Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Book Sales: The Trump Effect


Yesterday I read an article that left me thinking about politics and book sales. In "Is Trump Ruining Book Sales?" the author, Morgan Jerkins, makes several observations about what I'll call the Trump Effect. One author cited claims that any books that aren't political and/or dystopian aren't really selling "in a world where reality has become stranger than fiction." Politics has become mass entertainment that's so compelling mere books have a hard time competing.

The US political spectacle has affected me both a reader and a writer--and I'm neither American nor resident in the US. Since the nonstop circus began, I have had to force myself to pick up a novel every now and then when the anxiety about my non-reading hits hard. I've always been a voracious reader but now I spend my reading time on online articles. When I do pick up a book it's usually nonfiction. I'm trying to avoid political articles but the lure is strong. However--and this is where things get really interesting--I'm finding that my book sales are better than ever before. I've gotten a royalty check every month since January 2016, and since January 2017 those royalties have been substantial enough to make a difference to my budget. It seems escapist genres, at least, are doing quite well despite the overall decline in sales.

Apart from the verifiable claim that overall book sales are in decline, the article is short on hard data, so I'll do an informal survey here. Has the ongoing political saga made a difference to your reading habits? And if you're a writer, have you noticed any difference in your sales? Enquiring minds want to know.

13 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

It hasn't affected my reading at all. that pattern is so firmly established it would likely take an apocalypse to disturb it. My personal book sales have remained low.

Neil Waring said...

My reading remains the same and book sales are on a bit of an uptick, not much. I really do not believe politics changes much in the world of books.

Rushell Rousseau said...

This is wild. I usually read one book a week, for much of the last ten years. I love reading. I read both fiction and non-fiction. Books that I did not finish reading, I'd put them to the side and continue with others. In a few months or a few weeks, I'll pick them back up, start at the beginning and read through the end.
I call myself a reader, everyone around me knows that. I receive books as gifts 90% of the time. However, since December 2016, I have not been able to read a book to completion. I am startled and confused. Life is different!
I have tried to get through many different genres of books and was unsuccessful. I've even tried to read books that are collections of unrelated short stories- all to no avail.
As such, I haven't purchased a book since January.
I've been attempting to find a safe balance between staying informed and not knowing too much. Yet still, I find myself reading less blogs even and more current events articles.

Linda Thorne said...

I'm back to mentioning I only have the one book until I get the second out, and I haven't noticed any improvement in sales since Trump. Maybe I need the second to get the improvement. Not sure. I read about the same amount of books as I did prior to the "Trump effect." Things are definitely different in the political arena, which blows me away when I see the stock market so high and unemployment so low. I don't think there's a connection, but still . . .

Liane Spicer said...

Charles, good for you. I'm reading all right--just not much fiction right now.

Liane Spicer said...

@Neil Waring: You might very well be right.

Liane Spicer said...

@Rushell: Yes! That's what's been happening to me. I think you hit the nail on the head with "I've been attempting to find a safe balance between staying informed and not knowing too much." It's a real battle for me.

Liane Spicer said...

@Linda: The overall effects of the politics on publishing are mostly conjecture right now, but one thing we can all agree on is that these are strange days. Some of us are personally affected, some very much so. I know writers who are so distressed/distracted they have not been able to write at all since the election.

Linda Thorne said...

Liane, I agree. I try to stay as far away from politics as I can on social media, but many of my friends say that can't keep away from it and are very affected.

G.B. Miller said...

As a rule, I do not read anything political, either non-fiction or fiction. I probably know more than most of the commenters here about the national political scene* (starting in the late 18th century right thru the current debacle), so reading anything remotely political, either current or historical is verboten in my household.

My current book sales are non-existent since I don't have that much of a catalog to begin with and realistically, it may be not until 2018 before I can get anything published (last book published was in 2016).

*no insult was intended or should be inferred by that particular sentence. I spent 1996-2003 working at the CT State Library helping microfilm old CT newspapers, thus I know all I ever wanted to know about the national political scene.

Liane Spicer said...

@GB Miller: Wow, I hear you re the politics.

Yes, generally you need a bit of a backlist before you start seeing significant sales. Just keep going. I haven't published anything new since 2016 but I did publish my existing catalog to a new market, Google Play, this year. Time for me to buckle down again. Life goes on, whatever the politics.

S.J. Francis said...

Thanks so much for sharing this interesting post. President Trump hasn't affected my reading habits or my sales. Though, I have noticed an increase in book reviews for my book to amazon this year. Are the two related? Haven't a clue.
Cheers!
S.J. Francis

Liane Spicer said...

@SJFrancis: You're welcome! Congratulations re the increase in reviews. That is awesome. I've given up on stressing about reviews, especially on Amazon. iBooks, where I get 90% of my sales, seems to have a star rating system that's separate from the review system and it's working very well for me.