From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:
I hear about new publishing scams all the time. Sometimes scammers approach me personally, but more often I hear a sad tale of woe from some newbie who has fallen for the latest con.
This week I realized that almost all the victims of publishing scams have one thing in common: they don’t understand the most important part of the digital self-publishing revolution that started in 2009.
This is the thing you MUST understand in order to be a successful indie author:
Successful Self-Publishers Make Most of Their Money Selling Ebooks.
If you choose self-publishing, you have to give up the fantasy of seeing your book in the window of your favorite bookstore chain.
It might help to forget paper books altogether. I often see newbies obsessing about choosing a POD company and getting bookstore distribution. But they’re worrying needlessly.
That’s because 90% of the successful indie’s profits usually come from ebooks.
Which sell well because they can be priced lower than Big 5 ebooks.
POD “Print on Demand” paperbacks are usually priced higher than offset-printed Big 5 paperbacks. So they don’t have that competitive edge.
. . . .
Bookstores get their books from distributors—mostly Ingram these days—and the books must be returnable. The books you see in a brick-and-mortar bookstore are on consignment from big publishers. They can all be returned for full price if they don’t sell.
But POD books are generally not returnable.
It doesn’t matter if your print books are in Ingram’s catalogue and can be ordered by a bookstore for an individual customer.
They also can be ordered by an individual customer and shipped directly to the customer’s home no matter who your distributor is because…the Internet.
Most stores won’t carry POD books as their regular inventory unless you have a personal agreement with a store owner. (That usually means you’ll pick them up when they’re shopworn and unsold.) So that’s going to have to be in your neighborhood.
But you’re probably not going to make much money selling books only in your neighborhood. In today’s market, you need to sell to the world.
. . . .
The notorious Author Solutions and other publishing scams that fleece newbie authors make money not only from overpriced publishing packages, but from high-priced, old-fashioned marketing plans that only work for print books and ignore online marketing.
They work best if you can find a TARDIS to take you back to 1999.
I’m talking about things like press releases to print media, pricey reviews in print magazines, elaborate book signings, and book fairs.
Especially book fairs. They’re a huge expense with no return on your investment except a little schmoozing. The huge book fairs like BEA, Frankfurt, and London are industry events where the bigshots go to network. People go to find out about the latest technology, trends in global markets, and multimillion dollar Hollywood deals.
Nobody has time for an unknown indie author hawking a first book.
. . . .
Anybody who tries to talk you into spending thousands for a spot in a booth at a trade fair has no idea how self-publishers make money. So they’re not going to be able to help you make money.
The $4000 booth at the trade fair, plus some business cards and maybe some cute bookmarks, your travel and hotel expenses, and the price of shipping those paper books, probably will net 20-40 book sales.
. . . .
Compare that with an online blog tour, which might run you about $150 to get your book in front of 1000s of readers. With a buy button a click away.
. . . .
Recently I got an odd phone call from a woman wanting to talk to me about one of my books. Odd since I don’t give out that landline phone number anywhere in my book publicity.
She launched an extraordinary sales pitch, gushing about my 2002 novel—originally published in the UK by Babash-Ryan—Food of Love. She said it was “beautifully written” and said her “book scouts” wanted to “partner” with me in marketing it.
I admit I told her I kind of know a bit about marketing myownself and had a #1 bestseller on Amazon in March.
She faltered a moment, but soldiered on with her script. Her company, ReadersMagnet, wanted to market my book at an upcoming book expo in Los Angeles.
. . . .
The number one thing a new self-publisher needs to do is stay current with the latest in self-publishing news. Indie publishing has changed radically in the past five years, so don’t rely on outdated information from the early “Kindle Revolution.”
Follow current indie publishing blogs like The Creative Penn and The Book Designer.
You can get great book marketing advice from Penny Sansevieri,Frances Caballo, Bad RedheadMedia, and our own Barb Drozdowich of Bakersview Consulting.
I especially recommend you sign up to get newsletters from TheAlliance for Independent Authors (Alli) and always check with them as well as Writer Beware before you agree to anything.
To be safe, it’s also best to have a legal professional look over any contract before you sign it.
If you still long for an old fashioned paper book on a shelf in Barnes and Noble, look to traditional publishers. Contrary to a lot of old news, most are thriving. Yes, even small presses. (But investigate thoroughly and don’t sign any contracts without a lawyer’s approval.)
Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog
PG endorses Anne’s suggestions and reiterates Physical Book Stores Don’t Matter to Indies.
Beyond that, the physical bookstore business is not looking like a very good long-term prospect.
Barnes & Noble can’t seem to get anyone who is very good to serve as its CEO. And at this time in its existence, it needs a genius CEO and a boatload of luck to survive.
Don’t forget that BN received a very important stay of execution when Borders suddenly went bankrupt eight years ago. At the time, Borders had 650 stores, including about 500 superstores, in the United States. That’s a huge reduction in competition in the bookselling business and BN gained the lion’s share of Borders customers at that time.
Now that bounty has been pretty much consumed.
From a Forbes article published in late 2018:
At a time when retailers across the board have reported positive sales and quarterly earnings, Barnes & Noble’s results fell short — but don’t blame Amazon.
The largest U.S. specialty bookseller said Thursday that sales fell 6.9% to $795 million in the quarter ending July 28, hurt by declines in both its retail and Nook e-reader business. Comparable-store sales dropped 6.1%, extending a five-and-a-half-year streak of declines. In fact, Barnes & Noble’s comparable sales have declined in 20 of the past 23 quarters, in sharp contrast to gains the retail industry has posted each quarter during the same period, according to Retail Metrics data.
Barnes & Noble’s loss last quarter widened to $17 million, from $10.8 million a year earlier. Results didn’t worsen in part because the company has been cutting expenses.
Link to the rest at Forbes (emphasis supplied)
Economist Herb Stein once said, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”
Can declining sales at Barnes & Noble go on forever?
In almost six years, including a bunch of different outside CEO’s, nobody has been able to do anything about the decline.
PG suggests physical bookstores are not the special snowflakes the publishing industry wants them to be. “People will always want to go to real bookstores,” is a hope and a wish, not an accurate prediction.
Sears had the largest domestic revenue of any retailer in the United States until October 1989, when Walmart surpassed it. In 2018, Sears was the 31st-largest retailer in the United States. After several years of declining sales, its parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on October 15, 2018.
Link to the rest at Wikipedia
PG says happy talk from large publishers can’t stop the continuing decline of physical stores.
Will physical bookstores ever disappear completely?
PG believes the number of retail bookstores will continue to decline. However, he expects some bookstores will continue to thrive in limited types of markets – upscale locations where price is no object, in university towns where physical books tend to be a means of social signaling, and perhaps elsewhere, but when Barnes & Noble closes its doors, the physical book business will drop out of the mass market category.
Instead of owning thousands of stores or even hundreds of stores, successful booksellers will own, at most a handful. The retail book business will become a collection of small businesses without any single group able to really move the merchandise in a big way.
The boost that book publishing marketers could expect from paying for a position in the front of every Barnes & Noble or Borders store won’t exist. The impact that first day, first week and first month sales can have on a book’s visibility and place in the public mind will substantially diminish.
If large publishers of physical books can’t continue to produce large print runs, their per-book costs will increase and they’ll further cut personnel costs and trim the amount they pay for advances.
PG says people like Michelle Obama, major celebrities with some reasonable claim to intelligent views, will become a larger and larger factor in the survival of traditional publishing and the financial difference between the top 1% and the remaining 99% of traditionally-published authors will gape wider and wider.
But PG could be wrong. Perhaps an invasion by space aliens will drive people back to their local bookstore.