More on Category & Average Selling Price
So the bones of the category analysis makes it look like Fiction is the way forward. Before we decide if that is a real picture of events we need to dig a little deeper. For one thing we need to look at a critical piece of information, the Average Selling Price (SEE NOTE 1).
What is Average Selling Price (ASP) & Why it is important?
1) ASP is the average unit price that a book sold at. In other words, revenue generated by sales, divided by units sold. This doesn’t mean every book sold at that price, many would sell for more, many for less but the AVERAGE price it sold at is what we are after.
2) ASP is important because it give you a sense of what discount a book was sold at (EG if the RRP €14.99 but the ASP is €11.49, then it is very likely at least one market player is selling the book at a fair discount to RRP)
3) From a publishers perspective if you see a book selling at a low ASP relative to the RRP, then you can guess that the publisher gave a decent sales discount to the retailer in order to see that book selling at a hefty discount.
A challenge to our fiction first thinking
When you dig into the ASP figures you can see that each fiction unit sold is worth considerably less than each unit of many other categories sold. This comes to light very dramatically when you look at the Top Ten Categories for 2008 by ASP.
What crops up there is quite amazing:
For one thing only one of the top ten categories by revenue appears and that, Food & Drink General, at number 10.
For another you can see that many of these categories are populated by low volume titles. The entire Architecture category is made up of one title. Which gives the interesting result that it generated the best return per unit in the whole Irish Consumer Market. Quite an impressive achievement.
That list also cries out, special interest (or niche) Local History, Names & Genealogy for instance has a juicy ASP as does Natural History: General. These are categories that are unlikely to face stiff competition but are equally difficult to break into without niche links, know how and knowledge.
Here is a nice one for you, National & Regional Cuisine is made up of two titles, both published by Avoca, who must be in effect, Ireland’s most successful self-publishers.
So, is it time to write fiction off?
Is Fiction all flash and underneath no action? Well yes and no. Clearly on a unit by unit basis, selling fiction is less remunerative. As Ivan O’Brien commented on Part II of this series that:
Non-fiction is split into heaps of sections, while fiction is only in a few, so it’s apples-and-oranges time. I guess the sums that would be worth doing would be to take, say, the top 1000 general fiction and top 1000 non-fiction (using the major heading rather than subdivisions) and seeing what the distribution of sales and revenues would be … without doing the sums, I would expect that fiction is dramatically skewed towards bestsellers, with non-fiction giving a meaningful return much further down the chart
To some degree he is right. General & Literary Fiction titles account for 45% of the top 100 but only 8% of the titles between 900 and 1000. Even at that they held their own account for about 8% of the units and about 7% of the Revenue for those 100 titles. It is still quite a skew away from fiction towards that end of the list.
General & Literary Fiction titles only accounted for 240 of the top 1000 Titles (24%), yet they accounted for 30.96% of the value and 32.86% of the volume. So despite that skew in favour of top selling titles, the Category still outperforms overall. That is worth something!
What does all of this teach us?
1) That the ICM Top 1000 is heavily populated by Fiction titles (24%)
2) That Fiction sells at a relatively low ASP (€ 10.71)
3) That despite that, Fiction outperforms as a category in terms of Volume & Revenue
4) That within the Fiction list, revenue and volume skew very heavily towards the top 500
None of that removes the attraction of Fiction. If anything it reinforces the idea that when you get Fiction right you can sell large quantities of it and because you are printing in higher runs, units costs are lower so even at a lower ASP it makes money. Still while the story must be fiction works at some level, we cannot ignore the subtext that I have hinted at: Non-Fiction can be very lucrative.
Part IV of this series will look more closely at Non-Fiction and why it is an attractive publishing sector. Part V will look at publishers and then, Finally I will wrap up with a conclusion that will mark art VI!
Still some work ahead of me!
It is important to remember during this phase of the analysis that Nielsen reports RETAIL SALES. If you want an accurate picture of what the PUBLISHER gets then divide the revenue figure by something like 2. This of course varies per title and by publisher but you’ll get a sense of the likely revenue from a sale if you follow that rule. To avoid confusion, I’ll continue the analysis based on the actual RETAIL SALES reported by Nielsen.