“a life saving growth of 300% in our D2C e-commerce sales during lockdown” – Verso

From The New Publishing Standard:

While many publishers have this past decade continued to rely heavily on bricks & mortar bookstores as a buttress against Amazon’s dominance of the online print and ebook market, UK publisher Verso has long since put its efforts into building a D2C (direct to customer) relationship with its audience.

And that has paid off handsomely, not just with a 25% increase on global sales year on year, but a massive 300% increase in its e-commerce sales in 2020’s first quarter while other publishers were hit by lockdown closing bricks & mortar stores, distributors like Bertrams, Gardners variously operational or closed, and Amazon prioritising non-book goods distribution.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

7 thoughts on ““a life saving growth of 300% in our D2C e-commerce sales during lockdown” – Verso”

  1. Once upon a time all american SF publishers had a direct to consumer mail order operation. ACE, AVON, SIGNET, BALLENTINE, BANTAM, DAW… On and on.

    Look in the back of an old paperback and you most likely would find a listing of backlist titles (of the same author if possible) with prices, order numbers, and an address to mail the order to. All also included an address to send a stamped self-addressed envelope to get a catalog (collection of flyers, really) of available titles. Buy often enough and the flyers would arrive on their own. Once I found an offer from Bantam for a random grabbag of dozens of books for $20. Just in time for summer reading. Its been so long I forget it is was 80 or a hundred. But it was a nice sized box..Some were meh, some were great (classics by now), all were SF at a time when finding SF on newstands or bookstores was a rarity.

    Some of those folks really knew how to sell books. Once I picked up a BALLENTINE book and inside was a listing of ERB books. I sent for the full TARZAN collection and what came back was a full matched set with covers by Neal Adams and Boris Vallejo.

    A great way to get initiated in the genre. Buy one, enjoy, get sucked in right there…

    For a couple decades, Doubleday’s SCIENCE FICTION BOOK CLUB sold separate book club hardcovers at paperback prices and special omnibus editions. You could find their inserts in most SF paperbacks. You’d join the club and 14 times a year you’d get a ship ny co lor brochure highlighting two titles with a page of detail each and special (relevant) art, and a couple dozen recent selections or classic titles, often entire series. Doubleday even owner a chain of bookstores.

    I laugh when I hear people waxing poetic about trolling a bookstore’s aisles for a serendipitous find. Hah. My books came to me.

    In those days publishers worked for their sales. They knew who mattered: creators and readers.

    Shortly afterwards the german multinationals came in, bought out hundreds of imprints and it all went away. Not surprisingly, US book sales stagnated in barely over a decade and started a slow decline until ebooks hit the mainstream.

    Pox ‘pon their houses.
    I haven’t bought anything from them, print or digital, since the Agency conspiracy.
    Between BAEN, small press, and indies (plus my TBR list) I’m covered.

    Anyway, I’m supposed to be amazed some specialty house tbat probably would get laughed away by the B&N corporate buyer sells on a website?
    Two decades after smart authors were doing it themselves?

    Right.
    Tell me another.

    • You ever looked at storybundle Felix? Check out the ‘archive’ link at the bottom of their page. Not only are the current bundles reasonably priced, but you can use that link to look at what they have assembled in the past and then go to ‘zon to buy whatever tickles your fancy.

    • Pretty much the same held in the UK, at least in the 1950s to the 1970s. Typically a list of available and forthcoming titles appeared at the end of a book with a note saying something like “… should you have any difficulty in obtaining the title you require, write to the address below enclosing 6d postage…”.

      I can’t say how well this worked as I never used this service; regular visits to the bookshops allowed me to buy pretty much every SF paperback published in the UK. Of course, UK publishers passed on a lot of American titles (and Americans on British titles, though these were fewer in number) so this was nothing like as many titles as would have been the case in the USA.

      We also had our Science Fiction Book Club, but this just sent you a hardback book every month – as long as you paid your subscription – and with no choice of title, but with the promise that none of the books had been previously published in paperback in the UK. This was a clever exploitation of the market opportunity presented by British publishers’ failure to pick up US titles and the lack of choice was no hardship. A very quick look through my shelves found Tau Zero, Logan’s Run, Inconstant Moon, A Gift From Earth, World of Ptavvs, plus collections by Cordwainer Smith and Roger Zelazny (and this makes no allowance for the thousands of books in boxes in my elder son’s loft).

      But all this died long ago, as did the book clubs. It’s a long time since I’ve bothered with the big publishers’ websites but the last time I looked they appeared to have no idea at all of how to sell on the web. Has anything changed?

      Specialised publishers like Osprey, Helion or Pen and Sword seem to manage web sales quite well – though they don’t help with discovery the way Amazon does (I’ve found many of their books at the bottom of an Amazon page as “also boughts” or “also reads”), plus it is often cheaper – and certainly less effort – to buy their titles from Amazon.

      • Amazon is a tough competitor even if you do everything right, like BAEN, who’ve been doing direct sales since last century. They had to adjust their prices and bundle policies to accomodate the walled garden stores but they still seem to do a lot of business via their direct sales arm. Apparently a lot of us prefer to give them our money since all of it goes to them and their authors. But then they’ve earned a lot of goodwill with their DRM-free and multiformat downloads over the decades.

        About cross-atlantic sales, there used to be a small specialty store in downtown DC called (appropriately) MOONSTONE BOOKCELLARS. Or as I thought of it, heaven. It was a literal basement shop that sold nothing but SF&F, mostly in paperback. They carried everytbing local in print plus everything they could get over from tbe UK. It helped me backfill quite a few series and pick up authors I’d heard of but couldn’t find on this side of the pond. I couldn’t afford to go too often ($200 sprees a couple times a year were my limit) and after I switched jobs and went back touristing they were gone, apparently done in by B&N.

        Once the internet went commercial, Amazon and ABEBOOKS helped me fill out my TBR list. If I were starting out now I wouldn’t be going anywhere else for my SF or anything else. No reason to.

        By now it is way too late for the big publishers (or small bookstores) to ramp up direct sales to compete meaningfully with Amazon. Two decades too late.

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