By Michael Stein
Established book markets are experiencing hard times, says Ann Betts, Commercial Director at Nielsen Book. “Unfortunately, it’s not a pretty picture,” Betts said. Among the nine countries Nielsen monitors the book markets in—Australia, India, Ireland, Italy, Spain, South Africa, the US, the UK and New Zealand—all of them are experiencing declines. Betts attributes the hits these book markets are taking to two main factors: digital market growth and overall economic woes.
Figures for non-fiction show a decline across the board, while the children’s book market at least has a few bright spots. Where there has been some good news in established markets has been in fiction in markets such as Australia and New Zealand, where the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon led to a sharp rise in sales. Betts also discussed how widespread the impact of E. L. James’s runaway bestseller has been across the globe and in the various genres in which it is categorized. For example, in the UK, it led to a 192% year growth in erotica sales while also accounting for a 384% rise in romance sales on the year.
While established book markets are hurting, the potential of emerging markets like India and Brazil remains significant. Nielsen began measuring the Indian book market in 2011, and it is the only market among those Nielsen monitors currently in the black, with a growth rate of 38%. At the same time Betts stressed that even the Indian market is facing a slowdown at the moment.
The Indian market possesses some surprising characteristics as well. While people tend to think of the US as being strong in the business book market, American business books account for only 7% of its non-fiction market. In the UK, this figure is just 3%. But Indian business books make up a full 16% of their non-fiction market. Another surprising feature is the strong sales presence of Indian authors, with eight of the top ten bestselling titles of 2012 to date being Indian authors. Of its top 100-selling authors 66 are Indian, compared to South Africa having only 55 domestic authors in its top 100.
Market Expands for Hard Core
“The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon has really expanded our market,” says Raelene Gorlinsky, publisher of Ellora’s Cave, the wildly popular digital and print erotica and romance publisher from the United States. “Hard core erotica isn’t for everybody, but we’re seeing countries who have never spoken to us before coming to see us for the first time.” The primary markets for erotica remain North America, Western Europe and Japan. She reports that particular markets have distinct tastes in their sexy books. “The Japanese, for example, really go for erotic suspense, but have no interest in paranormal—shapeshifters and vampires, for example—which is exclusively an American interest.” —Edward Nawotka