Bookselling

Indie Booksellers Report Strong Holiday Finish

6 January 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

Although independent booksellers reported difficulty in keeping certain titles in stock, the problem was not enough to dampen sales at independent stores this holiday season.

In fact, reports from around the country indicated overall sales throughout the holiday season were strong, even record-breaking. Some stores reported having their best sales days ever. Lots of interest in Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming (Crown) brought customers into stores, as did a range of other titles, including Educated by Tara Westover (Random House) and Circe by Madeline Miller (Little, Brown) on the adult side and Snowy Nap by Jan Brett (Putnam) and The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith, illustrated by Katz Cowley (Scholastic), on the children’s side.

“The Friday before Christmas, when the stock market tanked, was the biggest sales day we’ve had in 43 years! And the Saturday after that set another record,” said Vivien Jennings, owner of Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan., a Kansas City suburb, who noted that this year saw an unexpected doubling in gift card sales. Jennings said the store kept Becoming in stock throughout the holidays in part by clearing out all local Costco locations of their inventory. “We also watched inventory runs very carefully, and jumped ahead if we saw anything trending,” Jennings said, adding that, overall, sales were up 10% over 2017 for the season.

Jennings was among several booksellers who cited difficulty in keeping Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat, illus. by Wendy MacNaughton (S&S); The Overstory by Richard Powers (Norton); and Frederick Douglas by David Blight (S&S) in stock.

“Those were the three titles we had the most trouble with,” said Todd Gross, manager of Phoenix Books in Downtown Burlington, Vt. “We only got 30 of Salt, but could have sold 150.” He remarked that getting books from S&S has been particularly challenging for quite some time. “They can take 10 days to get us books, compared with two or three for Penguin Random House.” Gross noted delays in getting books can kill sales, and he praised Bookazine and Baker & Taylor in particular for great service during the holiday season. “They were quick to tell us when in-demand titles were back in stock,” said Gross, who said that his holiday orders flip from relying on publishers 90% of the time during the year, to relying on wholesalers for 90% of orders during the holidays.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG says the shipping operations of publishers only have one thing to do – ship books. They have been performing this function for a long time.

Likewise, the production departments of publishers have only one thing to do – print enough books to meet demand. They also have been performing this function for a long time.

A long time ago when PG was a baby lawyer, he was working for a law firm in Los Angeles and talking to one of the firm’s clients.

This client had started the first book wholesaler in Los Angeles and PG was learning about the client’s business. Basically, the business worked this way:

  • Bookstores could purchase books from publishers at lower prices than they could from the client.
  • However, publishers were not good at processing orders and shipping books.
  • The client was very good at processing orders and shipping books.

So, the client bought books from publishers and put them in a warehouse. Because he bought a lot of books, he had negotiated maximum volume discounts.

Bookstores bought their books from the client, even though he charged higher prices than the publishers did, when they didn’t want to wait for books to arrive from the publishers.

The client made a lot of money doing this, particularly when there was a bestseller. The bookstores wanted copies to sell to customers and they could get them from the client within a day. This client later made even more money when he sold his business to Baker & Taylor several years later.

Some businesses are set up to sell their products only through wholesale channels. This can work financially because they don’t spend any money fulfilling small orders. They crate and ship an order for a thousand widgets using bulk shippers instead of individually packing one hundred boxes, each with ten widgets inside, and paying UPS to deliver each one to a separate location.

Other businesses are set up to sell directly to retailers. This can work financially because they can sell to the retailers at a higher price because they’ve cut out the costs and profits of a middleman.

Apparently, typical book publishers still try to do both, so they bear the expenses of each type of business without being terribly effective at satisfying their customers.

‘Showrooming’ Solution: Sign for the Times

20 December 2018

From Shelf Awareness:

The Golden Notebook, Woodstock, N.Y., has an answer for “showrooming,” the habit of some bookstore customers to learn about books at bookstores and then order them online on their phones, sometimes in front of booksellers who just made the recommendation.

. . . .

 

. . . .

 At the Golden Notebook, a sign on the front door reads, “Please inquire at counter regarding in-store photography. Thank you!” As a result, wrote co-owner James Conrad, “we have no issue approaching a customer photographing and saying ‘excuse me, we do not allow in-store photography.’ We then attempt a teaching conversation about how we struggle against the internet and how hard we work to find the unique and sometimes extremely hard to find types of titles that reflect our unique community and customers. Usually people are extremely apologetic and sometimes they just say nothing because we basically told them we know exactly what they were doing.

“The sign also gives people the chance to just ask at the counter first and when they say they have a blog and want to promote us or live far away and can’t carry the hardcover home we say go ahead and photograph! (Just make sure to use an independent bookstore when you get home!)”

Conrad added: “Without the sign, you seem rude to mention it, but with it you can have a more polite moment to tell people the importance of small businesses and the struggles we face.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

While PG doesn’t take joy from the struggles of any small business, he thinks this is a little pathetic.

Do the proprietors of a bookstore in Woodstock, a noted upscale tourist destination known for its art, music, etc., think their customers don’t know about Amazon? Do they think their customers don’t know that the bookstore is trying to keep them from making purchases at Amazon?

Are the store owners trying to persuade visitors to purchase a product by making the visitors feel guilty?

Is a first-time visitor to the store who uses a cell phone camera in a way they are completely accustomed to doing almost everywhere else in the world going to be more or less inclined to visit the bookstore again if they view the management as being a bit unfriendly?

Is it possible a reasonably intelligent visitor might see the sign and think, “Oh, yes, I can buy anything in the store cheaper at Amazon?” How about a visitor who prefers ebooks to printed books for any of a number of reasons? Is he/she being told there’s nothing the store is interested in selling him/her?

 

What’s the Matter with Fiction Sales?

4 November 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

According to 2017 estimates released this summer by the Association of American Publishers, sales of adult fiction fell 16% between 2013 and 2017, from $5.21 billion to $4.38 billion. The numbers, though not a major worry, raise questions about the books the industry is publishing and what consumers want to read.

Since 2013, fiction sales fell every year with the exception of 2015. That year they rose 1%, helped by Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman and three other novels that topped one million print copies sold. (The AAP tracks all major formats—print, digital, and audio—in its sales estimates.) Interviews and discussions with various industry members uncovered different theories about why there’s been a downturn in fiction.

The most commonly shared view is that it has become extremely difficult to generate exposure for novels. Fiction, more than nonfiction, depends on readers discovering new books by browsing. Now, with the number of physical stores down from five years ago (despite a rise in ABA membership), publishers cannot rely on bricks-and-mortar stores providing customers with access to new books.

Nor can publishers depend on media outlets to make up for the gap left by the shrinking footprint of physical bookstores. Review space in mainstream media has been slashed, cutting off another possibility for readers to learn about new fiction.

The upshot of those developments is that publishers have found breaking out new writers—never mind developing new franchise authors—increasingly difficult.

Creating authors who can draw readers via name recognition alone is crucial to selling novels. Research done by the Codex Group shows that the author is the most important factor in a person’s decision to buy a novel. Codex founder Peter Hildick-Smith says that with so much inexpensive genre fiction now available at “subprime price points under $5” (from such channels as Kindle Unlimited), publishers must invest to develop brand name authors who can command premium-price loyalty.

That process can require a multiple-book commitment. It can also require a type of commitment that’s difficult for publishers: sticking with authors who don’t produce instant bestsellers.

Based on Codex research, a person typically reads an average of three books by an author before becoming hooked on his or her books. Publishers, however, as Hildick-Smith and others interviewed noted, seem increasingly reluctant to support authors whose books don’t immediately sell. “Creating a dependable, bestselling author is a multibook investment that requires different strategies and great persistence,” Hildick-Smith said. “It’s not a one-and-done launch.”

The difficulty publishers have recently had in creating brand name authors can be seen in BookScan numbers. The service, which tracks only print sales, shows that fiction sales continue to be soft. Moreover, the BookScan figures show that no fiction title topped one million copies sold in 2016 or 2017 at outlets that report to the service. In 2015, the only year in the past five when fiction sales rose over the previous year, four novels sold more than one million print copies each, according to BookScan: Watchman (1.6 million), Grey by E.L. James (1.4 million), The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (1.3 million), and Anthony Doer’s All The Light We Cannot See (one million).

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Attentive readers will note the single mention of Amazon – Kindle Unlimited, associated with “subprime price points under $5”. Traditional publishers can’t and won’t compete in that market, preferring authors and books with “premium-price loyalty”.

PG suggests that category title is not properly worded. Instead, he believes that traditional publishers are trying to promote authors and books that attempt to command “over-priced loyalty” from readers.

As readers come to understand that most of the money they pay for traditionally-published books goes to middle-folk like bookstores and publishers with very little trickling down to authors, their loyalty to premium pricing may erode.

A Hilarious New Memoir Reveals the Absurd Business of Selling Books Today

21 August 2018

From Quartzy:

Wigtown is a coastal “book town” in Scotland that features an Airbnb rental where bibliophiles can spend their vacation living out the romantic fantasy of running a bookstore. And indeed, according to Shaun Bythell, a year-round bookseller in the same town, it’s deeply romantic work: The evocative smell of books, mixed with cat piss; the customers who openly compare prices on their laptops to Amazon; the book-loving employees, always drunk or severely hungover; the orders for erotica titles such as Tokyo Lucky Hole; and the badgering of aspiring memoirists trying to find a publisher.

Bythell’s own memoir, The Diary of a Bookseller, is a hilarious read about a dreary year running The Book Shop, a large used bookstore in Wigtown. After a September 2017 UK release, the book comes out in the US Sept. 4 from Melville House.

. . . .

Bythell took over the store in 2001, at age 31. Starting in early 2014, he kept a daily journal of store happenings for one year. It’s a cheerfully depressing account of independent bookselling today—deadpan, ruthless, poignant, and at times, so charming it’s almost unbelievable.

Bythell’s main antagonist is also his only regular employee, a Jehovah’s Witness named Nicky. The two are locked in a weekly battle of mutual torment, Nicky moving On the Origin of Species to the fiction section, and Bythell retaliating by placing the Bible with novels. On Fridays, Nicky brings him dubious food scavenged from dumpsters—egg custard tarts she’s sat on, or expired packaged cake. One week’s treat “looked like something from a hospital clinical waste bin.”

The larger cast of characters in Diary of a Bookseller are so zany and absurd they would seem over-the-top in a 1990s movie about an indie record shop. There’s Sandy, the most tattooed man in Scotland, according to Bythell, who barters walking sticks for store credit; Smelly Kelly, the cologne-soaked man in dogged pursuit of Nicky, who has made it clear she’s not interested; and Eliot, Bythell’s friend who tends to discard his shoes somewhere in the store within 10 minutes of arrival.

. . . .

The circus aside, the book is rich with information about the business of bookselling, including a description of an ingenious online scam to reduce book prices. Bythell saves his deepest rancor for Amazon (though he uses it to fulfill online orders), which has hit him and other small and medium-sized used booksellers particularly hard. His contempt is made apparent one day in August, when he receives a complaint about a late book. Bythell goes to his parents’ house to borrow a shotgun and then shoots a used Kindle he bought on eBay for £10. (Footage of the target practice is admittedly satisfying.) He mounts the mangled e-reader in the store.

The Diary of a Bookseller doesn’t seem like it should work. Life at The Book Shop is boring. On a typical day Bythell might sell £200 worth of books, once as little as £5. But there is a soothing monotony to the rhythm of his days. Bythell somehow creates a sense of urgency in the nothingness, and readers may feel that if they skip even one day, they’ll miss some winningly cutting remark.

Link to the rest at Quartzy and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Latest Amazon Charts Report – Top 20

30 July 2018

Here are the latest Amazon Charts book rankings:

Fiction

Non-Fiction

 

Romance – Kindle Bestsellers

29 July 2018
Comments Off on Romance – Kindle Bestsellers

 

Top 100 Kindle Best Sellers

28 July 2018

Top 100  Kindle Books – Paid

Top 100 Kindle Books – Free

Amazon Best Selling Books

27 July 2018

Here are Amazon’s Books Bestseller Lists (Print/Kindle Combined ):

All Books

Fiction Genres

Romance

Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Comics and Graphic Novels

Non-Fiction

Biographies

Christian

History

Religion and Spirituality

 

Next Page »