Bookstore Chains and Changes in the Market

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I replied yesterday to a post about what was happening in the market. I’ve blogged elsewhere about this, but not in depth here, so I thought I’d do so today.  Bookstores have problems keeping books stocked, buying books that don’t sell in quantity, tieing up their stocker’s hands stripping covers and sending them back, (paperbacks don’t go back to be resold, they are stripped, covers sent back, and contents recycled.) The time the stockers spend costs the story money. So the big chains have all instituted changes that directly affect you, the book reading public, and you the writer.

First, up front, near the registers, they will only stock new books by bestsellers and new books by unknowns.  Your fav author who is not a bestseller? His/her book is back in the stocks. Er…stacks.

Second, they are cutting the numbers of new books they will buy.  Rather than stock, say 100,000 books in the store, they are stocking say 65,000.  Roughly 2/3rds the previous number.  They are making them all face-out, which is nice, but if you want an author’s backlist, (previous books you have not yet read by this wonderful author you just discovered) you have to special order it in the store or from Amazon. Amazon is gonna love this change BTW.

Third, they *may* only keep the new books on the shelves (in any quantity) for one month. So, if you don’t go to the book store every month, you may well miss a release. And a writer has only 4 weeks to make him/herself noticed in the market. Which totally sucks, pardon my English.

Fourth, they are dictating to to publishers the length of the books they will carry. They have discoverd that they make the same profit on a book that is one inch thick as a book that is three inches thick. One book takes up very little shelf space. The other…well, it takes up more. Duh. Plus the price of paper is going up fast. So publishers are now specifying the length of a book to writers.  And they mean business. I had to cut BloodRing by 24,000 words. Of course, that meant that I was a fourth of the way through Seraphs, but still, it was tough to do.

Can I understand why chains are doing this?  Yes. Do I like it?  Not really.  I want to write what I want to write. But I still want to have it read by the buying public. And if I fight, that ain’t gonna happen.

Faith — who has about 50 more pages to write in the WIP, Skinwalker.

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9 comments to Bookstore Chains and Changes in the Market

  • With that being very well said by Faith, is it time to start looking a Print-On-Demand publishers? That way you can write what you want, without having to cut large swaths of the story to make for better shelf space.

    Or is there a happy medium that can be done to salvage the current system?

  • The pendulum is always swinging.

    Considering that the last time I was in a Borders store that it was looking less and less like a book store and more and more like a purveyor of pop culture ephemera — in other words, screwing around with their priorities and giving up valuable floor- and shelf-space to things that are not books — I’m kinda surprised by this ‘trend’ of fewer book.

    [srsly, are they trying to discourage literacy?]

    The moment these brick-and-mortar booksellers realise they’re only driving actual book-buying customers straight into the embrace of online book distributors — that they’re in essence shooting themselves in the foot — that pendulum will swing in the other direction.

  • Argh. That was supposed to be ‘fewer books’,… as in plural.

    [and the bracketed question was intentional irony, in case any should wonder.]

  • One problem is that most POD books have *no* shelf space. Most stores will not stock them. My AKA has a large backlist, with several books in print in POD format by a small press. Only a few bookstores (indies) will carry them in stock, though all the chains have access to them and can get them by special order.

    Another problem is lack of editing that most original titles published in POD format receive. Or rather don’t receive. Or…whatever. No editing. Or, no editing by a really good, experienced editor. And they show it.

    I don’t know what the chains think they are doing by filling their space with non-book stuff. But the result is sending the readers back to the indies and to Amazon.

    Faith

  • Actually, that shorter word count comes as good news to me. I think the highest word count I’ve written in 70,000 – and that was before editing, when I tightened the writing and cut stuff.

    However, I know I’m a minority in this respect 😉

    Thanks for the enlightenment, and have a lovely day! :-)

  • I think that traditional publishers using POD technology and online bookstores is going to be the way of the future. Two things need to happen first – we need to break the stranglehold that Amazon has on online book sales (and their associated rules and guidelines) and we need to have trad publishers actively break the stigma of POD by using the technology to release quality books.

    Call me Utopian, but I reckon it can happen.

  • I think it will happen too, Alan. And the mistakes the book stores are making now are driving it even faster. I have sent poetry writers to i-Universe and others, because they are really good writers and don’t need editing. But most who use online POD pubs are not getting the editing they so very much need. I would *never* publish a book without getting it well and totaly edited by a qualified editor.

    Not too long ago, a small group of prankster mystery writers got together and wrote a *book*. They each took a chapter. The book was full of misspellings, had no continuous plot line, characters died then reappeared in the next few scenes, or popped up for no reason then never again. It was *awful*. And one of these online companies bought it and sent them a letter saying how pleased they were to have it to add to their catalogue.

    My backlist publisher, BellaRosa Books, uses POD on a lot of their books, does good editing on all original titles, is very high quality and actually has original art painted for a lot of books. But a lot of POD users don’t bother.

    The future? I think readers will abandon Amazon for other online sales sites and PODs will rule. But it is still a few years away!
    Faith

  • [Coming late to the discussion, as usual these days…] I think Faith’s take on the future is probably right, but I also think that before a change of that magnitude can happen, the issue she raised re. editing will have to be addressed. Like her, I’d never want to see one of my books hit the shelves without thorough editing, not only for typos, misspellings and the like, but also for content — character, narrative, pacing.

  • David, I am so with you. As much as I *hate* to get the rewrite letters, I know I need them! Badly!
    Faith