Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Can the chains provide us with better small bookstores?

A little intrigue and history of the evolution of brick-and-mortar book stores and what has brought them to their present state of perilous existance. Can they survive? I believe so, with a different and more flexible business model.

From the Shatzkin Files:

There is considerable concern among the trade publishing establishment about the future of brick-and-mortar stores. As well there should be. Retail stores provide the most efficient promotion opportunities for books: putting them in front of people poised to buy. They give clear signals about sales appeal by positioning and piles of stock of varying sizes; they make it possible to “look inside” of illustrated books in ways that no online presentation can match; they enable discovery through serendipity; and they put more different book choices in front of any person faster and more efficiently than any web page or smart phone screen possibly can.

But they’re troubled. Same store sales, or what the Brits call “like-for-like”, have been declining. That may be partly due to the recession, but it is also due to factors that won’t go away: shifts of sales to the Internet, to ebooks, and perhaps to substitutes in other media and the Web.

The magic that grew Barnes & Noble and Borders into behemoths was large store size and title selection. My first experience with this effect was a lesson from my father, Leonard Shatzkin. He took over executive responsibility for the Brentano’s bookstore chain as a vice-president of Crowell-Collier (later called Macmillan, a company subsequently bought by Simon & Schuster and not connected to the company now called Macmillan) in the early 1960s. The store in that chain that was doing least well was in Short Hills, New Jersey. They doubled the number of titles the store carried and it soon was the best-performing store in the chain.

But the “size as a magnet” concept took a back seat to mall store expansion by Walden and B. Dalton in the 1970s. As shopping centers were built across the country, the mall developers favored national chains, which were “bankable”, for their leases. Walden and Dalton rode that wave and added hundreds of stores. Meanwhile, partly assisted by the expanding wholesaling services offered by Ingram, independent stores thrived and grew their title selections beyond what the space-challenged mall stores could offer…Read more at


Word Processing vs. Desktop Publishing

Continuing with desktop publishing:

Crossing the Line

By Jacci Howard Bear,

Are you a Word Processor or a Desktop Publisher?

Do you use word processing software, desktop publishing software, or some combination of the two? In some circles proclaiming that you use Microsoft Publisher or — worse still — your word processing software for desktop publishing will, at best, elicit mild amusement or silence. At worst, you’ll find yourself the target of bitingly hostile verbal (or electronic) abuse.

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those places. My aim is to provide a place where practitioners of “desktop publishing” in all its forms can peacefully co-exist. Originally word processing involved text only. Letters, memos, student papers, book manuscripts, and simple résumés were the world of the word processor (the person and the software).

When typesetting and page layout capabilities moved to the desktop computer, “desktop publishing” was the realm of the big boys like PageMaker and QuarkXPress. The users of these desktop publishing packages were most often traditionally trained graphic designers. Desktop publishers had more than a passing knowledge of grids, typography, halftones, and the entire design, production, and printing process. Their desktop tools gave them precise control over all these elements.

Today, what originally made desktop publishing packages so attractive to graphic designers — the ability to quickly and easily manipulate text and graphics on screen and try out new ideas — is readily available in less expensive, easy to use programs. At the same time that trimmed down desktop publishing programs are appearing, word processing software is adding more page layout features — and so the line is blurring between desktop publishing and word processing, in part, because of the software.


Is The Internet The New "Big Box" Book Store?

Digital downloads have put big, established music and video chain stores in bankruptcy! Boy, what a business model explosion and rebirth has been created by the internet. Is the same thing happening to big chain book stores? Looks like it. The following is an article from on-line BusinessWeek posted by Douglas MacMillan today, July 20, 2009:

“Digital downloads doomed brick-and-mortar music retailers like Tower Records and Virgin MegaStore. Now, booksellers are trying to stave off a similar fate by getting in the budding business of e-books.
On Monday, Barnes & Noble launched an online bookstore and a new e-book reading application for PCs and mobile devices. The company’s eBookstore is launching with a collection of hundreds of thousands of bestsellers and classics comparable to Amazon’s offering on the Kindle, many marked with the price tag Amazon charges for its new e-books, $9.99.
But rather than edge in on Amazon’s turf, analysts expect Barnes & Noble to generate wider interest in the e-book format among mainstream consumers. “If anything it helps build demand for e-book reading more generally,” says Forrester analyst Sarah Rottman Epps. According to the Association of American Publishers, sales of e-books grew to $113 million in 2008, up 69% from the previous year.
But unlike vibrant technology players Amazon and Google — the search giant announced a foray into e-book sales last month— Barnes & Noble is looking for a lifeline in a quickly sinking industry. The number of physical stores operated by the company, along with those of Borders and Books-a-Million, shrank by 19% between 2002 and 2008. Barnes & Noble’s stock is worth less than half what it was in March 2006, before a recession stifled the book-buying public.
“E-books are not enough to save any publisher or retailer,” says Michael Norris, analyst with media researcher Simba Information. Even though it costs virtually nothing to sell digital copies of books, the small number of shoppers to online bookstores won’t make up for the huge losses associated with brick-and-mortar stores for a long time to come, he adds.
The company did put into play a big X factor Monday, when it also announced a deal to be the exclusive online bookstore for Plastic Logic’s e-book reading device, due in early 2010. Previewed at the recent D:All Things Digital conference, the superthin, touch screen operated Plastic Logic reader “has the potential to blow the Kindle out of the water,” says Norris. “It’s Barnes & Noble’s way of hedging their bets and being able to attach their name to a cool electronic device.”
But the device could also be a liability. Doubts have been raised about Plastic Logic’s ability to deliver a product competitive to the Kindle in its set time frame. “It’s going to look bad for Barnes & Noble if that device doesn’t make it to market,” says Forrester’s Epps.
Even so, the company’s electronic bookstore is somewhat platform-agnostic: its books can already be purchased and read on iPhone and iPod Touch devices, Blackberries, and on Mac and Windows computers.”


Information Overload on Writing, Agents and Publishing!

Welcome to my blog! My name is John R. Austin and I’m a writer. I am starting this blog because of the info overload “out there” relating to writing, getting literary agents and the state of the publishing industry in general!

Check these stats from an article by Walt Shiel. Are they true or not?

The “Hard Truths” About Book PublishingArticle by Walt Shiel

Let’s consider some of the “hard truths” about the publishing industry.If you’re at all serious about publishing, whether self-publishing or not, you really need to be aware of some basic statistics about the industry. They aren’t pretty and may tend to be discouraging. But would you rather jump into these treacherous waters with a head full of platitudes and myths… or with a clear-eyed view of how things really are?I think you are far better off understanding what’s really going on and what you, as an author and would-be self-publisher, are really up against.

So, without further belaboring the point, here goes.Book publishing in the U.S. has exploded over the past few years. Here are the number of new English-language titles published per year in the U.S., as reported by R. R. Bowker (the keeper of U.S. ISBNs and publisher of Books-in-Print):

195,000 titles in 2004
295,000 in 2006 (a 51% increase in two years)
411,000 in 2007 (a 39% increase in only one year)

In 2004, there were just under one million books in print (new and backlist). Last year, there were almost three million in print. Offset printing (the traditional method using the large roll- or sheet-fed printing equipment that is cost-effective for larger print runs only) accounted for only about 1% of the 411,000 new titles printed in 2007; the rest were printed using digital printing technology (print-on-demand) that is only cost-effective for short print runs.Why do you suppose the number of new titles more than doubled in three years? Can you spell subsidy publishing (in the guise of the plethora of self-proclaimed “self-publishing companies”)? Three decades ago, there were only 357 publishers with books listed in Books-in-Print. Today, there are only six major (New York) publishers, maybe 400 mid-size publishers, and almost 100,000 small publishers (which includes the large number of self-publishers). More than 10,000 new (mostly small) publishers go into business each year. Of course, many of those small publishers fail every year, too, but that’s common in most businesses (lots of new start-ups quickly fail).The six major New York publishers are Random House, Penguin Putnam, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck, Hachette (formerly Time Warner Books), and Simon & Schuster. Of those, only Simon & Schuster is still American-owned. Ever wonder why more and more foreign authors are being published by major “American” publishers? Now that you know how many new titles are published and how many publishers are publishing them, you might wonder how many are being sold? That is a far more difficult question to answer reliably, since publishers are notorious for overstating actual book sales. However, we can turn again to Bowker for some statistics:

93% of all titles sell less than 1,000 copies
Overall average sales for all titles is about 500 copies
7% of titles account for 87% of sales (mostly from the big NY publishers)

So, where are those books actually sold? If you guessed mostly in bookstores, guess again. Here’s the breakdown (the ranges are because it depends on what source you rely on):

Chain bookstores account for 25-33%
Independent bookstores (including used book stores) account for 3-10%Online book retailers account for 21% (almost all

That means 36-52% of all book sales come from non-bookstore outlets. What’s a non-bookstore outlet? Gift shops, grocery stores, drug stores, “big box” stores (Wal-Mart, Costco, etc.), book clubs, back-of-the-room sales, direct-to-consumer sales, and on and on. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination and marketing efforts.You can choose to self-publish and compete in the bookstores for that 28-43% of the total market, which means you’re competing against Random House, Simon & Schuster et al who can afford to buy those end-cap and front window display locations. Or you can choose to compete primarily in the online and non-bookstore markets that represent the remaining.The choice is yours and should be driven by your detailed marketing plan for your book. You do have a detailed marketing plan, right? Trying to sell books without a marketing plan is like taking a long trip into unknown territory without a map — you might reach your destination but the odds are against you.If you don’t really know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Or when you’re way off course?
7:44:00 PM
by John Austin
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