Fiction Book Releases (Soft and Grand Openings)

Q: When will my novel be released?

A: Historically, publishers have a long lead-time from contract signing until the book is released. This is a throw-back from the days of paper manuscripts and snail-mail. Today, things move along much faster.

Sunbury Press does not deal with paper manuscripts. The entire process, from submission, contract signing, to book release is done electronically. We communicate most often through email and public posts on our website. We do this for efficiency and to free our staff to concentrate on editing and getting your books out the door. For fiction, we are also moving to a single point of contact, so you have access to the primary person in charge of your book’s publication. Internally, at Sunbury Press, we work together, but there are no review boards or long review processes to contend with. We’re a small company of professional, hardworking people committed to publishing good books.

We have over 800 fiction manuscript submissions in our queue right now, with more coming in every day. We are working as fast as we can to evaluate and get back to the authors that submit to us. The only way we can hope to better serve all those authors, is to streamline our process. And that is just what we are doing.

Once we take on your novel and the contract has been signed, your book will be released within three months, sometimes even faster depending on the quality of your manuscript and the workload in our queue.

This quick pace might not allow you the time to do all the set up necessary to properly release your book to the world. If you are a new author, you’ll want to setup a new website, Facebook page, get a list of family and friends to help you, etc. So, we recommend that no matter the date that your book is available for purchase, you choose your own Book Announcement date far enough into the future that you have time to prepare. You can think of this as a ‘Soft Opening,’ and ‘Grand Opening’ model. For the Soft Opening, your book is out there selling and available for more reviews. For the Grand Opening, you announce your book with parties, emails, and whatever else you are planning. This lead time also allows you to purchase books (at discount) and have them on hand for your Book Announcement party(s) to sign and/or giveaway.

As an example, your book might be released on April 1st. But you schedule your Book Announcement or Grand Opening on June first. You will have time to work with local bookstores and establishments to plan your party(s), order and get books, make sure you have your website and other pages up and running and your author pages on Amazon and Goodreads ready. In this way, you can maximize the effectiveness of your Book Announcement.

Authors spend a good amount of time slaving over the words, trying to create the best story. But after it’s complete, they are anxious to get it out to the world. We understand! Many of us at Sunbury are also authors. We believe this model will serve authors wants and needs but still give time to give your book the splash you hope for.

One final note, Sunbury Press loves a big splash, just like any publisher. But we prefer the long, slow burn to the quick flash and then burn out. So, plan your big Grand Opening, but also make your plans staggered throughout the year to keep interest flowing and growing your readership. And then write another book! 😉

-Chris Fenwick

#bookrelease #bookannouncement #grandopening #longslowburn #welovebooks

Fiction vs. Nonfiction Sales

One of the most disappointing aspects of the eBook collapse is the lost opportunities for fiction. For some years, fiction has performed better as eBooks, supplanting mass (pulp) fiction. In the past I mentioned we published 60% fiction but 60% of our sales were nonfiction. As we shifted to a 50/50 split, you would expect sales to shift to 70/30 in favor of nonfiction. Instead, it is more like 80/20.
Yes, in recent months it seems 9 out of 10 print books we sell are nonfiction. The eBooks tend to split about 50/50. Above left is the pie chart by imprint. Sunbury Press is nonfiction as is most of Ars Metaphysica. A smaller portion of Brown Posey Press falls into this category as well. All told it is 80% plus for nonfiction.
While we have seen a strong interest in the Ars Metaphysica imprint and continued growth for the Sunbury Press imprint, Milford House and Hellbender Books have lagged. Brown Posey Press is the only good story for fiction in recent months. This brings to mind some questions:
1) Has our segmentation strategy further hurt fiction sales? In other words, were our fiction authors actually benefiting from being tagged with the Sunbury Press logo?
2) Or, is it a sorting of perceived quality? The literary fiction is doing better than it ever has with its own imprint, but the murder mysteries and horror have not.
3) Or, is it the brands themselves? Perhaps Brown Posey Press and Ars Metaphysica better identify with their target markets than Milford House or Hellbender.
4) Or, maybe we haven’t marketed the brands enough. It took quite a while for the International Thriller Writers to actually recognize the new imprints (Milford House and Hellbender Books). The others had no such restrictions.
More food for thought while chewing on your turkey! One last thing I will mention is the positive response received from independent bookstores for the Brown Posey Press email that went out to them. Maybe more direct email with the other imprints will help. And, we definitely need to leverage the Lurk character (below) for Hellbender Books a lot more!

A Past-Life Gothic Mystery and Thriller

brown posey press

In the Fall of 1926, Judd McCarthy disappears while travelling between two small towns in the Midwest. Thirty-three years later, Joel Hampton is victimized by nightmares and blackouts until he assumes a different personality that is prone to violent outbursts. When psychiatrist Ned Finley is brought into the case, he traces Joel’s memories back to Judd McCarthy and suspects Joel may be reliving another life altogether.

Book overview:

In the Fall of 1926, itinerant laborer Judd McCarthy disappears with a company payroll while traveling between two small towns in the Midwest. Thirty-three years later another man, lawyer Joel Hampton, thinks he is going insane. Victimized by nightmares and blackouts, Joel is prone to sudden, unpredictable violent outbursts. Psychiatrist Ned Finley, who becomes involved in the case, believes that Joel’s problems defy traditional psychological explanations. Under hypnosis, Joel expresses memories that appear to belong to another person. Finley consults with his good friend Aurther Schlepler, a reluctant psychic who once worked with police departments to solve difficult homicide cases. Schlepler has taken up permanent residence in the Farmington State Mental Hospital to avoid “the truly insane who live on the other side of Farmington’s massive walls.” With Schlepler’s assistance, Finley starts to peel away Joel’s suppressed memories. Under hypnosis, Joel remembers a time when he apparently lived in Carver County in 1926 and knew a woman by the name of “Katharine.” However, Joel’s wife Susan informs Finley that her husband was not born until 1927. As Joel’s violent outbursts steadily worsen, Finley becomes convinced that his patient is slowly being possessed by the spirit of a man who was prone to violence and once lived in Carver County. Finley eventually journeys to the small town of Danvers, where he learns of a man who disappeared in 1926 while transporting a company payroll between two small towns. As Finley struggles to learn what happened to Judd McCarthy, and why his spirit seemingly lives on in Joel Hampton, his own life is threatened by some menacing presence in the small town. Meanwhile, Joel, who has fully assumed the persona of Judd McCarthy, remains under sedation at the mental hospital, where he plots an escape and dreams of the mysterious Katharine who lives on in his memories.

Book review:

"This expertly written thriller, a kind of Stephen King-Ross MacDonald hybrid (and in a class with either) beautifully evokes the feeling of a small town dying—its buildings, its streets and, most of all, its lost souls."

~ Publisher's Weekly

About the author:

Dennis M. Clausen was born and raised in a Minnesota small town near the South Dakota border. His early years on the prairie provided the inspiration for his novels and other literary works that chronicle the struggles of these small towns to survive in modern America. In addition to writing and publishing since the early 1980s, he has been a professor of American literature and screenwriting at the University of San Diego for forty-six years. Currently, he is working with Sunbury Press on several literary projects. The Search for Judd McCarthy and The Sins of Rachel Sims, novels that feature the fictional character Ned Finley’s research into early-life and other human memories, are scheduled for publication in early summer of 2018. The Accountant’s Apprentice, a novel set in San Diego at a time when the homeless population was increasing dramatically, is scheduled for publication in October of 2018. My Christmas Attic, the story of a young boy struggling with dyslexia and the loss of his father in the Korean War, will be published in late November of 2018.

Check out the author's website for more exclusive information:

Dennis Clausen

To purchase:

Sunbury Press Store

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

 

by Dennis Clausen

BROWN POSEY PRESS

Trade Paperback - 6 x 9 x .7

9781620067574

224 Pages

FICTION / Literary

FICTION / Psychological

FICTION / Small Town & Rural

For publicity information, contact:
publicity@sunburypress.com

A Modern Hester Prynne for ‘The Year of the Woman’

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Rachel Sims, an indomitable spirit in an intolerant religious community, is rumored to have left her husband for a man driving an expensive car from another state. Like Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, she becomes the symbol of sin and adultery. Years later, another young woman becomes convinced that the true story of what happened to Rachel Sims is trapped in her own early life memories.

Book overview:

Rachel Sims, a young Midwestern farm wife, disappears in 1952 under mysterious circumstances while apparently on her way to a clandestine meeting with a man who is not her husband. Some people in a nearby small town claim they saw her leaving the area “with a well-dressed gentleman driving a car with Iowa license plates.” Others assign various nefarious motives to her disappearance. Only Charlie Flanigan, a cemetery caretaker known to the locals as “Crazy Charlie,” refuses to accept the ugly gossip about Rachel Sims. He insists he still sees her walking the riverbanks on Hodges Island on dark spring evenings when the lilacs are in bloom. After the death of her mother twenty-two years later, Laura Fielding, a graduate student with a bonding disorder and a history of broken relationships, discovers that her family may have been living under stolen identities. She also has vague memories and dreams that are unconnected to anything she remembers from her early childhood experiences. With the help of psychiatrist Ned Finley, an eccentric researcher who studies human memories, she attempts to solve the mystery of her lineage by bringing her early life memories to the surface through regressive hypnosis. They are assisted by Finley’s friend Aurther Schlepler, a retired psychic who once helped police departments solve difficult homicide cases, but who has taken up permanent residence in the Farmington State Mental Hospital. Laura eventually visits Point Tyson, where she learns that her mysterious past may be connected to the disappearance of the young farm wife, who reportedly left the area with a wealthy man. Although the townspeople believe Rachel Sims was an immoral woman who abandoned her husband for a better life, Laura suspects the real reasons for the young farm wife’s disappearance might be found in her own early life memories.

Book review:

"Excellent story line which was gripping from start to finish. Great Characters. I would highly recommend this book"

~ Net Gallery

About the author:

Dennis M. Clausen was born and raised in a Minnesota small town near the South Dakota border. His early years on the prairie provided the inspiration for his novels and other literary works that chronicle the struggles of these small towns to survive in modern America. In addition to writing and publishing since the early 1980s, he has been a professor of American literature and screenwriting at the University of San Diego for forty-six years. Currently, he is working with Sunbury Press on several literary projects. The Search for Judd McCarthy and The Sins of Rachel Sims, novels that feature the fictional character Ned Finley’s research into early-life and other human memories, are scheduled for publication in early summer of 2018. The Accountant’s Apprentice, a novel set in San Diego at a time when the homeless population was increasing dramatically, is scheduled for publication in October of 2018. My Christmas Attic, the story of a young boy struggling with dyslexia and the loss of his father in the Korean War, will be published in late November of 2018.

To purchase:

Sunbury Press Store

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

 

Check out the author's website for more exclusive information:

Dennis Clausen

by Dennis Clausen

BROWN POSEY PRESS

Trade Paperback - 6 x 9 x .7

9781620062074

222 Pages

FICTION / Literary

FICTION / Psychological

FICTION / Small Town & Rural

 

For publicity information, contact:
publicity@sunburypress.com

A dark, heart-pounding glimpse into the possible future of genetic engineering

Milford-House-Press-Logo-sm

After learning about Dystopian literature's newest addition, re-immerse yourself in the world of the Titan Strain and learn where to get your copy, today.

In a post-World War III London, humans have developed black-market genetic modification that allows them to take on animalistic strength and speed.

“Genetic engineering is part of our everyday life and has been since humans first began to raise crops and domesticated animals. I think it’s in our nature to want to perfect the world around us, including our own genetic structure. It helps us do incredible things, cure countless diseases. Every day scientists are learning more and more about how to manipulate the genetic structure of humankind. In the true spirit of science-fiction, I wanted to explore what might happen if this desire to change the human genetic code went very, very wrong.”

~ Virginia Soenksen, author

Book overview:

The city of London is beginning to rebuild from the ashes of the Third World War. Ruled by the fascist Libertas Party, the city is a desolate landscape of crime, corruption, and illegal genetic modification that turn humans into animalistic mods. Ineffectually policed, mods blend into normal society by day and rule the ruins beyond the city limits at night. People frequently go missing in this world, and those who want to survive must close their eyes to the crimes committed on their streets.

 

Within the city lives Liane, a girl trained since childhood to be an unfeeling, unthinking killing machine known as an Agent. Beautiful and deadly, Liane exists in a world of constant surveillance and brutality, living only to carry out the orders of the all-powerful Agency. This secret government organization enforces the laws of Libertas, killing anyone who threatens the tenuous peace within the country. Liane’s only human contact comes in the form of her Handler, Damian, who demands perfect obedience from her and desires for them to be far more than Agent and Handler. Chafing under the rules of the Agency, Liane secretly longs for a normal life and steals away to the ruins to spend time with the mods.

 

But when mods begin to turn up murdered and mutilated around the city, Liane finds herself wanting to help protect the people who have been her only friends. Working alongside Seth, a young police officer on the Genetic Modification Task Force, Liane defies her Handler in an effort to find the killers. Together, Liane and Seth weave their way through the dark world of cyberpunk London, following whispers of the next genetic advancement known as the Titan Strain.

Book review:

"I was able to preview an advanced copy of this book. AMAZING BOOK! Not my normal genre, but I was extremely engrossed and invested in the outcome. Lianne and Seth are my favorite characters and I could not make myself stop reading, I had to know more! This book did not disappoint, and I eagerly/anxiously await the sequel!!"

~ Sydney, five-star rating

About the author:

Virginia Soenksen is an art historian, and also writes about Japanese textiles. Having lived and worked all over the world, she now resides in the Shenandoah Valley where she is an associate director of a museum. This is her first novel.

To purchase:

Sunbury Press Store

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

by Virginia Soeknsen

MILFORD HOUSE PRESS

Trade Paperback - 6 x 9 x .5

9781620061732

194 Pages

FICTION / Science Fiction / Genetic Engineering

FICTION / Science Fiction / Cyberpunk

FICTION / Dystopian

YOUNG ADULT FICTION / Dystopian

 

For publicity information, contact:
publicity@sunburypress.com

Inelastic fiction sales

I recently read some very disheartening statistics regarding the industry-wide sales of fiction books. There are two main points:
1) Fiction sales are flat or down among most publishers in most categories.
2) Readers, on average, only pay for 25% of the fiction books they read. The remaining 75% are either free downloads, pirated, or borrowed.
At Sunbury Press, our sales have been increasing steadily the last three years, but this is mainly due to balancing our mix more towards nonfiction and increasing our marketing and publicity capabilities. Our fiction sales are actually up a bit for most authors.
However, it is very telling when you are in an industry where only one quarter of the customers pay. Understand, of the 25% who do pay SOMETHING for their fiction, they might be buying 99 cent eBooks or picking up used copies for a dollar or two at used bookstores or flea markets. The reader who pays full price for fiction is very rare indeed. Ask yourselves — when is the last time you paid full-price for a fiction book you actually read? In my case, it has been quite some time. I benefit from reading all of your novels! My last fiction purchase was a series of books by Howard Frank Mosher some years ago. Tammi and I cherish them as some of our favorite books. Of course, she reads A LOT of thrillers on her Kindle that she pays for.
But, think about it. When possibly only 10% of the reading public is paying full price for your work and the vast majority are reading it for free, what does this mean?
  • Can you really make a living as a fiction author in today’s saturated marketplace where anyone can release anything they want whenever they want?
  • In economics this is a clear indication of a situation where supply far outweighs the demand. We’ve clearly gone well past the point of elasticity — where the customer is willing to pay for another instance of a product. We are so far into the territory where they will only take it if they can get it for nothing!
As a publisher trying to grow both in the nonfiction and fiction spaces, we are finding our fiction propped up by our nonfiction. We do this because we believe these fiction works are worthy of publication and SHOULD be selling much better. Under normal circumstances, they would be.
As fiction authors, you must seriously consider the headwinds we are facing. We need to find different ways to get books in front of people that are willing to pay for them. I also think we need to stop participating in the giveaways. It’s a fools errand leading to nothing more than fool’s gold.
  • Growth of US traditional publishing print book sales in 2016: 3%
  • Growth of US traditional publishing print book sales in 2017: 2%
  • Growth of US traditional publishing print book sales in 2018 so far: 2.9%
  • Adult fiction print sales in 2018 YTD versus 2017: -3.5%
  • Children’s/YA print sales in 2018 YTD versus 2017: +5.7%
  • Hardcover sales in 2018 YTD versus 2017: +7%
  • Nonfiction print sales volume growth between 2014 and 2017: 5%
  • Fiction print sales volume growth between 2014 and 2017: 0
  • Children’s/YA print sales volume growth between 2014 and 2017: 3%

An unlikely love story set during the final collapse of medieval Islamic Spain

Milford-House-Press-Logo-sm

"Extensively researched and beautifully written, Cressler's novel leads us into an exotic world of love, ghosts, intrigue, and betrayal. A must-read for all lovers of historical fiction." - Joan Fallon, author of the Al-Andalus Series

The focus of John D. Cressler's fiction includes strong, young women with an intent on crossing the artificial boundaries society imposes. He captures how love's power transforms us as well as the importance of religious tolerance, and the beauty of multiculturalism. Fortune's Lament is set within a riveting, historical context.

Book overview:

Much of modern Spain was under Muslim control for nearly 800 years (from 711 to 1492 C.E.). Medieval Islamic Spain was deeply influential in world history, for a multitude of reasons, including the rediscovery, translation, and dissemination of the lost works of medicine, science, and philosophy of the ancient Greeks. The Muslim Umayyads (with roots tracing back to Syria), were lovers of books and learning, and helped launch a cultural revolution in Córdoba which transformed the western world. An exceptional 200+ year period of peaceful coexistence occurred between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam under Muslim Umayyad rule, providing a powerful lesson in the practice of multiculturalism for our 21st-century world.

Fortune's Lament is the third release in the Anthems of al-Andalus series, which break open this largely forgotten and fascinating history for modern readers. All three historical novels are love stories set at pivotal moments in the history of medieval Islamic Spain. Fortune's Lament is set in Granada's Alhambra Palace, 120 years after Emeralds of the Alhambra, and tells the story of Danah, a young Muslim woman who aspires to be the first female physician in the city. Love unexpectedly blossoms between Danah and Yusef, a valiant prince of court from a rival clan, during the bloody final conquest of Granada by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Christian Spain. As the light of Islamic Spain dims, the Inquisition looms large on the horizon, as does the coming voyage of Columbus to discover the Americas.

Book reviews:

"John Cressler's most recent novel is a wonderful tale that appeals to all readers. The historical context may seem to only appeal to lovers of historical fiction, but the story of love, war, betrayal, and search for self interwoven into the complex history of Muslim Spain will captivate all. I felt myself turning page after page not waning to put the novel down! It is a story that highlights the beauty of finding Great Love in life and encourages the reader to seek out that kind of love in his or her own life."

~Angela Como

About the author:

John D. Cressler is Schlumberger Chair Professor of Electronics in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University, New York, in 1990. His academic research interests center on the creative use of nanoscale-engineering techniques to enable new approaches to electronic devices, circuits and systems.

Dr. Cressler and his students have published over 600 scientific papers in this field and he has received a number of awards for both his teaching and his research, including the 2010 Class of 1940 W. Howard Ector Outstanding Teacher Award (Georgia Tech's top teaching honor) and the 2013 Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award (the highest honor that can be bestowed on a faculty member at Georgia Tech).

To purchase:

Sunbury Press Store

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

by John D. Cressler
MILFORD HOUSE PRESS
Trade Paperback - 6 x 9 x 1.4
9781620063729
602 Pages with maps and photographs
FICTION / Historical / Medieval
FICTION / Romance / Historical / Medieval
FICTION / Religious

For publicity information, contact:
publicity@sunburypress.com

Fiction and nonfiction processes under review

There is probably not a drier subject than business process engineering. No, I will not bore you with swim-lane diagrams or all of the little tweaks we are making. Rather, I want you to be aware of our work at a higher level.
At one time, not long ago, Sunbury Press was growing at a rapid pace. In recent years, we’ve topped off — plateaued a bit, if you will. While the business is still strong and healthy, the upside has stalled while we work through what we will become and how we will go about achieving it.
First, a little history.  In the past, we did things the “Sunbury Way” — which meant getting all of our books to market as quickly as possible and then leveraging technology to market them as efficiently as possible. This approach was very friendly to nonfiction titles, but not so effective for fiction. However, during this time period, the company grew many fold.
Given that nearly 70% of our titles are fiction, we thought adjusting our process to favor fiction would lead to faster growth. After all, only about 30% of our sales have been from fiction, and none of our top ten books of all time are fiction. So, it made sense to leverage our deep catalog of fiction and our deeper queue of proposals to drive growth through a new fiction-friendly process.
So, we did what the trade wanted us to do in order to sell more fiction — slow things down — build reviews in advance — set advance sale opportunities, etc. We invested nearly all of our marketing budget in improving our fiction performance. What happened?
We got slower. We released fewer books of all kinds. And, our sales leveled off — even dropped some months.  Obviously, this was not a good idea — especially given the currents we were sailing in.  Clearly, fiction sales are soft industry-wide and we were fighting against it rather than sailing with what worked.
In more recent months, we have sloughed off some of the “fiction burdens” and regressed to our prior process. In return, more books have been released more quickly, and sales have risen — albeit nonfiction sales. Think of this as a patch to tide us over.
I recently told the staff in our operations meeting that our company-wide goal is to double sales by the end of 2019. Obviously, one way to do that might be to double the number of books we publish.  However, as one of our leaders reminded us, we might not have enough quality in the pipeline to warrant the investment. We realize we also need to increase sales. What that balance will be — more releases versus more marketing — remains to be seen. More releases require more labor for editing and design — and marketing.  Selling more books requires more creative ideas for marketing.  I am certain we will coalesce on a plan soon that will achieve both goals.
One realization is that we might need to split our process into three distinct paths:
1) Nonfiction — our traditional “Sunbury Way” of high quality / rapid to market / heavy on the SEO and discovery.
2) Fast Path — when we create new editions of prior works or sign authors with works that are being “retreaded,” we can speed through many of our quality checks, assuming the base we are working with is already good.
3) Fiction — The focus is on building the platforms for the authors we have under management by building their catalog and marketing it collectively. We also need to help build the reading public’s confidence in our authors. This is not a fast path or rapid-to-market approach. It requires an investment in patience. It also means focusing on opportunities with movies and television, as well as foreign rights.
While our pipeline continues to burst with proposals, it might be time to slow down the fiction valve for awhile, only allowing in authors who have a series well underway or come to us with an established platform. We then should allow our current fiction authors to build up — build their catalogs and their offerings.
Your thoughts on this would be appreciated!

The facts about fiction

As we posted June’s bestseller list, it was glaringly apparent that nearly 80% of the titles on the list were nonfiction. In addition, overall sales were also skewed in this fashion. To top it off, 80% of the returns we are receiving are fiction.  So, what gives? Are readers no longer interested in fiction?
Below is a chart showing the percentage of Sunbury Press bestsellers that are nonfiction over the last 18 months:
As you can see, there is a clear upward trend in nonfiction titles selling better. I’ve often said, about 60% of our titles are fiction, but 60% of our sales are nonfiction. This is because a typical nonfiction book, on average, outsells its fiction counterpart by about double. I had mentioned we were shifting our focus to be more balanced — about 50/50 between nonfiction and fiction. Is this the culprit behind this trend?  Most likely, it is not. Most of the bestsellers are backlist books!
Earlier this year, Publishers Weekly reported adult nonfiction was the fastest growing segment last year, while adult fiction declined slightly. Perhaps those trends are continuing.
You would think, with all of the ugliness in the world, readers would be looking to escape into make-believe. Instead, readers are seeking the facts!
What does this mean for Sunbury Press? Obviously, we are a business, and in order to be successful, we need to be where the market is. There seems to be a lot of demand for 1970s-era nostalgia. I’m sure the 80s won’t be far behind. We will continue to shift, gradually, our offerings to be more nonfiction-oriented, until we achieve about a 60/40 balance in favor of nonfiction.  We will continue to publish fiction, as we have for over a decade. However, we will be even more careful about it.
What does this mean for our Nonfiction Authors? Keep writing — we are cycling around to the 250th anniversary of the USA in a few years. Interest in the Revolution will increase. This will foster a renewed interest in American ideals and beliefs.  I expect a lot of new material about the colonial era, and about our early Republic. Also — it seems like the baby boomers are reminiscing about the 70s — a trend that will continue for awhile longer, until the Xers begin to retire and begin thinking about the 80s and 90s.
What does this mean for our Fiction Authors? To be frank, the only fiction authors who are selling anything are those who are out promoting their work. Those that just want to write are not doing much at all. It’s a much tougher road to success in this segment, and with ebook sales declining 16% last year (again!), the outlets for self-published fiction authors are declining with it. I believe the higher quality material, like we publish from you, has been lost in a sea of self-published dreck that is cycling through the marketplace. Nobody is making any money — and you can’t even give it away FREE anymore. It is clearly at the end of the line. Like any economic depression, it takes time to recover, as failed entities go away, the strong ones become stronger than ever before. Fiction authors who want to stick with it, need to continue writing high quality work, but also need to promote their careers.  A publisher can help you create a near-perfect product, and place it in the book trade. But, unless the author is trying to make a name for themselves, success is highly improbable.
Of course, I would also encourage any of our talented fiction authors to consider coming over to the nonfiction side of the house. Local and regional history is hot. Is there a story in your area that needs to be told? Think about it.
If that doesn’t turn you on, historical fiction continues to sell well – or fiction with nonfiction hooks / settings.
More to come …

The trouble with fiction

Below is a table of book sales figures in 2014 and 2015 by category from our friends at Publishers Weekly:
Adult Non-Fiction
2014 2015 % Change
Art/Architecture/Design/Photography 6984 11172 60%
Biography/Autobiography/Memoir 22803 23544 3%
Business/Economics 16604 17155 3%
Cooking/Entertaining 15492 15495 0%
Computers 4652 4234 -9%
Crafts/Hobbies/Antiques/Games 8485 11486 35%
Health/Fitness/Medicine/Sports 21574 21557 0%
History/Law/Political Science 15220 17132 13%
House & Home/Gardening 2130 3184 49%
Humor 4897 4660 -5%
Performing Arts 7706 8321 8%
Reference 31989 33266 4%
Religion/Bibles 35798 35930 0%
Self Help 9848 11279 15%
Travel 7417 7620 3%
General Non-Fiction 28533 30009 5%
Total Adult Non-Fiction 240130 256042 7%
Adult Fiction
Classics 7578 9985 32%
Occult/Psychological/Horror 3329 2218 -33%
Religion 4174 4414 6%
Fantasy 7526 6600 -12%
Science Fiction
4142
5964
44%
Suspense/Thrillers
20111 21783 8%
Action Adventure 2239 2285 2%
Graphic Novels 8669 10591 22%
Western 2232 2186 -2%
Mystery/Detective 14304 12533 -12%
Romance 30885 28031 -9%
General Fiction 33524 35101 5%
Total Adult Fiction 138712 141690 2%
Juvenile Non-Fiction
Animals 4625 5128 11%
Biographies/Autobiographies 3979 4253 7%
Concepts
3790 4296 13%
Education/Reference/Language 6496 7651 18%
Games/Activities/Hobbies 12362 13703 11%
History/Sports/People/Places 11232 12753 14%
Holidays/Festivals/Religion 3895 4073 5%
Social Situations/Family/Health 2502 2766 11%
Total Juvenile Non-Fiction 48882 54624 12%
Juvenile Fiction
Animals 9051 10112 12%
Classics 9981 10161 2%
Concepts 8909 9307 4%
Science Fiction/Fantasy/Magic 45511 44578 -2%
History/Sports/People/Places 14107 13550 -4%
Holidays/Festivals/Religion 8621 9418 9%
Social Situations/Family/Health 27815 24932 -10%
General
52690 49325 -6%
Total Juvenile Fiction 176685 171383 -3%
Generally speaking, adult nonfiction outsells adult fiction nearly 2 to 1.  Among juvenile titles, fiction outsells nonfiction 3 to 1. Focusing in on the adult fiction categories, occult/horror/psychological, fantasy, and mystery/detective categories — three areas we publish heavily — have been in decline. Fiction on the rise includes science fiction, suspense thrillers and graphic novels. If you are a fiction writer thinking about switching to juvenile fiction, think again — overall this is in decline — probably due to the lack of a category-killing best-seller.
Among adult nonfiction, everything is on the rise except for computer and humor books. Thus, it is fertile ground for the vast majority of new titles.
I had mentioned in prior newsletters about our movement at Sunbury Press to balance out our fiction / nonfiction offerings.  In the past, we published 70% fiction, but found our sales were 70% nonfiction. The overall market bears this out.
So, what to do? A typical fiction title costs a little less to produce, but sells a lot less most of the time. It seems like our decision to mix in more nonfiction makes more sense.
But, given the number of returns, and the low sales, is fiction really worth the risk? If you are a fiction author, you should be asking yourself this question.
While we have no intention to eliminate our fiction categories, we clearly have to keep up or get ahead of the trends. Some of our fiction authors should consider writing in more desirable fiction categories, if they are so moved.  Also, a fiction author might find more success converting to nonfiction — write that history book or self-help book you’ve been thinking about.
The other thing to think about is format.  The fiction that does sell, sells better in ebook format than print, whereas nonfiction sells better in print.  Thus, fiction seems better suited for a low-risk, no returns, ebook-focused online marketing campaign, whereas nonfiction is best suited for more traditional discovery through earned media and SEO.
While some of this has been evident for a number of years, it is really hitting home as we deal with other changes in the industry. As the ebook business continues to consolidate and Amazon favors the big publishers and star authors (as I mentioned last month), there is less and less opportunity for the upcoming fiction writer, who is lost among a sea of low grade self-published material subject to steep discounts and turned-off readers. We need to cycle through this generation of free rubbish until the good independent press author can rise again.  In the meantime, we must together hack away at this jungle and find our way through!