Posts Tagged ‘book marketing’

Resource for Prospective Writers Marks 4th Edition

Although our target audience here is retailers, not writers, Sarah Bolme’s blog Marketing Christian Books has been a helpful resource which helps me maintain balance between our needs as booksellers, and understanding the needs of authors. I often refer aspiring writers in my own community to check out her blog.

So if you’re a writer, here’s word that the 4th edition of her book, Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books is now available.

Read more at this article at Marketing Christian Books.

Ingram Suspends Full Trade Discount to Small Stores

Ingram announcement

March 31st represented the annual culling of the herd at Ingram, better known in the Christian market as Spring Arbor, as stores failing to purchase $5,000 in 2015 had their trade discount reduced to 30% on books. If you’re looking for a notice you missed, it may be because the announcement appeared as a “service alert” posted on the right hand side of iPage that you had to click to read in full:

ingramDear Valued Ingram Customer,

As with any business, Ingram must closely monitor our expenses and make adjustments when needed so we can continue to provide the speed, accuracy, and support that you’ve come to expect. Sometimes, as our costs decrease, we have been able to pass that savings on to our customers.

However, to cover increased freight and operating costs, we’ve found it necessary to explore and evaluate our discount structure. On March 31, 2016, all accounts that fell below $5,000 in net sales for 2015 will have a new discount structure of 30% on all regular discount items. Please note, this discount applies only to regular discount titles, regardless of quantities purchased or order method. All other items such as video, short, audio, etc., will continue to be discounted as they have been. Also, Ingram does review each customer’s account sales annually and offers volume discounts based on net annual purchases.

We truly value your continued business and appreciate your understanding in this matter. Please contact your Ingram sales representative or call Customer Care at 800-937-8200 if you have questions about this new discount structure.


Ingram Content Group

So once again, it’s survival of the fittest. They didn’t even wait until April 1st, the policy is now in effect. Once again, I have some opinions on this, some of which I shared last year at this time.

  1. Small stores often get large orders. The bookstore owner or manager in a small market who works to get a 100 copy order gets no reward for their efforts. All other distributors base the discount on the size of the order, an approach Ingram has constantly resisted. I have orders currently holding from a couple of publishers waiting for me to add a few more titles. I have no problem working with that constraint. Send the Light’s minimum is 20 books. I understand why they instituted that and it’s not that hard for me reach their quota. As I said the last time this happened, I probably use some of my university publisher accounts once every 2-3 years, but my legitimacy and entitlement to a trade discount is never challenged.
  2. Ingram is a victim of their own system. Yesterday I received a $3.99 booklet from them. I have no idea why they do this or how they can afford to. When I placed my first iPage order, I was told to “click DC Pairs and where it says ‘hold/release’ click ‘release.'” I did what I was told. If I could change this, no one has ever told me what ‘hold’ signifies or how it would help save costs at their end and save the planet. They say they are “constantly monitoring expenses.” Uh…no, I don’t think so. If they streamlined their operations at their end, such as merging backorders or running multi-order invoices, they would not have to penalize small stores like yours at your end. Relatively speaking, this is all about shipping costs. The actual picking costs are minimal by comparison and the cost of a small store using the website is infinitesimal.
  3. Ingram already ships to addresses buying less than $5,000. In this case I’m referring to the host of individual consumers whose orders to companies like Chapters are fulfilled through Ingram. I feel like when I do place a larger order, I’m indirectly subsidizing the inefficiencies of Ingram’s costs in filling orders for online competitors.
  4. This shouldn’t apply to Ingram Publisher Services accounts. When Ingram is the exclusive distributor of a particular imprint, they are making money twice over. For a small store, they are the only game in town, and even if you approached the publisher directly and were willing to pay any importation costs, that publisher is contractually bound to Ingram as its exclusive warehouse distributor. Personally, I find scaling back the discount with respect to those publishers somewhat reprehensible. 
  5. Canadian stores were forced to scale back. Christmas season purchasing from the U.S. was greatly curtailed when our dollar crashed. With Ingram, accounts are settled by credit card on the 15th of the month following, so there was the added variable of not knowing what Canadian prices to set because no one knew how low our currency was going to fall.
  6. Ingram has other options. They could change the minimum order on iPage from 10 to 15 items or set a dollar-value minimum. They could change the “low” discount threshold from $2.99 to $3.49 or $3.99. They could adjust discounts on hardcovers as Send the Light did. They could modify discounts on publishers where they feel they are being squeezed. They could scrap the “cascade” system and have stores meet a 10-unit minimum per warehouse. They could scrap the minimum order altogether and change it to a minimum shippable. (The last two involve some major system reprogramming changes, but this is about saving shipping costs, right? And the price of oil is going to turn around eventually and courier fuel surcharges will again go up.)

In my community, a large, general-market bookstore is closing today. We put the word out to our customers that we would happy to take their orders on a variety of different subjects; not knowing our access to full margin on those items might be restricted. (At least I can do Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin/Random House.) It’s more possible now that a store in my position (or a store that finds itself being given some larger orders) would have no problem meeting that $417 per month average. 

If you don’t know what your purchasing from them was in 2015, a phone call may be in order.

Sadly, for stores now facing a shorter discount, their relationship with Ingram vis-a-vis dollar volume, has now become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It should be about the order, not a store’s performance in 2015.  

Update: I want to make clear that while this is partly personal, I just think this particular strategy is bad policy. It’s bad for bookstores, bad for publishers, bad for authors and really bad for Ingram itself, since it simply makes everyone angry.

If my account is a drain on their bottom line, then they should put structures in place that force me to consolidate orders, or higher minimum orders.

In our Christian product sales sector of the larger market, people are often well-networked and vertically integrated. So if I’m talking to a new publisher or a new author and they have a choice between Ingram Publisher Services and Advocate Distribution Services, I think it’s obvious which one I’m going to recommend.


Fiction Publishers Have No Respect For Their Customers

I’ve previously ranted here about the situation where the publishing industry came up with an excellent solution to maintaining book series and keeping non-catalog titles available, namely print-on-demand; and then utterly and completely abdicated that solution in favor of the ease and convenience of eBooks.

Yesterday once again I had to disappoint a customer who was collecting a particular author only to discover she had books 2, 3 and 4 but book 1 was not going to be available anywhere other than yard sales and thrift stores.  I know this person, she’s a loyal customer and she deserves better. Should she have verified availability of the whole series first? She has no idea how the business works. If anything, she trusted us not to be selling something that would cause her frustration.

This time the culprit was Barbour Publishing. Barbour, I really hate this. I hate the utter disdain for the very people who keep you in business. I hate the management ethics that create these situations. I hate the refusal to go public — you and every other publisher — to answer basic questions about why eBooks trumped print-on-demand; questions as to why services like Lightning Print and Expresso were deemed unworthy of support.

But that’s just today. The week before it was Tyndale House. And the book was only three years old. The week before that it was Baker/Bethany. It’s often Baker/Bethany. They don’t answer e-mails. They don’t return phone calls.

It’s no wonder that many well-established authors are now producing their own books in-house. We’re preparing an article on this subject and collecting anecdotal evidence of some writers even parting company with their publisher mid-series. Did they jump or were they pushed? To the consumer it doesn’t matter. They made a time and money investment in the author’s series and now they want to see it through to completion.

I would love to sit in the board rooms of the publishers where these dumb, dumb, dumb decisions are made. I’ve worked in this industry at the wholesale level — five times for three different companies — and I know how easy it is to forget about the very real people who have to buy the books for the system not to collapse.

So publishers, listen to me: Not everybody is going to buy an eReader to complete a series. That market is as saturated as it is ever going to get. All you’re doing is turning customers off the reading they enjoy and driving them to other leisure time pursuits.

Furthermore, if you have 6,000 each of books 2, 3 and 4 floating around your warehouse and through remainder vendors, you might want to bring book one back to press even if the series didn’t meet expectations. That’s your name on the spine and on the title page and you want people to experience customer satisfaction with your brand. 

Authors, please hear this: Not everyone is going to order books online. I have customers who won’t use a credit card in-store, much less online. Whatever your issues were with the major publisher you were with, if you’re going to go it alone, make sure the books exist with distributors at full trade discount to stores.

And let’s not, for one minute, think that this situation does not apply equally to non-fiction. When you factor in all the development and set-up costs, print-on-demand costs you relatively nothing and offers you gigantic public relations gains. 

I personally believe that five years into the future, your love affair with eBooks is going to end and you’ll wish you had honored your print consumers a little better, especially when the easy fix was always camped outside the door.


Publishers Optimistic about Brick and Mortar Stores: Book Expo America

From World Magazine:

NEW YORK—Online retailers like Amazon are still gobbling market share for books, but book publishers are unexpectedly optimistic about the future of physical bookstores.

Publishers held their largest annual gathering in New York last week, the BookExpo America (BEA), where they show off their titles and discuss trends in the industry. On the eve of the gathering, the trade group American Booksellers Association (ABA) announced that 2,000 independent bookstores now exist nationally, the highest number since 2005. Twenty years ago, there were twice as many independent bookstores, but after several years of decline the trade group is pointing to a resurgence.

Not only are we still here, there are more of us,” said Oren Teicher, the CEO of ABA.

The article includes these highlights:

…Some publishers and retailers also think the eBook trend has leveled out—in other words, eBooks are unlikely to take much more of the market than they currently do. Several publishers discussed successful experiments they’ve done in pairing a physical book sale with a digital edition, so customers can read wherever they are. The more time people spend reading, they said, the more books they will buy…

Barron’s last week published an article arguing that Barnes & Noble’s stock was heavily undervalued. The booksellers’ retail stores continue to be profitable, and its digital side, Nook, is posting fewer and fewer losses…

…Publishers desperately want bookstores to survive. The animosity toward Amazon, which holds the majority market share of online book sales and eBook sales, was thinly veiled at a discussion about the future of bookstores…

…Amazon had no presence at BEA beyond a lone bookshelf stand with a small sign…

…But online retailers like Amazon can’t provide well what industry people called “discoverability.” Though online retailers can provide recommended titles based on past purchases with scary accuracy, nothing replaces the physical browsing experience. Even eBook publishers acknowledged that principle…

Read the full article at World.

Bowker Report: Both Print and eBook Sales Up

I found this report a few days ago at the blog Marketing Christian Books, an online resource primarily serving independent authors. I think both the report highlights and the analysis are worth reading. Please give the writer some well-deserved traffic by reading this at source where it appeared under the title The Good News: Growth.

Every year, Bowker publishes the U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Report. The complete report is very price, about $800. However, Bowker is kind enough to give a few highlights from their report each year in their news release announcing the availability of the report for purchase.

Information for the report is culled from the Bowker Market Research consumer panel of almost 70,000 Americans who bought books of any format and from any source in 2012. This year, Bowker’s report included growth, growth, and more growth.

This is good news for the publishing industry. Some of the growth areas cited by the report are:

  • The number of books purchased online in 2012 grew to 44% of all book purchases, up from 39% in 2011.
  • The number of print books published grew 3% in 2012 to 301,642 titles.
  • Bowker estimates that approximately 3% of books bought by Americans were by self-published authors (making up about 8% of ebook purchases).
  • eBooks continued to rise in popularity, accounting for 11% of spending in 2012, compared to 7% in 2011.
  • Women increased their lead over men in book buying, accounting for 58% of overall book spending in 2012, up from 55% in 2011. Women aged 30 to 44 are the biggest book consumer.
  • The slowly improving economy is slowly improving the climate for purchasing books. By the end of 2012, 53% of consumers said the economy was having no effect on their book buying habits, up from 51% at the end of 2011.

All this is good news for publishing—especially for small publishers and independently published authors. Consider the implications:

  1. Online retailers sell almost half of all books. That makes it easier to sell your books. It is now more important to have your books available through online retailers than through brick-and-mortar retailers. Of course, having your books available through both is still best, but if can only secure online retailers, you are still in the game.
  2. Print books continue to grow. So, if you sell print books, don’t despair, they are still being made and purchased, meaning you can still sell your print books.
  3. Knowing that women dominate the book buying market is important. This knowledge allows you to adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. Market to women (even if your book is for guys) because women buy books not only for themselves, but for other people too.
  4. Despite the slow growth in the economy, people are still buying books. This means that if you develop your audience, you will reap sales.

Growth: Make this word your motto and strive to grow your book sales.

Radical TED Talk Questions the Survival of eBooks

Hugh McGuire suggests that ebooks are a lot more similar to web sites than they are to traditional books. He bases this on the idea that there are certain kinds of sentences that go into books, and certain kinds of sentences that go on the internet; that only certain types of things are printed and bound. (He also notes that both websites and ebooks are made of  HTML code.)

And despite marketing efforts you’ve seen, he believes that publishers are greatly fearful of the internet, because the internet is famous for “gobbling up traditional business models and spitting out total chaos.” 

He also believes that there is more value in adding websites to the current mix than just having print books and ebooks, and that E + P + W is better than just having two of these.

He also references YouVersion, a digital edition of the Bible which (I believe) was developed at by Craig Groeshel and Bobby Gruenewald — as an example of what happens when books exist as websites, and everyone can see the various interactions people have had with the text.

Check out the TED Talk video and commentary by Porter Anderson at Jane Friedman’s blog.

HT: Tim Challies.


1) The growth of YouVersion:

2) YouVersion’s most bookmarked verses:

  1. Philippians 4:6
  2. Proverbs 3:5
  3. Jeremiah 29:11
  4. Romans 12:2
  5. Philippians 4:13
  6. Philippians 4:7
  7. Proverbs 3:6
  8. Romans 8:28
  9. Matthew 6:33
  10. 1 Corinthians 13:4

from the YouVersion blog

Kevin DeYoung: Real Books Must Never Die

Actually, he said it more like this:

…Perhaps I am a wishful thinking bibliophile, but I just don’t think the physical book is going the way of the dodo bird. No doubt, many scholars and students will house parts of their reference libraries on an electronic device. Some frequent flyers will stick books on their tablets instead of in their brief cases. And some techno-geeks will conclude that everything is better on an Apple product. I’m sure ereaders will make inroads. They serve a useful purpose. But only to a point.

Old books are like old friends. They love to be revisited. They stick around to give advice. They remind you of days gone by. Books, like friends, hang around.

And they prefer not to be invisible…

…The other problem with ebooks is their bland sameness. This is why I can’t make it much farther than two books on any electronic device. The books don’t feel like anything. The font is the same and the white space is the same. There is no variance in paper or size or weight. Each book, when read on an ereader, loses its personality…

…Books have not been around forever. There are other ways to put words together on paper, papyrus, or cow’s hide. So it’s possible something else will come along to take the book down from the shelf. But it won’t be the iPad I’m using right now…

Read, share, print and distribute (!) the entire piece by Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition. Be sure to read and share the full essay, not the excerpt shown here.

HT: Daryl Dash

Toronto Store Closing Brings Total to Eight; LA Retailer Bucking The Trend

While Christian stores continue to struggle, the record of store closings in Toronto in just a little over three years shows that the general market is equally hurting.  John Goddard’s article in the Business section of The Toronto Star focused on the closing of one of the five Book City locations, but also contained this sidebar showing the recent casualties within the city limits:

2012 – Books for Business, off Bay St. on Adelaide St. W., in the financial district; The Book Mark, on Bloor St. W. in Etobicoke; [and Book City in Bloor West Village];

2011 – The Flying Dragon, children’s bookstore, Leaside.

2010 – This Ain’t the Rosedale Library.

2009 – Pages Books, Queen St. W.; David Mirvish Books, Markham St.; McNally Robinson Booksellers, Don Mills.

The article went on to describe the Book City closing:

“Physical retail stores for media — books, music and video — are becoming increasingly unviable,” owner Sean Neville said.

Book City’s decision to close one of its five locations coincides with the company’s move to expand its product line at the remaining stores, Donker said.

“We need stores that have enough square footage for us to be able to add something new without hurting our selection of books,” he said. “We’re looking for a few things to take over for the small decline that’s happened because of ebooks, online sales, that type of thing.”

The 1,000 square feet or so at the Bloor West Village location offered too little room to accommodate expanded inventory, which so far includes greeting cards and toys, he said.

But before we become too hasty, there’s this story about an entrepreneur who is swimming against the tide:

In the past few decades, the publishing industry has gone through drastic changes: large chain bookstores have pushed out independent bookstores, and now digital book retailers and ebooks have pushed out the chains.

But Josh Spencer is turning back the clock. A former online book seller, Spencer now owns a 10,000-square-foot used bookstore in downtown Los Angeles, aptly named The Last Bookstore.

On the corner of 5th and Spring streets, The Last Bookstore is a book-lover’s paradise with a large cavernous space, a hushed atmosphere, comfy couches, and, of course, rows and rows of books. Formerly a bank that opened in 1915, the building boasts tall columns and antique furnishings that give the space a nostalgic air, while murals and sculptures – one made completely of books suspended on wires – add a more modern feel. The store also features a section of used records and a small coffee bar.

Spencer, who sold books online for the last 12 years, said he was approached in 2006 about creating a physical bookstore in downtown LA. Three years later, Spencer opened a small store on Main St. and soon had more books than the few shelves would hold. Spencer and his employees found the current space and opened the store in June.

…continue reading this story at World California…

If it’s true that trends move from west to east, The Last Bookstore might not be last after all.

Amazon Vows To Eliminate All The Middle-men

Perhaps unaware of all the implications contained in the declaration of war he was issuing against the traditional book industry, Amazon company executive Russell Grandinetti stated, “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and the reader.”

What’s significant about his remarks is that, as brick and mortar stores are squeezed out of the process, we still like to think that publishing will otherwise continue as we know it, with acquisitions staff, editors and marketing departments, but Grandinetti’s remarks have reverberations that really affect more people than those who are part of the retail chain; his remarks beg the question if there need even be publishers at all.

I say that because the quotation appears in the middle of an October 28th story by Toronto Star business reporter John Goddard (now available only in The Star’s paid archives) which he compiled with files from Bloomberg News and The Times; a story which states that Amazon as paid actress and director Penny Marshall (Laverne of TV’s Laverne and Shirley) an $800,000 (U.S.) advance for her next book.

And Crain’s business news website confirmed a week later that Amazon Publishing has signed new age author Deepak Chopra; though this time the author’s advance is unknown.  “The deal marks the imprint’s third foray into territory once reserved for traditional houses since industry veteran Larry Kirshbaum was named publisher last May.”

Well, at least they have someone acting as publisher; it’s not being carried on by machines.  But Grandinetti’s remark bears repeating one more time; “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and the reader.” The times, they are a-changing.

Getting To Know Your Competitor

Then again, you might not want to know all of this information.  (Click the image to bring it up to full size on your screen.)

Make More Time For Reading

Here’s a great article to cut and paste, or simply send the link to that customer you know who’s reading time is waning of late; or that music or card customer who claims there’s just no time to get into the book habit.

Robert Bruce guests at Michael Hyatt’s place with 5 Ways to Make More Time to Read.

Note: You might need to lead by example here.  Show me a store where book sales are dying, and I’ll show you a store where the management and staff have lost their passion for print.

New Electronic Book Device Supplants Audio Books

Just as various electronic book readers have threatened the future of print editions, now comes word that similar electronic devices are under development to replace need for audio playback hardware and software.

Using science similar to that used in cochlear implants, the new technology would allow users to “hear” the audio text being read to them without the need for audio CDs or mp3 players.

The only current downside is the need for some kind of data port direct to the human brain.

The picture at right shows an average, randomly selected citizen volunteer who has been fitted with an early, somewhat clumsy version of the device. Critics of the new technology have been swift to suggest that the device is the ultimate ‘re-invention’ of the wheel, claiming that such direct-to-brain transmission of audio already exists in the form of the human ear.

But developers respond that the ear is old technology, not to mention that it uses a completely analogue technology; further arguing that human ears become less discerning of higher frequencies at middle age.