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August 14, 2009

Books: Too Many in the Marketplace?

I noticed this topic about the number of books that publishers put out each month a few weeks ago at Dear Author and thought it was an interesting one.

Are there too many releases each month?

From a reader’s point of view I think the answer has to be no. Having a choice is a good thing. I mean lots of books to choose from must be a reader’s idea of heaven. The number of books a reader can purchase is limited only by their budget.

For an author an increased number of releases is a bad thing. It means more competition and likely lower royalties, especially if you’re a new or midlist author.

For a bookseller, one who isn’t online, more releases probably brings problems with space, both in warehouses and on bookshelves. This might mean that newer authors miss out on shelf space. It might mean that books are on the shelves for a shorter time before they’re returned to the publisher.

For the publisher it could be good or bad. An online publisher doesn’t have storage or returns to think about so overall their income could increase. A traditional publisher probably needs to schedule carefully so they’re not faced with low orders or a high number of returns.

So what say you? Are you happy with a large number of releases or would you like the releases limited to a certain number per month?


  1. sandra cox

    Good question, Shel. Pros and cons on both sides. Hope you’re feeling better.

  2. Debby

    I like a large number of authors given the opportunity to publish. The problem is that there are only so many hours in the day and you cannot read them all. I do like having the variety of choices but I wonder if maybe having so many releases reduces the sales.

  3. Lucinda

    I remember when HQ went from 4 bks./mo. to 6 with their lines. I was subscribing to SD and Mira at the time, and it increased my TBR piles to the point that I had to cancel one of my subscriptions.
    Maybe part of the problem that they’re talking about is the proliferation of POD booksellers but not many of them will make it onto bookstore shelves due to the nature of that business model.
    As far as the increase in online (ebook) selling, I think readers will still buy what they’re interested in reading regardless of the number of books they have to choose from. As you pointed it out, it just makes the author’s job a little harder in the way of promotion.

  4. Catherine Bybee

    I have to agree with Lucinda on this one. I think a reader is simply going to pick out what he or she wants to read. Book stores will always compete for shelf space where the cyber world doesn’t have to. I do think that the definitions of midlist author to NON-Selling author are going to change and eventually an author who isn’t out there promoting won’t be receiving contracts after a while.

  5. Anne Jones

    I can’t imagine wanting fewer books released. When I was growing up my reading was limited to the number of books at the local library. There were never enough. So for me, the more books to choose from the better.

  6. Julia Smith

    When you know voracious readers, the idea that there could be too many releases is funny. But from the author promotion and retail storage/display POV, it’s an obvious problem. Interesting that e-publishers aren’t faced with the same issues at all.

  7. Helen Hardt

    Hi Shelley, I think Catherine makes a good point. It’s all going to come down to promotion eventually. Authors who aren’t making money for their publishers won’t get the contracts.

    As a reader, though, I love having lots to choose from. As a writer, I agree with you, more releases means stiffer competition. But then, it’s a challenge for us to make each book better than the next, and that’s a pretty good thing.

    Great blog and thought provoking question!

  8. Susan Helene Gottfried

    I was just thinking about this, myself, Shelley. I was posting over at Win a Book and … wow. There’s a million of us writing books. How do people find us? How do these authors find the book bloggers they’re using to publicize their books? How do we make ourselves heard over the din?

    Maybe it’s a momentary sense of being overwhelmed. I don’t know. The timing is definitely funny, though.

  9. Shelley Munro

    Sandra – I’m feeling much better today thanks!

    Debby – I think that having a lot of releases can be detrimental to newer authors. With a limited amount of income to spend on books readers usually tend to go for their favorites and the authors they know. Sometimes I think newer authors get lost unless, as some of the others have commented, they go all out for promo.

  10. Shelley Munro

    Lucinda – Harlequin are always trying new things with their lines. I remember hearing that sales had dropped for the authors of some lines when the numbers increased. From my own experience, sales at EC have also dropped with increased numbers of releases. This means an author is pushed to write more, write better (of course!) and maybe branch out with new publishers. In theory we also have to do more promo but it’s a catch 22 situation because there isn’t time to promote when you need to be writing!

  11. Shelley Munro

    Catherine – it IS going to be interesting to see how the book world evolves over the next ten years. I agree that promotion is a huge part of a writer’s life now, but there are only so many hours in a day. There comes a time when a writer has to choose to either write or promote.

  12. Shelley Munro

    Anne – I think we must be related. I used to belong to a library in our nearest town. (we lived in the country) We’d only get to visit every two or three weeks to get more books. I’d be champing at the bit for more books and recent releases. As a reader I love the choice I have these days in the romance genre. There really is something for everyone.

  13. Shelley Munro

    Julia – I think it’s something that e-pubs need to consider if they want to attract a high caliber of author because there is a point when sales for individual authors start to decline with too many releases. It’s a tricky balancing act, I think!

  14. Shelley Munro

    Helen – competition IS a great thing. It pushes us to be the best we can and to be innovative and creative. That has to be good for the readers of the future.

    While I agree that promotion is necessary, as I mentioned earlier, most writers have limited hours in the day. Given the choice between writing and promotion I tend to stray farther toward writing.

  15. Shelley Munro

    Susan – I definitely feel overwhelmed at times with the entire promotion thing, and it’s even harder living out of the US. This year I’ve tried a slightly different approach and wandered a little outside the online book world. I’m not sure if it’s working but I have noticed an increase in web traffic. That has to be a good thing. :grin: