My time on Twitter makes me wonder more and more about something I’ve suspected for a long time – There might be more Authors than Readers.
Questions worth Pondering
- Are there more Authors than Readers?
- What’s stronger – The Desire to Read OR The Desire to Be Read?
- Is it really true that 80% of Americans want to write a book? Note: I’m in no way endorsing that site.
- Now that it’s so easy and straightforward to write and publish your own book – How many of those 80% of Americans will write a book?
- Is writing a book a means to make yourself immortal and/or leave a legacy?
- Is writing a book one of the deepest ways to actually communicate with others?
- With all these companies serving readers, who serves authors’ needs?
We could go on and on.
The world of Books and Publishing is changing. A lot of people are very focused on what happens with Publishers and the Top 100 Charts.
However, the real questions have to do with Authors and what happens in the Long Tail. The area between the Top 250 and the 10,000s in sales rank. Who are the authors who are getting read? Who are increasing their readership?
If we consider human communication, there is obviously value in the people who reach tens of millions of people and what they have to say. However, most of the truly meaningful conversations are in much smaller groups.
Are the Small Successes in Books more important than the Big Ones?
Let’s contrast two situations –
- A bestselling author writes a book that’s good entertainment and it sells 1 million copies. A few hundred thousand people read it and enjoy it and consider it good entertainment.
- An author writes a book that’s very targeted at a particular audience and it sells 10,000 copies. Half of those people read it and are really moved by it. For a few thousand people it’s a life changing experience.
There are, of course, bestsellers that can be a life-changing experience too. However, the more targeted you get, the higher the chance you have of really impacting people and speaking to their hearts.
That, in my opinion, is one of the major reasons that so many people want to write a book. As humans we pass on our lessons and experiences via stories. Writing a book does that – It allows us to progress and evolve and share our learning and experiences.
You want to tell your story. Just as stories you heard from your parents and grandparents helped you form a better picture of the world, you want to let people benefit from your life experiences.
The more you narrow down your audience and speak specifically to them – the higher the chance you impact them. Of course, with sufficient skill you can write a very general book that touches tens of millions of people very deeply.
However, what about the hundreds of millions of people who have valuable things to share but are never going to get ‘bestseller writer’ level of skill or publicity? What about them? They should have a means to reach people too. Even if it’s just a few thousand or a few hundred.
That’s what we are seeing with ebooks and ereaders. An immense number of people are suddenly getting the opportunity to share their stories with the people they need to share them with.
Everyone has a story to share. How many people are willing to listen?
We have hundreds of millions of people around the world that are reaching the stage where they have enough rich life experience to write meaningful things. We also have nearly as many people who understand the nuances well enough to write things that thrill and give pleasure and scare and excite and connect.
Even among the younger generations we have some fine writers.
Unfortunately, of the billions of people around the world, we might not have as many people who are willing to listen or read or even be open to the stories being shared.
How many talkers do you know? How many good listeners?
If writing a book is telling a story, and if reading a book is connecting with that story, it’s worth asking – Is it easier to read a story or to write a story?
A World where everyone has a Story to Share and a Means to Share It, but Perhaps No One to Read It.
With self-publishing so easy now, we might see a shift where people being to think of writing books the way they thinking of starting a blog – Let’s just do it.
There’s no risk. It’s easy. It’s straightforward. You don’t need to invest much money.
The rewards are pretty great. For a lot of authors, even a handful of people reading your book is a win. Anything is better than not being heard. Anything is vastly better than not taking a shot.
So, we end up with almost every single person who has a story to share thinking writing a book is a great idea. A Book – it holds so much more meaning than a blog or an online journal or a profile on a social network.
On the other hand, how many people are willing to read these books? In particular, are there enough readers to take a chance on all these first-time book authors?
Even before any actual reading happens, how do all these new authors reach readers. There are already over a million ebooks available in most ebook stores. The only books that actually get any visibility are the ones in the various Top 100 charts. Some people search but there are just too many books. If there are 150,000 romance ebooks, how are readers going to get through all of them? Do all the new authors have any way of standing out?
If Authors keep increasing, at some point of time they will exceed Readers
As more and more people share their stories and publish books, we’ll see the number of Authors exceed the number of readers. To make matters worse, people writing a book have less time for reading. It’s not inconceivable that we end up in a world where –
- There are more authors than readers.
- The biggest challenge shifts from ‘getting your book published’ to ‘getting your book noticed and read’.
- Finding readers becomes the key skill set that differentiates successful authors (not quality of writing).
- Readers just get swamped with choice. Imagine having 10 times more books than we have now, while the number of readers at most doubles.
- Authors start evolving more and more interesting strategies. There are already authors offering books for free, buying ad slots, offering gift cards for a review, and other crazy things. What happens once the situation gets worse?
Here’s the twist – I think it’s ALREADY happened. There are already more authors than there are readers.
We aren’t yet aware of this because most of the authors have tiny followings and no visibility. However, gradually it’ll become clearer and clearer that the number of authors is ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE. That it threatens to dwarf the number of readers.
What happens to Books and Publishing then? Perhaps the same that happens to any market where Supply massively exceeds Demand.