Tag Archives: buying

Writing: Mass Marketing & Book Stores

Yesterday I wrote about the demise of bookstores and received this reply from Carolyn Gordon http://creativewellness-carolyn.blogspot.com

I found this an interesting look at the book shop industry. My position on this is as a writer and avid reader. I have to admit I don’t have terribly books published as yet, and I get most of my books from the library, but I have a few ideas.

I’m wondering about the rise in self-publishing. I feel partnerships of self-publishers and independent booksellers could really make a go of it if they got organised.
Self-publishers would have a place to distribute their books, booksellers would have a large range of quirky books to sell.

Maybe I’m a dreamer who had fantasies of running a bookshop and reading books all day, but it’s an idea. Ideas are good things, aren’t they?

Of course all publishers have distribution warehouses, whether their own or a contracted one, with reliable shipping and distribution. If the publisher is a small press, they may mail out/ship their own books. Distribution is the hardest part of the game. You might have the greatest book since the Bible but if people don’t see it, they can’t buy it. The other part of this is, of course, advertising.
Now we get to Carolyn’s point about self-publishers and independent book sellers. The problems I just mentioned can affect the self-published author. How do you advertise and distribute your book? Should you be successful in advertising, how do you get the book to a hundred different bookstores across the country and in a timely manner? I have edited a fair number of manuscripts, some of them then self-published to different success levels. The most successful was the one called Where to Walk Your Dog in Vancouver. Ross had me edit for grammar, consistency and style, as well as checking the page proofs. He did his own layout and then took the book to a printers. The cost breaks are usually at 2000 books. He also found someone to distribute his book and it was region specific. He sold out his first run.
With mass market publishing, publishers may print 50,000-100,000 books or more…or less. Hardcovers would start at 2000 and go up depending on the popularity of the author. This model may have changed in recent years, which I found out when I asked a published friend when her book (in hard cover and trade paper) was going to go into mass market. She said her books didn’t sell enough to warrant mass. In the days of old new authors would be published in the paperback format first and only if their names and stories caught on would they go to hard cover or trade. Nowadays the publisher would rather only make 2000 books than have 45,000 returned.
So a self-publisher may have to deal with what to do with books that don’t sell. It may be bite the bullet and leave them there until they’re put in the super cheap discount bin, or going around to local bookstores dropping off and picking up copies. At the bookstore I was at we sometimes had local people come by with books and comic/graphic novels. They were often sold on consignment, which can be 60-40, 50-50, 40-60 or any other amount in between. Often the books didn’t sell and the author never came back for them.
Self-published books can also range from really good to abysmal. There is no editor or publishing house saying, this doesn’t meet a set of standards. At the same time when publishing houses have a set limit on what they can and will publish it allows an author another way for their work to be seen. A smart author will get some professional copy editing. It will make the book look more professional but there is no guarantee that it will sell. Understanding or paying someone for graphic design and layout will also help.
So yes, a bookseller might take self-published books but it would take some severe dedication on the part of the the self-published author. There is the in-between world of print on demand (POD), which is being used moreso by authors and publishers, especially those that run small presses. I don’t know enough about this area to talk knowledgably on it yet.
Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under art, consumer affairs, entertainment, erotica, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, shopping, Writing

The Demise of Bookstores

I spent many many years working as a book buyer in a bookstore. It was a bookstore specializing in science fiction and fantasy, as well as books to do with cartoons, animation, fantasy art and genre films. I used to know every book coming out. The bookstore was mostly a comic book store that had the book area as well as the gaming area, which had started with Dungeons & Dragons.

The comics branched into all sorts of merchandise, made hugely popular by Todd McFarlane and his toys and of course his Spawn comic creation. Dungeons & Dragonsexpanded into numerous other roleplaying games and became predominated by Warhammer. The books, well they went the way of the dinosaurs when the owner decided they weren’t profitable.

Of course the reasoning was faulty because most bookstores keep their regular customers coming in by buying the new monthly releases. All publishers have new releases and most of the major ones have both paperback and hardcovers, with the larger and more popular selections coming out before the seasonal holidays and the second largest for the ending of the school year (usually the college year but coinciding with summer as well).

The owner didn’t pay his bills on time, which meant the mass market monthly releases didn’t come out and though some people were always buying the older books (series) too, many shoppers read all the new books every month. It was a flawed logic but it still killed the book aspect of the store, except for the art books.

Over those years there were fights by many independent booksellers to protect their rights. The megastores like Chapters came along and got super deep discounts from the publisher, which meant they could lower the price of their books. Whereas the small independent bookstore would buy maybe 25 instead of 2500 of a book and couldn’t lower the price. The difference in the two types of store is that the bigger chain stores often had staff who knew nothing about books and a new book remained on the shelf for two weeks only, then was stripped and sent back. (stripping is where the cover is removed from the paperback and returned for credit since returning the cheaply printed books is not economically feasible).

The small bookstore would tend to keep a larger variety of titles on the shelf for longer, perhaps specializing in genres (antiquarian, fantasy/sf, crime/mystery, religious), and the staff would be highly knowledgeable, as well as lovers of reading themselves. But how does a little mom and pop operation compete against a corporation with business men drawing up plans for increasing revenues? They can’t and most bookstore owners do it for love, hoping they can survive, pay the rent and maybe live off the proceeds. You don’t get rich running a bookstore.

The independent booksellers had to band together across Canada to keep themselves from sinking. It worked…to a degree. In Vancouver, of the three bookstores that specialized in science fiction and fantasy (The Comicshop, Granville Books, and White Dwarf Books) only one survives, White Dwarf. Chapters expanded their sections somewhat but you’ll be hard pressed to find something really odd or obscure, or an older series but an other than top list author, unless you go to White Dwarf.

It is a constant threat and on top of the big box stores these days, there is Amazon, with their big discounts. Unfortunately people are looking more for the discounts and saving a buck or two (that they may then pay in shipping) and foregoing service and knowledgeable staff. I’ll always be a champion of the little independent store whether it’s selling pet food or books. To me, the homogenization of our society into sameness and banality will kill individual thought and creativity.

Maybe we are heading toward a completely electronic society, but not yet. With the economic crunch, it will be the demise of some bookstores and this article is worrying. http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/story/2009/02/02/bookexpo-cancelled.html This happens again and again and will happen yet again, but a plus note is that booksellers are tenacious and hopefully book lovers will survive. Here’s to the little guy, the underdog and a search for the unique shopping experience in the world of mass merchandising.

1 Comment

Filed under art, consumer affairs, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, shopping, Writing