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Innovation

23 July 2014

From author Toni McGee Causey:

One of the things that all the hoopla surrounding Amazon vs. Hachette is obfuscating is that the internet isn’t just changing publishing–it’s changing every type of commerce. I’m not all that interested in the controversy surrounding the negotiations, for all the same reasons that I wasn’t interested back when Barnes and Noble did the same thing to S&S… we cannot know what’s really going on, who’s doing what, who’s pulling PR stunts to sway the public vs. who’s the “victim” here. And honestly, if a corporation has to resort to “victim” status to win the war, they’ve already lost. Not necessarily because their customers will leave right away, and not necessarily because they’re going to lose money immediately… but because “victim” status means they have not innovated. They have not gotten out ahead of the curve. In the world of business competition, there are thousands of businesses who fail because their business models are stagnant. They fail to innovate, they fail to see that others are innovating and take advantage of that, and they fail to see that the customer base’s expectations are changing. You cannot stay in business in today’s technological world by doing everything the exact same way you did it forty years ago. Not if you really want to be here forty years from now.

. . . .

Yesterday, I picked up my mail and had tennis shoes from Zappos, a yoga mat from the mat maker, a t-shirt from a small Etsy vendor, a gift for someone that I ordered from a printer in Michigan, and some gadget that my husband wanted from a binocular store. All purchased directly.

Now that the malls are dying off, a lot of small towns are seeing the resurgence of mom and pop stores, because when people can get all of the generic stuff from online shopping, and they save money, they have more to spend locally. (At least, that is what I’m seeing here.) Those stores which are doing really well have a unique service angle to them, that lagniappe (something extra) that keeps their customers coming back.

. . . .

That’s the only really interesting thing about the Hachette vs. Amazon battle going on–will Hachette come out of this having figured out how to better innovate, how to improve their own model, to better serve their customers, the readers. (Their customers used to be the bookstores–especially the big chain stores. They had to satisfy one buyer from B&N, one from Borders, etc., and then buyers from the smaller chains. Now, they have to think more globally–the customers, the readers.)

I like Hachette. I particularly like Grand Central, one of their imprints–they put out a lot of good books. They have terrific editors there. I want to see them last. But “winning” against Amazon isn’t where the focus should be, in my humble opinion. It should be, “how can we do what Amazon is doing, but better, smarter, within our own model?”

Link to the rest at Toni McGee Causey and thanks to Rob for the tip.

PG gave himself a dope slap while writing this post. When he includes a post from an author, he should do his small part in promoting the author’s books. Here’s a link to Toni McGee Causey’s Author Page.

 

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Amazon, Big Publishing

24 Comments to “Innovation”

  1. In keeping with what she mentioned about local commerce, although a big B&N closed here recently, there are more indie bookstores in my city today than there were 5 years ago, including one that open within the past year.

    • I keep hearing that small indie bookstores are either making a comeback or are thriving. What I haven’t seen is anybody doing a writeup that tells us what they are doing to succeed.

      • That’s because the small booksellers no longer fit in with “the sky is falling” meme. The ones I see succeeding are finding a niche/genre in their community. Murder By The Book just off of downtown Houston caters to the mystery/thriller crowd, goes out of their way to promote local authors in those genres, and have a very knowledgeable staff.

      • From the numbers I saw the indies started making a comeback right after Borders shut down. While not proof of causality, it’s certainly suggestive.

        Clearly Amazon does compete with indy bookstores, but not as directly as Borders did.

        • The difference, of course, is personal service. Amazon can’t give you that. And I’ll say that Borders did a pretty p*** poor job of it, too, which is partly why they’re gone, so the only thing they really had going for them was discount prices.

          Oh, wait, they were discounting books? WTF?

      • Mostly they are ordering less bestsellers, more midlist; keeping track of what actually sells in their area and doing less returns. Some are even stocking indies.

      • Here’s one explanation of the revival of indie booksellers:
        http://the-digital-reader.com/2013/09/23/amazon-slayed-negative-77-indie-bookstores-2012/

      • The best indie stores do an excellent job of selecting and organizing books. They’ll put together collections of well-regarded and specialized books about various topics. And the books will be ones you never saw on Amazon’s front page or B&N’s entrance tables. Discovering “new” and interesting books is the attraction of a good indie bookstore.

        If you look at Powell’s in Oregon, their staff puts out shelf tags describing books they liked, as well as tags recommending similar authors. (“If you like A, you may also like B, C, D.”

        • I stumbled onto a small indie/used bookstore recently that specializes in genre fiction: Christian fiction, romances, westerns, and sci-fi. It’s an interesting combo and it seems to work – they’ve been in business for a decade now.

  2. Where do they find all these people who actually KNOW who a publisher is, let alone appreciate the nuances?

    M

  3. They fail to innovate, they fail to see that others are innovating and take advantage of that, and they fail to see that the customer base’s expectations are changing. You cannot stay in business in today’s technological world by doing everything the exact same way you did it forty years ago. Not if you really want to be here forty years from now.

    …will Hachette come out of this having figured out how to better innovate, how to improve their own model, to better serve their customers, the readers [?]

    Love Causey’s take on this. So sensible, so matter-of-fact, and lacking all the high-flown rhetoric. Yes. Totally yes.

    And, PG, I love your idea of including the link to the author’s Amazon page whenever you feature a blog post by an author. I’m a reader as well as a writer, and I suspect I will discover more good reads via these links! Thank you!

  4. My goodness, a reasonable voice in a land of hyperbole and disassociated anger. I am impressed with Toni’s words. So impressed, I bought one of her books from Ama- the web.

  5. A wonderful, reasonable take on all this. And I love how she pointed out the “victim” card that Hachette played and a lot of their authors bought right into it.

    That’s what I want, my publisher being a victim. I have from the start thought that head-shaking.

    And even more interesting is how few comments a sane post gets here. (grin)

  6. Thanks for the linkage, PG, and thanks for all the compliments, everyone. I’m just happy it made sense. (Special huzzahs to Brian — hope you enjoy the book.)

  7. My personal Three Musketeers (Smith, Konrath & Eisler) have weighed in on the Hachette/ Amazon dispute and I take their guidance and viewpoints seriously. The degree of assistance they’ve given to my own career is beyond measure.

    Reading this post so far is such an AH HA moment for me- insofar as putting the ‘victim’ card that’s being played in its proper perspective as well as the respect of readers vs … well whatever the heck Legacy publishers were doing…

    To see Smith chime in so early… well there’s a reason he’s a Yoda. Good on you, man. Good. On. You. When I compare your comment here with Stephen King’s actions in this matter… oh man how you cleaned his clock in terms of credibility.

    Thanks PG for putting this up!

    • Well, the Three Musketeers were four. Does that make PG the d’Artagnan of self-publishing ? And does it mean he will sleep with the seductive ennemy (Milady Hatchette de Winter…) ?

  8. Sheesh… thanking everyone but Ms. Causey. What a faux pas.

    Brilliant observation! My Musketeers missed this take, the NY doggone Times missed this take! Sheesh, even Jon Stewart’s shill missed this take!

    Brilliant on YOU!

  9. The reason Ms Causey’s well-reasoned post attracted few comments compared to Mr Preston’s screed is the same reason the newspaper plasters a downtown high-rise fire on the front page and buries birth announcements on page eight of section D.

    But good on you anyway, Ms Causey. I shall look for you in the future.

  10. The more I think about it, the more I realize I really don’t think I would want Hachette to win, even if they could miraculously turn around. I just don’t see a reason to trust trad pub anymore. They already burned authors once. Authors would have to be ever vigilant to make sure Hachette doesn’t turn around and do the same tricks its done in the past.

    I want Amazon to have competition (which they do). I want the competition to get better at what they do. I just don’t want trad pub to win. They’ve already proven they can’t handle having power. They’ve abused their power for decades. I look forward to seeing them fail so that finally other businesses can have a chance.

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