Archive for the ‘Bookstores & Bookselling’ Category
The book business has always struck me as a bit bipolar, prone to bouts of dire pessimism followed by flights of exaggerated optimism.
This Monday, Bowker published a report that offers a fascinating picture of the migration of book sales to online retailers. (Bowker is the industry’s key source of bibliographic data and market research.) For publishers, this data isn’t really news. They know full well just how dramatically online sales are growing.
In a recent post, Mike Shatzkin took note of how some publishers were reshaping their publishing lists around their core strengths and strategic vision. Along the way, Mike offers his view on how the diminished role of booksellers and the rise of online discovery may effect sales of publisher backlist titles.
When digital first started to happen, it seemed like the backlist might be the biggest beneficiary. After all, stores had limited shelf space and online merchants can “carry” all the books they want, particularly if there is no pre-purchased inventory required. (There isn’t for ebooks and there increasingly isn’t for printed books either, which can be purchased from wholesalers for next day delivery, even if they are printed on demand!)
But, Mike goes on to say that, “it turns out that the current state-of-the-art for merchandising and presentation of books online is not very helpful to backlist.” I have a somewhat different view on this.
If you’re involved in direct-to-consumer marketing of books you already know that your central challenge is time management. There is simply no end to what you can spend your time doing. So how do you prioritize your efforts? Of course, there’s no one answer to this question. It all depends on where your readers and customers are and what works best in connecting with them. And, naturally, what works changes over time and at least somewhat depends on what book genre we’re talking about.
I see this general topic of prioritization come up all the time in my work with publishers. So, I’ve been trying to come up with a list of simple questions that that I would want to ask myself to help keep my marketing efforts on point:
A recent blog post on“Writing on the Ether,” by Porter Anderson—an always a very thoughtful and nuanced journalist and commentator on the publishing industry—got me thinking about what seem to be common misperceptions authors and readers hold about what traditional trade publishers do, what they do well, and what they do not-so-well.
In commenting on Porter’s post, I wrote “One function of traditional publishers is as an investor in future revenue” — in other words that “publishers subsidize some portion of their published list.”
Porter replied, “There’s a concept on the street now that advances have fallen apart and publishers are investing very little at all in their new authors. So while your point is right, I’m not sure it will fall on very receptive ears in a community that has largely decided the traditional publishers are abdicating their own leadership.” Continue Reading…
Who’s the number 3 most popular online bookseller? The answer is surprising and it says something really important about what motivates people to buy books and where.
As my grade school social studies teacher used to say, let’s define our terms.
During a very long highway drive to northern Maine, I remembered something a philosophy professor said to me when I was in school: “Most philosophical problems are caused not by having the wrong set of assumptions,” she said, “but by having assumptions you’re not aware of.” Later on this week, I’m meeting with some friends to lay the groundwork for a new publishing model I’ve been kicking around for a while now. That got me thinking about my own assumptions. Here are a few of the most essential. Some may see obvious or too abstract, but they do lead in a direction.
First off, accept my apologies in advance for the length of this post. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been ruminating about the future of bookstores, if there is one, what it might be. This is the likely the last post on bookstores that I’ll write for a while, for reasons that will become clear.
I just recently attended Kepler’s 2020, an unusual gathering of nearly 80 booksellers, publishers, book industry service providers, librarians, and members of the Menlo Park community in Silicon Valley, where Kepler’s Bookstore is located. The gathering took place over two-and-a-half very packed days of conversation and debate. Publishers represented included Sourcebooks, Chelsea Green, Chronicle Books, and Workman Publishing. Also represented were folks from Village Books (Bellingham, Washington), Book Shop Santa Cruz, and Booksmith and City Lights (both in San Francisco).
Continuing with our SWOT analysis of physical bookstores, we now move onto Opportunities and Threats. Unlike Strengths and Weakness, which are largely internal to an organization, Opportunities and Threats are external, part of the environment in which the organization operates.
Opportunities arise where our internal strengths are best aligned with the external environment, whether it’s in relation to competitors, general consumer awareness, changes in technology, and so forth. But there are also Opportunities in Weaknesses if one can find a way to turn that Weakness around. The ones I’ll focus on are counter parts to ones I listed in Part One of this post. [link]
At the risk of seeming like I know their business better than they do (I don’t), here are some thoughts on opportunities that might be available to bookstores. Continue Reading…
The story of the end of bookstores is an old one, almost as old as bookstores themselves, I would bet. And while it has always been a miserable way to make a living, the fundamental business model of the bookstore is now in question like it never has before. The story has quickly shifted from a drama about whether bookstores can survive to a tragedy of their sure death.
I confess, though I was a bookseller for several years, and love bookstores, and what they do, I don’t feel the romance or nostalgia that many book lovers do. Fundamentally, bookstores are just businesses. If the business model—that of renting space to stock inventory and paying employees to sell printed books—doesn’t work—even with all the add-ons of cafes, side-line merchandise, paid author events, etc.—then it doesn’t work. I don’t mean this coldly, but if the value that physical bookstores provide isn’t sufficient to cover the costs of providing that value then I think we ought to move on. As booklovers, booksellers, and publishers—we ought to move on and create a new model for providing that unique value.