It's been an interesting year. 2022 was Brick Cave's first "full schedule" year as the Pandemic has continued. As such, we were all over the West Coast of the US, finally winding down with our hometown Mesa Book Festival a couple weeks ago.
We saw a number of trends in 2022. For example, our ebook sales declined at roughly the same rate that they had declined from 2020 to 2021. Declines were also seen in audio book and hard bound edition sales, although the declines were much smaller in scope. What surged for us in 2022 were paperback sales, which to some extend was expected with our return to live events, but even expecting some pent up demand, our sales of paperback this year should come in at an all time high for the press.
Typically, Brick Cave's performance is a micro reflection of larger trends we see play out in the publishing industry- in a weird way providing some validation to the work that we do. This year was no different, as we saw rises and falls in sales roughly in line each month with industry stats.
What are we watching? Social.
We have watched TikTok as a platform for two years now, working on a plan to engage the platform in a fun and brand educational way. Nothing new to report here, but we see engagement with the platform as a bigger priority in 2023. Our social platform mix will remain the same for 2023, at least for the start of the year, with the platforms for us with the most opportunity for growth being Pinterest and TikTok. Social media overall, in our opinion, has become a land of diminishing engagement over time. While we grew our follower base for the year over 20% from 2021, the platforms themselves are finding challenges in making organic content connect with their users. Some major landscape changes in social do have us monitoring alternative platforms for viability in the coming year, but having just wound down a huge social exam process of our own recently, we are not finding the landscape to be changing as of yet.
We are expecting to continue to grow our social audience, with another 20% growth in 2023 not being an unreasonable expectation.
What are we watching? Retail.
As a publisher of books, our goal is to make it as easy as possible for readers to access the stories we publish. From day one, Amazon has been the premier sales channel for our works, outperforming al other channels. From day two, we have been working to diversify that sales funnel, not to diminish Amazon but to build out other channels. That work is ongoing, and one of our most successful efforts has been putting our authors out in the community. The work starts to blur the line between publisher and publicist a bit, but the upside as it relates to book sales have been tangible. We'll be investing in that even more in 2023.
With ebook sales normalizing a bit following the pandemic surge, we are looking to see an increase in ebook sales from our 2022 performance. Because performance numbers in both audio books and hard bound editions we anemic in 2022, there really is nowhere else to go but up and we make more titles available in both formats. Barring any break out titles in our genres, the sales environment should be similar to this year, with the growing concern of an economic recession providing a backdrop against a continued difficult reading engagement environment.
What are we watching? Events.
Following a record setting year at the Tucson Festival of Books, the event schedule was a bit lackluster through the middle of the year, with events producing similar of lower results to their pre-pandemic performance. The year capped well, with our hometown book festival not just bringing us a record year, but actually outperforming other, larger events on the calendar, something unheard of in pre-pandemic times. Having launched our own event, BiblioCon, in 2022, we did not have clear focus on what we wanted the event to accomplish as it relates to sales, so we will be looking to refine and present a better event in 2023. We are not planning any additional events in 2023, and thus far, we have been approved to vend at all of the same events as we appeared at in 2022.
Overall, we are planning for an increase in event performance in 2023. As we become further removed from the central health concerns of the pandemic, we should see attendance start to normalize. Because many of the events we attend are free to the public, we expect to see more people, if not more buyers.
What are our 2023 Goals?
We are rolling into 2023 with three core goals for the year, keeping things simple and targeted.
Goal One: Strengthen Administrative Support
In 2023, Brick Cave has committed to addicting additional admin infrastructure to keep the processes of publishing, promotion and reporting moving forward. In 2022, we added new editorial staff to prepare for new publishing opportunities and we have added a new administrative staff in 2023 to support those efforts even more.
Goal Two: Stronger Branding Promotion
In 2023, we are looking to lead with the "Brand" of Brick Cave a lot more in our efforts to create awareness. Recently, a 'comprehensive' list of publishers was distributed, and while it would not be unexpected that a micro press such as Brick Cave would not be included, it did renew our motivation to do more in the area of industry awareness.
Goal Three: Expanding Roster
Our current author roster, which did have some changes in 2022, has remained mostly consistent over the last four to six years. Our goal is to add additional talent to Brick Cave in 2023, balancing that additional work with the process we have in place to keep from overwhelming the press. You'll see a lot more content from us in 2023 about the profile of the authors that would be a great fit to our press, and we will be looking to seek a number of submissions in the new year.
All in all, 2023 will be what every year is for a small press, absolutely critical to survival. That being said, 15 years after we started, we're still here, ready to face it.
Happy new year everyone!
Brick Cave Media