Unemployment Rate May Hold Steady at 4.8% in Today's Labor Dept. March Employment Report -- But There's Surprising Employment Growth in One Sector: Authors

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Employers probably added 190,000 workers to payrolls in March, capping what was likely the strongest quarter for U.S. economic growth in more than two years.

While the Labor Dept. is expected to report only flat overall job growth in its March employment report released today, new technology and increased market demand are causing job prospects to look surprisingly encouraging in one unexpected job category: book authors.

After several years of lukewarm growth, the number of new book titles published increased by 14 percent in the last available year, according to the latest figures from from R.R. Bowker, the publisher of Books in Print and other references. In some categories, the number of new titles has increased by 43 percent in a single year.

“In fact, it’s one of the faster growing job categories in the country, both as a full-time job and a source of part-time work and supplemental income,” says Arielle Ford, CEO of book-advisory site Everythingyoushouldknow.com and the book marketing guru who helped launch the careers of international best-sellers such as as Deepak Chopra and Jack Canfield. “The number of new titles published has grown from less than 114,000 in 1995 to 195,000 in 2004, which is almost a 100 percent increase. Few other job categories can boast that kind of expansion.”

With one national survey showing that 80% of Americans believe they have a book inside them just waiting to be written, it's not surprising that the number of new authors continues to skyrocket. “New authors are encouraged by changing technology that lets authors self-publish a book at a cost of as low as $500 -- and get it placed on Amazon.com for a fee of just $29,” says Ford. “Amazon is really an amazing entity. They will take two copies of any book in the country and place them in their warehouse for immediate shipment to buyers.”

Add to this the fact that books sales are moving steadily away from a bricks and mortar distribution model to a more “virtual” distribution model incorporating online sales. “Online sales account for 7 percent to 10 percent of total U.S. book sales annually -- up from virtually nil 10 years ago,” says Ford. “And now, a person can browse your book online just as if they are in a local bookstore -- and the more a person can see inside a book, the more online sales are generated.” More than half of the Seattle-based Amazon’s book sales are of books that consumers can search inside.

And writers have also been emboldened by success stories like that of Joe Vitale, an AuthorHouse writer who reached No. 3 on Amazon.com's best-seller list in 2003 with "Spiritual Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Formula for Easily Creating Wealth From the Inside Out." Richard Paul Evans' smash hit "The Christmas Box" began life as a self-published book, and the hit movie "Legally Blond" was taken from an unpublished book manuscript.

For those who want to try to do it themselves, one of the biggest expenses is hiring an on-demand publisher, says Ford. For example, BookSurgePublishing.com will print 50 copies of a 200-page softcover book for $10 per copy, or about $520 total with free shipping.

If you sell on Amazon, you will also need to buy a unique identifying number, called an ISBN, from R.R. Bowker, which sells the numbers in blocks of 10 for $245 at http://www.isbn.org. (Or you can buy just one for $145 by calling Bowker at 877-310-7333, ext. 4.) You'll also need a bar code, which is available for $10 from Bar Code Graphics (http://www.barcode-us.com).

Add in $25 for postage, plus Amazon's annual fee of $29 per seller, that brings your total expense for one book for one year to a total of just $730. For every copy sold, Amazon takes 55 percent of the listed price. You can find out more about this at http://www.amazon.com/advantage. Amazon requires a 45 percent discount off the cover price and will carry at least two copies of anyone's book at its warehouses.

“With self-publishing, authors bear the design, printing and distribution costs of their books, but they collect up to 90 percent of the profit from sales,” says Ford.

But it’s not all that easy, Ford says. To really make it work financially, you need to determine what your niche is, what your passion is, then create a line of products to keep your audience excited and meet the market demand."

To increase profits, Ford notes, authors often sell from their own Web sites, at seminars and to colleges, companies and professionals, such as medical professionals, clergy, or therapists whose clients need the author's specialized content. According to one study, independent publishers keep selling their titles for six to 14 years.

“Getting your book printed is easy, getting it sold is a little tougher,” says Ms. Ford, whose recently launched everythingyoushouldknow.com website provides some free hints as well as an entire marketing kit that prospective authors can purchase.

For budding authors looking to start a career, what are the hot areas in publishing? Religious and spiritual books are one major growth area, says Ford.

“Religious and spiritual books generated U.S. sales of nearly $338 million in 2003, which represented a 37 percent growth over the previous year,” she says. “Last year’s study, “Book Industry Trends 2005," predicted a 50 percent increase in religious book sales over the next five years.”

And the self-help field continues strong, Ford says. According to Bowker's Books In Print database, there are 31,073 books classified as "Self-Help" currently in print. In 2005, 2,924 new self-help titles were published, while 3,471 new self-help books hit the shelves in 2004. So far in 2006, 492 new self-help titles have been published.

But authors looking to pen best-sellers might want to steer clear of the gardening sector. According to the National Gardening Association, sales of gardening books have declined steadily in the past five years. Last year, 8.2 million households bought a gardening book, down from a peak of 11 million in 2001.

"As baby boomers' backs give out, so does their will to garden," explains Ford.

Arielle Ford can be reached at 858-454-3314

or 858-775-3318 for radio or print interviews on all topics related to the book industry.

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