Posts Tagged ‘publishing industry’

Ingram Book Company Sinks to Lowest Level of Customer Service

People have used the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse for all manner of customer services lapses, and while it is the case that it has more difficult to hire employees and more challenging to get products from publishers in on time, some are simply milking the situation for all its worth.

Ingram Book Company operates under several different names, such as Ingram International, Ingram Content Group, or for some of my readers here, Spring Arbor Distributors. Their customer service record over the past years has been dismal, as evidenced by wait times of over an hour on their phone lines, shared with me by other dealers in the retailer Facebook group.

So instead of hiring extra customer service agents, or expanding their customer service hours, they did the opposite; forcing more issues to be submitted through the chasm of email; correspondence they had not intention of responding to.

Their actual announcement read, in part:

To best support all customers, we are adjusting our phone hours to support calls during peak call times, allowing us to focus on email support outside of this new phone schedule.
Effective November 1, 2021, our Customer Care phone support hours will be 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST / 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PST Monday through Friday.

Four hours. They cut it back to four hours.

This from a company which inflates list prices, imposes short discounts at the drop of a hat, and has no commitment to the actual marketing, promotion and publicity of the products they sell.

Their future — and they know this — is their partnership with Amazon in the US and Chapters in Canada. The individual, independent retail stores they’ve served for so many decades can’t possibly be part of their long term business plan. And their own retail division, Barnes and Noble, while having a good year in 2021, is subject to the roller coast ride of the pandemic and the industry as a whole.

With no other choice, I sent an email a month ago.

The three titles I received in a single shipment bore a bar-code and printed price of $14.99; but they charged two based on $16.99 and one based on $17.99. Plus a less than trade discount.

The problem is, I went through this with them about 2½ years ago with exactly the same titles, and they said they would clean up the database. I got a credit note that time.

Not this time.

Not even a reply.

I was taught, “Reply to a letter with a letter, to an email with an email, to a phone call with a phone call.” That’s just basic courtesy; basic human decency; basic business etiquette.

Not for Ingram…

…Today I received a very damaged book. I can’t through to them on the phone and I know there’s no point in trying another email.

Instead, I need to reconsider my supplier base; and rethink the type of services I’m prepared to offer my customers moving forward on the more obscure titles not carried by a major distributor such as Harper, Penguin, Hachette, or in the case of suppliers used by dealers reading this, Anchor/WA and the former David C. Cook Distribution.

If it’s not with those companies, I’m prepared to tell my customers that the titles aren’t available through us; preferring at this point to prioritize my business efficiency instead of Ingram’s.

Are Bookstores Providing Spiritual Help Essential Services?

Cornerstone Bookshop in Toronto is one of the retailers raising this question. They are located in the north end of Toronto, an area which was put into lockdown with Friday’s announcement by the Provincial Premier. From the Cornerstone Bookshop website:

In the document entitled, ‘Guidance on Essential Services and Functions in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic,’ it outlines that anyone who provides community mental health is permitted to keep its doors open. We provide spiritual help both in person and through the resources made available. The material we offer is also used by many spiritual leaders to educate, train and provide counsel for people dealing with anxiety, stress and fear. We also provide spiritual counsel on a day to day basis and recommend material that gives comfort, help and encouragement in difficult times.
For everyone’s  convenience, we are also offering curbside pick and delivery…

However, a Canadian Press news story by Tara Deschamps posted to CP24 on Saturday shows the publishing industry is fighting to have all bookstores considered essential.

Two of the Canadian literary industry’s biggest brands are calling on the Ontario government to designate bookstores as essential services – even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge.

Retailer Indigo Books & Music Inc. and publisher Penguin Random House Canada both say bookstores should be allowed to remain open as COVID-19 restrictions are tightened because they provide resources that educate and contribute positively to communities coping with the pandemic…

…Penguin Random House Canada chief executive Kristin Cochrane echoed those statements in a letter she wrote to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, where she argued that the combination of low margins and high postal and distribution costs mean online sales are not a viable option for most bookstores during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Online retailers alone do not have the supply chain capacity to service the book business in Ontario without severely underserving many readers and communities, as we saw during the first wave of the pandemic, when books were deprioritized,” she said.

“Nor can the books category be left in the hands of online retailers without serious impact on the reach of Canadian stories, authors, illustrators, and voices – and the long-standing vibrancy and diversity of our retail ecosystem.” …

continue reading here… 

The story also ran on Global News and the CBC.

A similar cry was heard across North America in the Spring when bookstores were shut down. Alex George opened a store in Missouri and wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post.

Eighteen months ago, my business partner and I opened an independent bookshop in Columbia, Mo. The first few years of any business are difficult, especially in retail, and especially in the book industry, where margins are notoriously thin and your greatest competitor is the corporate incarnation of the Death Star…

…The order issued by my city contains 42 categories of business that are essential; enterprises permitted to stay open range from pharmacies to restaurants to hardware stores to dry cleaners — but bookshops are not on the list. North Carolina exempts bookstores “that sell educational material”…

…But bookshops should absolutely be deemed essential. Now more than ever, access to books is critical to our collective mental health. As our customers endure the coronavirus pandemic — and as many shelter in place — readers are finding solace, relief, entertainment, information, stimulation and escape inside the covers of books…

…Booksellers listen, and we guide. We put the right book into the right hands. This is a service we perform with joy. We perform it with gratitude and the utmost care. We can perform it, we’ve learned, even when our customers can’t browse our shelves. We can perform it safely.

The work we do is, in short, essential. All we ask is that we be permitted to do it, at a time when it is needed most

Previous Industry Shakeups: Trade Paperbacks in the 1950s

Industry shakeups are nothing new. My wife subscribes to Shorpy a website which offers classic, high definition photographs. She forwarded this one to me:

Circa 1940: In an effort to generate more foot traffic in his Chicago camera store, my grandfather Edwin Shutan dedicated a section to a book rental library and hired a staff librarian, Miss Michaels (shown). Edwin charged just 10 cents for three days with no deposit or membership required. His library was immaculate and well-stocked with all the latest titles from authors such as Thornton Wilder, Alexander Woollcott and Lloyd C. Douglas, to name a few. View full size.

If you click to zoom in on the picture, you’re immediately reminded of the days before trade paperbacks; every book in the scene is hardcover.

That got me thinking about the trade paperbacks that now form the backbone of most of our stores. The website Mental Floss looked at this 4 years ago:

…If paperbacks were going to succeed in America, they would need a new model. De Graff, for his part, was well acquainted with the economics of books. He knew that printing costs were high because volumes were low—an average hardcover print run of 10,000 might cost 40 cents per copy. With only 500 bookstores in the U.S., most located in major cities, low demand was baked into the equation.

In the U.K., things were different. There, four years prior, Penguin Books founder Allen Lane had started publishing popular titles with paper bindings and distributed them in train stations and department stores. In his first year of operation, Lane sold more than three million “mass-market” paperbacks.

Quantity was key. De Graff knew that if he could print 100,000 paperbound books, production costs would plummet to 10 cents per copy. But it would be impossible for Pocket Books to turn a profit if it couldn’t reach hundreds of thousands of readers. And that would never happen as long as de Graff relied solely on bookstores for distribution. So de Graff devised a plan to get his books into places where books weren’t traditionally sold. His twist? Using magazine distributors to place Pocket Books in newsstands, subway stations, drugstores, and other outlets to reach the underserved suburban and rural populace…

[I’ve left a huge gap in the story here, you’ll need to click the link]

…Literary authors and critics weren’t the only ones turning up their noses at paperbacks. Bookstore owners, for the most part, refused to stock them, and students at most schools and universities still used hardcover texts.

Enter the “trade paperback.” Publishers had been unsuccessfully experimenting with larger-sized paperbacks since the 1940s, but it wasn’t until Doubleday’s Jason Epstein introduced Anchor Books trade paperbacks in 1953 that the idea caught fire. The idea arose from Epstein’s own college experience. “The writers we had discovered in college were either out of print or available only in expensive hardcover editions,” he wrote in Book Business. Instead of reprinting last year’s hardcover bestsellers and classics, Epstein envisioned a line of “upscale paperbacks” handpicked for their literary merit from publishers’ deep backlists.

Anchor’s trade paperbacks were larger and more durable than mass-market paperbacks and were an instant hit with high schools and colleges. Their attractive covers, illustrated by fine artists such as Edward Gorey, immediately distinguished them from the grittier pulp paperbacks, and they appealed to a more “intellectual” market. As a result, they found a nice middle ground in price. Epstein’s paperbacks had small print runs of about 20,000 and sold for 65 cents to $1.25 when mass-market paperbacks were still going for 25 to 50 cents. Trade paperbacks also opened doors to bookstores. Within 10 years, 85 percent of bookstores carried the handsome volumes.

In 1960, revenues from paperbacks of all shapes and sizes finally surpassed those from hardcover sales…

Click here for the full article.

I also looked at a 200-page, highly-annotated .pdf copy of a 2007 sociological research paper (thesis) Where Did All These Books Come From? The Publishing Industry and American Intellectual Life by Maro N. Asadoorian.

In 1953, Anchor Books was founded, and many consider this the true starting point for trade paperback publishing (Bonn 1995, 267)… “[I]it was during this time [the 1950s] that paperbacks began to sell in very large quantities, eroding somewhat the big sales of hardbound novels” (Hackett 1975, 116). Though the paperback industry faced some challenges during the late 1940s and early 1950s regarding overproduction and clogged distribution channels (Bonn 1995, 265), the industry grew in both size and power as the Age of Acquisitions drew near. In 1957, Publishers Weekly started a separate bestsellers list or paperbacks, and later separated mass market from trade paperbacks (Hackett 1975, 121). In 1968, “trade paperbacks became a feature of the Model Bookshop” at ABA conventions (Grannis 1975, 96) and throughout the 1970s and 1980s paperback houses published more and more original titles (Bonn 1995, 267). As we will see, this growth in paperback publishing was a huge turning point in the direction and attitude of the industry as a whole. As early as the end of World War II it was clear that “most people understood that a large part of the future lay in paperbacks” (Tebbel 1987, 408).  [pp. 87-88]

So who were the winners and who were losers?

The trade paperback impacted hardcover sales — and related author royalties and bookstore margins — but the increased volume meant many more books were being sold. Mass market (pocket) books were great if large volumes could be assured, but the trade paperback offered a safe middle ground for both original works and reprints.

I suspect that then, as now, certain categories responded to the changes differently. Even today we see a much higher percentage of hardcover cookbooks than we find with hardcover young adult fiction.

One thing is certain in publishing: It’s never a unchanging landscape. As with the music business, technology is always the sidebar to every story; almost always the reason for every sweeping trend.

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.


Independent Christian Authors Can’t Rely on Spring Arbor

Product needs to be placed with Anchor, Send the Light and International Distributors

In light of yesterday’s column about changes at Ingram Content Group, Spring Arbor is no longer a reliable choice for indie authors who want their product available to bookstores at a reasonable trade discount. If we’re talking several titles, or your self-publisher represents several artists, this make things a little easier, especially if physical books exist already and are not just sold print-on-demand.

Since not everybody gets picked up by Baker, Cook or Zondervan, Advocate Distribution is a strong alternative.

Since not every author gets picked up by Baker, Cook or Zondervan, Advocate Distribution is a strong alternative.

Most American stores have an account with Anchor Distributors or Send the Light Distribution. If you have several books to offer, Send the Light’s Advocate Distribution Solutions can provide fulfillment on a contract basis.

If a writer wants to ensure Canadian trade distribution from a domestic supplier the situation complicates. Historically, even if you have a great product, David C. Cook Canada, Foundation Distributing, and Augsburg-Fortress Canada are more interested in acquiring major U.S. publishing brands than they are in going to the bother of adding independent titles. If you’re a Canadian author, Foundation and Word Alive support homegrown authors but only to the extent your book is published with either Castle Quay or Word Alive Press. (Essence Publishing, in Belleville, Ontario has no distribution at all; stores often sources the Canadian-made product through Spring Arbor.)  In those cases, the words I was taught to repeat while working for the company that later became CMC Distribution (now part of Cook) continue to echo in my mind: “The market for Christian books is the U.S. market. Secure your U.S. deal and the book will fall into Canadian distributors’ hands automatically.”

But what if your U.S. distributor has no Canadian counterpart? Then it’s back to Send the Light and Anchor.

In the interest of efficiency, Canadian stores are reluctant to deal with too many suppliers. In the 21st Century, a new generation of bookstore owners have streamlined their bookkeeping and database processes. If the title is really hot and the indie publisher or author takes credit cards, they’ll place an order, but there is always the predisposition that independent product is somehow inferior to what the major publisher have on offer and sometimes, when it comes to packaging, marketing and editorial quality control, they are right. American store owners tend to be more entrepreneurial, but the rules of efficiency still apply.

The point for authors — many of whom follow articles at this site — is that if your custom publisher tells you that your product is automatically listed in the database at Spring Arbor, that’s no longer good enough. Personally, I would go the Advocate Distribution route*; your book (or CD) may even end up in a Spring or Summer flyer distributed to stores across the U.S., a possibility that Ingram Content Group does not offer.

*In a random survey of some of Advocate’s top titles, all were available at Amazon. I don’t mention the A-zon factor here because of long-running concerns as to whether or not this avenue of book distribution is sustainable over the longer term.



The Changing Landscape of Publishing

Tim Underwood tweeted this out this morning, and I’m taking the liberty of reblogging it here. Basically, it is the lecture notes taken by Nancy J. Cohen at a two day conference in St. Petersburg of a speech given in October by author Hugh C. Howey.  To read at source, click the title below and then check out the rest of her blog which is all about the book industry.

Changes in Publishing: Who Will Survive?

Hugh Howey: The Publishing World is Changing. How Can You Keep Up?
Novelists, Inc. Conference Day 2, St. Pete Beach Oct. 2014

Hugh Howey began his presentation by showing slides on “A history of storytelling.” The order goes this way:

  • Oral tradition
  • Written tradition
  • The first cubicle workers, i.e. monks transcribing by hand
  • Movable type
  • Offset and digital in 1990
  • Electronic publishing 2007

He recommends reading “The Storytelling Animal.”

Bar codes revolutionized sales in that data could be tracked. This led to massive discounting. In 1995, Amazon went live. In 2014, indie bookstores see a 20% growth in openings since 2007.

Book selling is like the game: scissors, paper, rock. You have the big-box chains, online retailers, and indie bookstores. Amazon beats the chains. Indies beat Amazon on their location, curation, and community. Publisher profits have risen, but digital is subsidizing print. Business costs and author royalties for digital are much less for publishers and their profit margin is up. So digital is saving publishers, and Amazon is saving indie bookstores.

There’s less downtime between reads for readers. They want immediate downloads. The guilt of the TBR pile is gone. Clutter is no longer a dissuasion for buying more books.

Digital includes e-books, audio, and print-on-demand books. “I can’t stress enough how crazy audio is, and that’s part of digital.”

Three variables determine author income: the number of titles sold, the price of the title, and the author royalty rate.

Romance is the bestselling book genre in terms of author earnings. Mysteries and thrillers are next.

Self-published royalties surpass traditionally published royalties. Digital is about 70% of the market. 40% of print sales now are on Amazon, not including print-on-demand.

The top 20 Amazon bestsellers in each category:

  • Mystery/thriller: 4 audio, 1 hardcover, 1 paperback, 14 e-books
  • Science fiction/fantasy: 5 audio, 15 e-books, no print
  • Romance: 20 e-books
  • Fiction/literature: 4 audio, 1 hardcover, 1 paperback, 14 e-books
  • History: 2 audio, 7 hardcover, 4 paperback, 7 e-books
  • Teen: 1 hardcover, 5 paperbacks, 14 e-books

Publishers are more profitable as the cost of production and distribution has gone to nearly zero. Big bookstores are going under while Indies take more of the market share. Expectation and output paths are converging, such as author platform and professional book production. The number of people making a living at writing has gone up from tenfold to fiftyfold. The chances are slim but it’s doable to make it as a writer.

Publishing is moving to the West Coast. Amazon, Google, and Apple will become prominent publishers along with other tech companies. Indie bookstores will survive. The real threat is the decline in recreational book reading.

Who will survive?

  • Publishers who pay well and price their books right
  • Retailers who curate well
  • Anyone who aids discoverability
  • Partners who increase distribution
  • Freelancers who raise quality
  • Toolmakers who increase quantity
  • Locales that create an addictive book culture

Note: Any errors in this article are due to my interpretation.

Reminiscing with Philip Yancey

The Golden Age of Publishing

This article appeared earlier in the month both at Books and Culture and at Philip Yancey’s blog. It keeps being mentioned so I thought I would include the opening section here as a teaser and then let you click whichever source you prefer to read the whole thing.

Philip YanceyI have lived through the golden age of publishing, first with magazines and then with books. I began my career at Campus Life in 1971, and in ten years saw our circulation leap from 50,000 to 250,000. Like many magazines, Campus Life eventually bit the dust as advertising dollars migrated to flashier (and cheaper) online sources and consumers no longer responded to direct mail offers and renewal letters.

For almost four decades (yikes!) I’ve worked as a freelance writer, feeling enormously blessed to make a good living by writing about issues of faith that I would want to explore even if no one bought my books. Every year my royalties go down, though with more than 20 books in print I can still pay bills and find publishers willing to sponsor new books.

The changes in publishing, especially Christian publishing, stood out sharply to me when I stopped in at the largest annual Christian book convention in June. At one time 15,000 attended that trade show, a convention so large that only a handful of cities could accommodate it. Now less than 4,000 attend, and in Atlanta it occupied a corner of the huge convention center. A couple hundred delegates attended a luncheon in which I participated on a panel with Ravi Zacharias and Ryan Dobson; ten years ago the same luncheon would have filled a thousand-seat banquet hall. Though name authors had book signings, the only lines I saw were for two stars of Duck Dynasty.

Book publishing is going through massive changes. Almost every month bookstore sales fall below the total from last year … and the year before. Of the 5,000 Christian bookstores in the U.S. open in the 1970s, barely half that number have survived. What happened? …

to continue reading click either of the two links in the introduction

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.

Everybody Loves the Bookstore, But Nobody Buys

Occasionally, we find a comic that crosses over into the realm of retailers, and this one has been on my desk since I read it on March 16th in The Hamilton Spectator. It’s ironic to include this at this particular blog however, since “Edge City follows a hip, Jewish-American family juggling relationships, careers and tradition at the fast pace of modern life.”  (In Canada, the Sunday panels appear in the Saturday newspapers, dating back to a time when Sunday papers didn’t exist here.) The comic is drawn by Terry and Patty LeBan. Visit their website at














A Decade and a Half Later, Wither Lightning Print?

At the beginning of 1998, Michael Lovett had just been named President and CEO of Ingram Book Group and Larry Brewster was Ingram VP and GM of the new Lightning Print division. Heralded as “an alliance between Ingram, IBM,, and Danka Services International, Lighting Print will store books in a digital library and print each book, one at a time, as ordered…”  Brewster extolled: “…With print on demand technology, titles never have to go out of print.”

Lovett said, “It’s the best of all worlds. Specifically,

  • Publishers win because they sell books that otherwise go out of print.
  • Booksellers win because they sell more books and bring in more customers.
  • Consumers win because more titles are available.
  • Authors win because they continue to receive royalties.”

Oh, if only this were true nearly 15 years later.  Here’s how the story has really played out:

  • The eBook has become the default vehicle for out of print books, mostly bypassing the retail chain.
  • While many publishers have a portion of their catalog available in print-on-demand format, consumers remain frustrated by O/P titles they cannot access, and authors who hoped the new technology would prolong the shelf life of their titles are frustrated that their titles weren’t chosen for the extended run.
  • Booksellers are often faced with everything from shorter-discounts to short-discounts to no-discounts on print on demand titles.
  • Consumers are frustrated by extremely unjustified suggested retail prices.  (As I type this, I’m looking at a 63-page paperback booklet — with 1/3 of each page blank — that a customer refused to take after seeing the $26.99 price tag.)
  • Customers in the market for O/P titles are frustrated that the titles continue to exist in eBook formats, but not print, when they were promised — in extensive articles in major newspapers — that Lightning Print technology would be the default mechanism for keeping books in print.

Introduced as “…the answer you were looking for;” it appears that nearly a decade-and-a-half later, the promise of Lightning Print has been hijacked by even newer technology.

Quotation(s) source: Ingram International in-house publication, “Around the World;” Vol III, Number I, Feb/Mar 1998