Monday, April 6, 2009

Marketing in a Recession

By all accounts, book sales are in a major slump thanks to the current recession. Publishers are laying off staff by the dozens and book-buyers are staying away from stores in droves. Just my luck: I have two books coming out this summer (one is pictured here; see the story summary at my web site).

A fine book that retails for $15-20 is still a good entertainment deal, considering the price of movie tickets today or the added expense of premium cable/satellite channels. As people cut off HBO and Starz and such, will they return to books? Hard to say. The better guess is that they will turn to the local DVD store or settle for Law and Order marathons.

The hard part about this downturn is that it is affecting that segment of the working population that buys books. Older, middle-to-upper-income people are finding themselves out of a job or even out of a home and suddenly looking for a 'survival job' that pays less but at least it pays the grocery, water and electric bill.

The good news may be that readers in this particular genre, mystery/suspense, are loyal and always on the lookout for good material. Fans will continue to buy the latest book from their fave, at least when it comes out in paperback. And mystery writers will continue to buy each others' books. The best-seller lists are consistently topped by mysteries, so we are in a category with a good sales record overall. If past recessions are any indication, people actively seek out escapist fare when times are bad - and our stuff qualifies (that's not to discount the fine craftsmanship that goes into such work).

So I have hope. I'm planning blog tours, mailings, interviews, signings and so on. Anyone who writes must be a hopeful person: hoping you'll finish the next chapter, hoping you'll finish the darn book, hoping you won't hate it when you do, hoping it will sell, hoping it will be noticed and, perhaps, that it will touch a heart or two.

So how are you planning to market your work in an economic downturn? If you're a reader, are you still buying books or have you set book-buying aside as a luxury that must wait (and hitting the public library instead)?

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