According to an unfortunate statistic, 81% of the public thinks they have a book in them. “In them” doesn’t mean they swallowed a book. It means they want to write a book. This statistic tells me why it’s so hard for authors to sell books. Too many people are writing and too few people are reading.
Consider Basket Weaving
Baskets have been around longer than books. In general, people like baskets even if they’re not sure what they’re going to put in them. I can’t find any statistics claiming that a sizable percentage of the population thinks they have a basket in them, so if you’re writing, stop it and do something where there’s less competition.
When I first became an author, I set up sales tables for my books at harvest festivals, art in the park, and other local fairs where people sold their stuff. I noticed several things.
- People selling homemade crafts, including baskets, sold more than authors even though their baskets, potholders, paintings, etc. were priced higher than our books.
- Customers like being the first person to discover a new basket weaver, while readers are more like lemmings and won’t buy a book unless all of their friends already have it.
- Readers balk at an $8.00 paperback at a local festival while thinking nothing about slapping down $25 for a basket.
- Nobody asks a basket weaver if there’s a cheaper Kindle version. They buy the real thing rather than seeing the basket in a display and then rushing out to buy an e-basket from Amazon.
- People seldom compare your baskets with those by famous basket weavers because they don’t know any famous basket weavers, whereas readers are likely to say, “you’re no Nora Roberts.”
Baskets Are Practical
If a basket looks awesome, people will buy it even though they have no earthly idea what they’re going to do with it. In contrast, readers have a 100-point checklist they go through before they’re risk buying a book from an unknown author that begins with “did Nora Roberts write it” and ends with whether there’s a lot of sex and violence on the first page and possible a nude on the cover.
Baskets are probably used for collecting dust on top of kitchen cupboards more than anything else. Most people can’t reach that high anyway, so once the basket’s up there, that’s it. If you own cats, they’ll get in the baskets, Otherwise, the baskets are up there for decoration. Books, on the other hand, require an investment of time. It takes time to read them, time that’s precious in a busy schedule of surfing the net, texting, watching “reality” shows on television, playing video games, and other urgent activities. The basket takes no time at all for customers to use.
Even without bothering to gather provable evidence, I think I’ve shown here that writing is a losing proposition compared with basket weaving. Baskets might lead you to more riches than uploading a Kindle novel which just sits there.
We don’t need 81% of the population out there writing a book. That’s way too much supply. But basket weaving, that could be a powerful niche business that doesn’t even require you to establish a platform, identify your target audience, or do daily blog posts.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire.” Both novels are available in paperback, e-book and audiobook editions. Check my website for more information.