Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

02/26/2011

Booksellers Need to Become ‘Jack-of-All-Trades’ to Flourish


I just love that old term ‘jack-of-all-trades’…It sounds so self relient and totally competent! Outsourcing, a darling concept  in the corporate (and government world), is now OUT in the publishing and bookselling universe…at least the messy business side of that universe.

The new buzz word for a biz model being a more inclusively competent, ‘jack-of-all-trades’ type is to be ‘vertically’ organized as opposed to ‘horizontally’ (outsourcing of some functions) organized. 

As is expressed so succinctly by Michael Wolf in his Crush or Get Crushed: Why B&N Needs to Be a Publisher article on his great blog GigaOM :

Let’s face it, the total pie in books is going to shrink, and the long and unwieldy value-chain from writer to customer is going to collapse. Amazon knew this a long time ago, and that’s why they’ve been moving to disintermediate the publisher and the wholesaler in the e-book world by becoming, essentially, the entire value chain themselves.

One ingredient this new self-sufficient biz side of the publishing and bookselling universe will ALWAYS need, of course, are the writers (creators) of great content! Writers are the really one indispensable part of the equation and they too are now becoming their own publishers (mostly through online publishers/e-retailers like Amazon, etc)…but, watch out…one day we may be able to eliminate the likes of Amazon, too.   

This now from Michael Wolf on GigaOM: 

Talk about frustrating: This week Barnes & Noble announced topline growth year over year and its first profit in four quarters, and how was it rewarded for its hard work?

With a pounding by Wall Street.

The drubbing was due in part to the news the company was eliminating its dividend in order to invest more in its digital business, but there’s no doubt the recent Borders bankruptcy filing weighed on the minds of investors. After all, B&N is the Coke to Borders’ Pepsi, and it’s easy to assume what happens to one will eventually inflict the other.

But as this excellent answer on Quora by former Borders employee Mark Evans points out, Borders failed for numerous reasons, the most important of which was its outsourcing of online to Amazon. What B&N realized — and Borders didn’t — was you don’t become a true online retailer by outsourcing the business, especially to what may be your number one competitor.

Read and learn more

11/29/2009

The Keys to a Barnes and Noble Book Signing


Getting book signings at major bookstore chains is a real plus in marketing and selling your book. However, if you are self-published or have a print-on-demand (POD) book, it is more difficult to arrange these type of book signings.

But, do not despair! There are ways around the obstacles to obtain major bookstore signings AND other means available to you: independent bookstore signings and speaking engagements with backroom sales that allow you to keep more of the retail price, to name two.

Sallie Goetsch, a writer and small business consultant, has written an insightful article on ezinearticles.com explaining how to best obtain book signings, what the major chain book stores have to go through to provide you with one and what you need to have in place to land a major signing. I present her article here for your information:

Dan Poynter wrote in Successful Nonfiction that authors should never host autograph parties. Instead of merely signing their books, the thing to do was offer “mini-seminars.” In an August 27th, 2006 interview with Tee Morris for “The Survival Guide to Writing Fantasy,” Annie Hololob, Community Relations Manager for the Harrisonburg, VA Barnes & Noble, confirms the value of making your book signing into an event. (Tee himself apparently has a habit of staging sword fights during his book signings, which definitely livens things up.) If you want to have an event at a Barnes & Noble, the Community Relations Manager is the person to talk to. This is the person who knows whether the store’s customers are the right market for your book, or whether you’d do better at a store in a different city. (My local Barnes & Noble, for instance, doesn’t even have author events, just a children’s story time.) This is the person whose good side you want to get on.

There are two important things you need before you start assembling your press kit and cultivating the CRM at your local Barnes & Noble, however. Without them, there’s no way the store can carry your books. Large chain bookstores have to operate by certain rules in order to stay in business, and those rules may exclude you and your book for reasons that have nothing to do with your merits as a writer.

Distribution

In order for BN to order, stock, and sell your books, they have to be available through a wholesaler or distributor such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor–one BN already has a relationship with. That means BN can buy the book at a wholesale price, usually 40-60% off the cover price, without going to extra trouble to special-order it. If your book is traditionally published, there should be no problem with this. One of the reasons for choosing to go with a major publisher or established small press is that they are already BN Vendors of Record. The traditionally self-published, those like Dan Poynter who start their own publishing companies, can become Vendors of Record by filling out the BN Publisher Information Form.

The authors who run into real trouble in the distribution department are those with POD books. These books may be good-looking and high quality. They may even be available through Baker & Taylor or Ingram. But unless ordered in very high quantities, they are offered only for the retail price. BN’s standard order when dealing with a new publisher is two copies of every title. Even an order of 30-50 books for a signing isn’t going to provide enough of a profit margin to make it worth the bookstore’s while. And because Print on Demand books are literally printed only when ordered, each copy is much more expensive to produce than a comparable mass-produced book.

Returns

The other thing that keeps POD books-and their authors-out of chain stores like Barnes & Noble is the lack of a returns policy. Bookstores expect to be able to return all unsold books to a publisher, and not to pay the publisher for any of the books until after they sell. Unsold books aren’t even returned intact: the covers get ripped off and they’re sent away to be pulped. (I kid you not. I was horrified to learn this, even after reading all those warnings about not buying books without covers.)

POD houses don’t warehouse books and can’t provide that kind of returns policy, and very few self-published authors are going to want to. But no matter how barbaric a practice pulping is, it’s a fact of life at all major book outlets, and Barnes & Noble didn’t invent it. Nor does a Community Relations Manager have the power to bend the rules about this, however flexible s/he may be about the form your signing takes if you can meet the store’s requirements.

Alternatives

If you’re a self-published or POD author and touring the major chain bookstores is something you can’t live without, you can try to interest a traditional publisher in your book, though you need to make sure that you really own the book in its current form before you do this. (Most POD houses lay claim to the final, formatted version of your book, though the content remains yours.)

Or you can skip Barnes & Noble altogether and hold your book events elsewhere. Independent bookstores are often in a better position than large chains to take a chance on an author, though they, too, need to be able to buy the books at a low enough price to make a profit. Public libraries are almost always willing to accept the donation of a book or two and host a reading.

And, of course, if you make your living as a speaker, back-of-room sales may be your best bet and an opportunity to take advantage of the plus side of self-publishing and POD: getting to keep a far greater percentage of the book’s retail price.


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