies are in a battle for market share of global ecommerce, and while Amazon has a significant lead globally, there is no winner takes all. There is still plenty of space for massive success for any of these companies.

To increase market share, you need a growing user base that spends more money. The are five major ways that ecommerce companies grow their user base and improve buying habits:

  • Selling low cost, high demand goods like books or home products

  • Building a payments platform (Rakuten, Apple, and Google Play have this)

  • Loyalty programs (via credit cards, points, or other rewards)

  • Devices, like phones, tablets, e-readers, in-home and in-car devices

Currently, Amazon is cutting into market share across many of these areas, which is why books are so important to all four of these companies.

Exhibit B: Audiobooks

Audiobooks is a growing space largely because they are hitting three of these needs.

  • They are low cost, high demand, which means they are an easy entry point and way to get more users.

  • They are largely sold by subscription model (hitting the loyalty/reward need) and not just by Audible. Kobo also offers a subscription program, and Google offers a points program on all digital purchases through it's Google Play Points program. Several other smaller players like Scribd also offer subscriptions.

  • They are ideal entry points on devices. Ecommerce is shifting to device purchases and Apple and Google have iPhones and Androids all over the world. Amazon, Apple, and Google are also attempting to get devices into homes. Where once people did chores, drove, or jogged in silence or to music, they are now picking up audiobooks to help entertain and pass the time.

This means that these four companies will be investing heavily in audiobooks over the coming years.

Exhibit C: Streaming Audio Content

None of these four companies are the top streaming service, though. That honor goes to Spotify, which has arguably the best audio search engine. I have a small podcast with 80 episodes under a nonfiction pen name and nearly half of the organic traffic comes from Spotify. The next largest service is Apple, with 8%, and Google and Amazon are somewhere in the mix beyond.

Also, Spotify has hired a number of executives to fill out its audiobook division and begun experimenting by offering public domain titles.

Spotify isn’t alone; tons of companies are trying to stake their claim in audiobooks, which is why Amazon only holds about 40-50% of the pie right now.

Quick Recap

  • Audiobooks are growing. They are increasing the market share of the book industry overall *and* they are chipping away at the ebook and print book pieces of the pie.

  • Companies that want to win in ecommerce *really* like audiobooks because they hit on a lot of nice things that help grow a user base that spends more. Furthermore, the market is still anyone’s game, so these companies are going to invest in selling audiobooks.

  • Devices are where it’s at right now. It’s where ecommerce companies are investing and it’s where customers are moving as well. And distribution through devices is a little different than distribution through websites. There are players in this space that haven’t historically been players in the book industry, but are moving into books for good reason.

What Does This Have to Do With Podcasting?

Well, podcasting is to devices shopping (especially in-home and in-car devices which are hands-free) what blog posts are to retailer websites.

People are simply not searching for text websites as much as they used to with voice recognition. Sales are moving away from retailer websites and to mobile and hands-free devices.

They aren’t looking for a link on a webpage. They are looking for an easy name that they can repeat, so when they say, “Alexa, buy [insert book title here]” the process is easy and seamless.

How can we indies currently get visible and discoverable on these devices?

Podcasting.

Takeaways:

  • There are some (but still very few) fiction authors experimenting with this right now. Some of them have been podcasting for years. These same authors are heavily investing in audiobooks and have a strong wide mindset. Two authors I respect that specifically come to mind are Sara Rosett and Jamie Davis.

  • Audiobooks are an important part of your catalog. It’s cost-prohibitive to hire a narrator but those who do will have a leg up in the next five years. And just as ebook sales overflow to print and audio, audiobook sales will overflow to ebook sales. (Sidenote: the audiobook market share wars will likely shake up the hold Amazon has over that part of the book industry).

  • The technology to create natural-ish auto-generated audiobooks exists already. We’re just waiting on a company (Google, maybe?) to make it available to authors and create a realistic pricing model that honors the author’s copyright. These books will likely sell for less than voice-acted narration, but there will likely be a market for it.

  • Podcasting is the new and upcoming blog/website. This is going to be the easiest way to get organic eyes, traffic, and branding. You could try a couple things: free audiobook version with ads, free audiobook version of your first-in-free series (leading to the rest of your paid audiobooks), or a commentary podcast that talks about other related media across television, movies, and other popular books.

I find this ecommerce conversation to be *so important* to understand why going wide matters for independent authors, so I’ll be diving into more elements of it (and I’ve found some particularly interesting stuff!) in Get Your Book Selling Wide, the first book in the Book Sales Supercharged series.