Tuesday, 7 February 2017

When do we buy books?

The other week, I was looking at the statistics for those of my earlier books that I self-published, and those I re-published that were originally with my first publisher. Having downloaded December's figures I could now see the trends for the whole of last year - and I started comparing my sales and Kindle Lending Library loans, month by month.

And it started me thinking about my recent books, being published by Ebury, and the time of year each of them has been published. Is there a time of year that people read more or buy/download more books? What's the best time for a book to be published? Or does it actually make any difference, as these days the digital edition will remain available, presumably, for ever?

I'd always thought most people (including me!) read the most when we're on holiday. Away from the constraints of work, and other responsibilities, with time to sit on the balcony or lie on the beach or whatever you do to relax when you're away from home - surely that's when we finally get the chance to read some of those books that have been languishing on our to-read pile, or on our Kindle, for ages.

On the other hand, perhaps in the summer months people are more likely to be outside, doing their gardening or going for healthy walks in the sunshine, whereas in the depths of winter they might spend more time snuggling down on the sofa with a good book. Is that actually still something most people do, or is everyone much more likely to be watching TV or on the internet?

And what about actually buying books? Again, I normally make sure my Kindle is well stocked up before I go on holiday (so much easier than carrying enough books for a fortnight in the suitcase!).

But then again, books are still a favourite present for Christmas, so perhaps that's when sales really peak.

So there were a few surprises in the statistics for my self-published Kindle books. The best months for downloads last year were actually May and November - so that might tie in with my theory about buying in time for summer holidays and again before winter sets in. The worst months were August, February and October. Flicking back through my records for previous years, I discovered that December too, was usually one of the worst years for downloads . . . but of course, as these are Kindle books, people wouldn't be buying them for Christmas presents, and were probably too busy doing their shopping and preparations, to read much themselves!

I realise the situation is different with physical books, so it was very interesting that the first of my new books with Ebury - 'Oliver, the Cat Who Saved Christmas', was published in hardback in October of 2015 (not a good month according to my research with Kindle books but of course it was published for the lead-up to Christmas), and then it was re-published in paperback in November 2016 - and has sold well. Obviously the title was the attraction at that time of year, and the fact that the hardback edition sold well, suggests lots of people bought it for presents.

The follow-up, 'Charlie, the Kitten Who Saved a Life', was published straight into paperback in August last year - again, not a good month according to my other stats - but I'd have thought a paperback at that time of year would do well, for summer holidays - and it's a holiday story too.  It hasn't matched Oliver's sales yet, though, but of course other factors could be at play here, such as the market trends peaking and changing.

The sales of my latest book 'The Vets at Hope Green' will be particularly interesting as, while the paperback is being published in June  - surely a good month, pre summer holiday reading! - the digital version is being released first in four parts, as a monthly serial. Part 1 came out in January and has sold really well. Bearing up my theory about snuggling down with a book in winter?  So how will the February, March and April instalments compare?


I'm sure the lovely people in the marketing department of my publishers know exactly how to target the publication dates of various books, and I'm fascinated to know whether these decisions normally work out right. If you're a self-publishing author, I'd love to know whether you think about the month of publication at all, and whether you find it makes any noticeable difference to sales.

And as a reader, when do you buy, download, or read the most books? Does the time of year make any difference?

Happy reading!


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