Books and Movies

As a rookie writer, I have learned many, many things about the book business. Coming from a traditional retail and wholesale background, I have found this industry very different, interesting and at times frustrating. In the book business, things have changed over the past few decades, with traditional bricks and mortars book selling hotly contested by on-line purchasing and downloadable e-books. Who would have thought that any person having a desire to write a book could easily self-publish in the early millennia. But you can, I did and it’s been a fascinating experience.

With any experience in a new industry, there are learnings. I have had many. But the most telling for me has been the social habits of people today and how it relates to book reading. Reading a book for pleasure falls into the same category as watching TV, going to a movie, exploring the internet or playing a video game. All of these sedentary leisure activities compete for each other’s time. However, these leisure activities vary greatly in time spent, intensity and frequency.

During the late 90's and early millennia, I worked in the DVD rental business for over a decade, so I have a keen perspective on the comparison of the movie business vs the book business. When in the selling phase of promoting my book, I found myself thinking back on the movie business and how it differs. After all, both activities tell stories, so there must be similarities.

Here is what I know: When a typical movie releases in the theatre, approximately 60% of movie goers see it in the first week. 80% of the remaining 40% see the movie in the next 3 weeks. After 4 weeks, the remaining percentage of people who attend a movie is so small it hardly registers.  A blockbuster movie will have longer legs, but the percentage remain about the same. Movie goers get instant gratification. They see the movie in 2 hours, then generate stories about the movie to their friends, which gets more people to the theatre. The whole process is fast. Not so with a book.

When a typical book is released, a small percentage of early adopters buy the book, read it and tell others who may buy the book as well. But with books, they don’t necessarily read the book right away. In fact, I have found that people will buy a book but then search to find the time to read it. Further, most people do not complete the book in once sitting. Most read a chapter at a time, one day at a time. The process takes much, much longer, unless of course it is a blockbuster book. These are often books written by authors who have released several books beforehand and have built a following (think Harry Potter), only then do they really start selling books well.

When you compare movies and books, movies are in and out quickly. In the theatres for a few months at best, then off to pay TV, then soon after Netflix. With books, it could take 6 months or more for people to buy the book, read the book, generate stories about the book, with more people buying the book. Books have longer legs, movies don’t. Books are the tortoise, movies are the hare.

Feedback that i have received from people who have read my book “The Hovering Game” have found it to be an enjoyable, easy read. But I know getting more people to read the book takes time. If it makes people happy, then I am good with that, regardless of the time it takes.

If you ever get the notion to write a book, my advice is, be patient, like a monk!