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Author Topic: Bad for stores, good for authors?  (Read 3889 times)
Ed
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« on: June 28, 2010, 06:48:50 PM »

I caught the tail end of a conversation on the radio today. They were talking about how bricks and mortar stores are under increasing pressure because of online stores such as Amazon, and the various other distractions modern people find instead of reading books. The upshot was that highstreet shops are apparently turning to selling books by local authors in an effort to find themselves a niche the online stores can't encroach all that much upon. So that's good news, right? As long as you can get your pricing right, it seems to bode well for independent publishers and small presses, doesn't it?

On another tack, I think it's great for choice, too. Books that might never have got past the editors in big publishing houses now have a real chance at reaching the public, which can only be good for choice, diversity, and ultimately progress.
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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2010, 03:23:07 AM »

I heard a bit about this, too. I think it's Waterstones who are going the local author route, whereas WH Smith are trying out a Richard & Judy bookclub type promotion (it may indeed be Richard & Judy). By all accounts the R&J thingy (a bit of a copy of Oprah's thingy) made millionaires out of several hitherto unknown authors, and this week was the cut-off date for publishers to send their chosen books to R&J (or whomever). So certainly, for WH Smith, you still had to have gone the regular route, first.

I've not seen any local author promotions in my local Waterstons other than, over the years, a few stands highlighting the latest releases from authors who happen to be local - i.e. once again, authors who have already gone the regular route, found a mainstream publisher, and now need a little push on their books.

It'll be interesting to see whether Waterstones widen their remit to include small press books, independantly or self-published books. I suspect the latter will be off-bounds simply because there's no quality control.

The bottom line is that the new generations simply don't read the way we used to. Maybe they never did. Maybe folks like us were the exceptions in our generation? But computer and video games, chatting on line, texting, dozens of TV channels, YouTube, all of this stuff - often all at the same time - has much more appeal to the soundbite generation than sitting down with a novel. You folks, aside, I only know one or two people who read regularly - by that, I mean always have a book on the go. And they're all my age or older. On the flipside, I can name scores of people who haven't read a novel of their own volition in years. In some case, ever. In most cases they're younger than me. A lot younger.

The answer has to come from writers themselves, I think. Individual writers have to work out a plan for themselves - it may be to start up their own imprints and build up an impressive set of reviews that over time could create enough marketing material to get into local stores and from there, eventually, into local branches of bigger chains. It may be to make a name through getting regular placements in key magazines and building a reputation in what's left of the genres. It may be to build up a decent CV of anthology credits, and from there a website, and then an intense publicity campaign for a first novel. It may be to attend every single appropriate conference with your self published book under your arm, a thick sheaf of great reviews from well respected writers and agents and reviewers under your other arm...

It all comes down to having to generate a lot of publicity and having a product that will back it up that publicity campaign. If one does that - and, say it again brother!-  the product backs it up - there's no reason that anyone can't succeed.

Unless, of course, you're a lazy bastard like me...

Derek
« Last Edit: June 29, 2010, 03:25:38 AM by delboy » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2010, 03:49:25 AM »

Some branches of Waterstones already take 'local' books, but because of 'administration fees' take far more of the cover price than they would from any other type of book, so the author ends up with chickenfeed. It's a load of ******** frankly. Just another way for them to make money at the expense of authors. Independent bookstores are still the best bet for small press publications, and that doesn't necessarily mean tiny shops -- Foyles is a good example of a major independent that will take niche books. As for Waterstones, you're better off just having your books on their computer rather than in their shops, as then you'll get the same sort of return from online sales as you would from amazon, which might not be great, but it's better than the proverbial.
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digitaldeath
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2010, 04:51:42 AM »

I have discusssed this with my local Waterstones, they are happy to work as an individual store. They wanted it backed up with local advertising and a well promoted signing but as I don't have 1,000 copies lying around I didn't talk fees. Last time I had a title in Waterstones they agreed a sensible price, I think it may have been 20% but without noticable promotion they were lost on the bookshelves and were selling at one a month, or slower. The local art and bookshop had three titles for 2 years but only had POS promotion and sold only a couple. They said people ask for some guy called Stefan King? Obviously you need the bookseller to be enthusiastic.
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jingold
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« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2010, 06:25:19 AM »

Admittedly, I don't know much about the UK market, but I was a manager at Borders for years, in addition to being the local  interest buyer.  We had a huge Local Interest section, but it still only comprised about 1% of yearly sales, and the majority of that was non-fiction.  The fiction--unless you were someone like Michael Chabon--tended to sit on the shelves collecting dust unless it was featured somewhere in the local media.

Amazon is only part of the problem.  At least 20% of bookstore annual sales once came from DVDs and CDs.  That number has been declining for years, and nothing has sprung up that can replace those sales.  Digital downloads show the greatest potential, IMO, but they're still not mainstream enough.

Of course, Borders as a company kinda sucks, so that may also be part of the problem.
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delboy
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« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2010, 07:02:46 AM »

It's a good point - in my answer I was thinking purely of fiction. In all the local shops there are masses of local non-fiction books - from all sorts of publishers. I reckon were I to write a book on the history of elver poaching in the Severn I'd have no problems getting it stocked.

The local press are always willing to write up a story on writers, too. Which is great. although I've never approached them myself. I'm waiting for something worthy to come out of my fingers... But almost monthly the daily paper features a half or three-quarter page article on a new local author, sitting there with a big grin on his/her face and a pile of books on a table in front of them.

Like I said earlier - it's about doing the hard work of self-publicity. I'm sure that if one was up for it one could get a radio slot on the local station, an article in the local paper, some mentions in local magazines, and (by timing all that with the perfection of a German one-two) get a few piles of books in some local shops as well and thence make some sales. Do that often enough and - with a bit of geographical licence - in as many towns as possible, and you're on your way...

Derek
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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2010, 08:25:47 AM »

When I was pushing a short story magazine selling at £1 ages ago I was going door to door, I ended up moving about 20-25 an hour. Whether it would work with a book I am not sure as it is a single genre.  It would start local interest though. My contact in Time Warner[or whoever they are now] said that if a mainstream publisher sees that interest in an author is rising they are likely to show an interest.
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Craig Herbertson
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« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2010, 08:21:19 AM »

When I was pushing a short story magazine selling at £1 ages ago I was going door to door, I ended up moving about 20-25 an hour. Whether it would work with a book I am not sure as it is a single genre.  It would start local interest though. My contact in Time Warner[or whoever they are now] said that if a mainstream publisher sees that interest in an author is rising they are likely to show an interest.

I can only make a good comparison with music. When you play live you make the most sales at a live venue. We could sell two or three Cds at a small venue and one a month on downloads When my partner walked out at the end with the Cd's in his hand and pestered everyone that went up to 15 or 16. Direct sales is the way - I used to think it was pushy but so many time people say 'hey, I didn't know you had CD's' despite them sitting at the front of the stage and me mentioning it about five times on stage. I guess its the same with books
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