Monday, 11 August 2014

After The Writing Comes The Hard Part - Promotion!

Once there were these magical places anyone could enter called bookshops which could be found on pretty much every High Street. They smelled of crisp paper, printers' ink and ancient wood with a hint of wet dog.

Some towns had several of them, each with a unique personality. These characterful emporiums were places where you could spend hours searching closely packed shelves for a portal into another country or era. An always helpful lady presided who possessed an uncanny ability to find whatever you wanted within seconds. Time meant nothing within its walls and all that mattered was that special book which would take you to another place and time.

Then something happened. RPM [Retail Price Maintenance] on books was abolished, and the larger booksellers began giving the things away. Well not quite, but for the price of two books you could have three. Then within what seemed liked days of publication, books found their way into the ‘bargain basket’ located inside the door and marked down by 70%.

These days the majority of readers buy their books online, or better still, download them! Inevitably, the independent bookstore caved under dwindling profits and only the large chains survived.  Getting an author’s work into these places is virtually impossible unless you appear regularly on TV and the few still existing independent bookstores use a website called ‘The Hive’ where you order a book online and collect it from their local bookstore.

I inquired as to how one gets a book into a bookstore and was told that if a reader wants my books, they can order them through the store - but that doesn’t answer the question of how an unknown author informs the reading public their book exists in the first place?

Apparently, the print and paper books stocked in the large chains come from a very small list of famous, or celebrity writers selected by a secret panel of hobbits in a permanently locked room in the Ministry of Magic.  OK that’s an exaggeration, but it certainly feels like it when as a poor struggling author, I'm trying to get them to consider stocking my books!


Katherine Pym said...

So very true. Well done. It's an uphill battle for sure.

Diane Scott Lewis said...

It's the exact same situation here in the US. So sad to lose those quaint independent bookstores.
Where I live, we don't even have a chain bookstore.

Rosemary Morris said...

And don't forget the effect of charity shops selling recently published books for next to noting on authors struggling to make a living.

Maggi Andersen said...

The good thing about e-books. In a bricks and mortar bookstore, if a novel doesn't sell well in three weeks, they're sold back to the publisher. But e-books are there forever, which gives the book a chance to catch on and keep selling.

Tony Riches said...

I despair at what's happening to local bookshops - but have had good results after building my 'author platform' over the past year. I wrote it all up in a little ebook that I'm giving away free on request if you would like some short cuts.


Petrea Burchard said...

I think this has always been true for less well-known authors. Most stores can order what a reader requests, but there are so many books that the stores simply can't stock everything. They have to stock what they can be relatively certain people will buy.

Maggi makes a good point as well. After merely a few weeks, unsold hardbacks are sent back to the publisher for credit. Paperbacks don't fare as well. I worked in a bookstore, and I remember tearing the covers off hundreds of paperback books that didn't sell. We sent the covers back to the publishers for credit. The books themselves were trash. I took home as many as I could.

Alan Hamilton said...

If it weren't for Amazon, unknown and first-time authors would have nowhere to place their book and would be unable to direct readers to where they could find it. I've had the experience of being published - by a new and unknown publisher - and going independent. In the first case the book was stocked by Waterstones, though only on the shelf in some of the shops. Now, I don't expect to be stocked in the large chains, but the independents ignore you too. You're not a 'name'.
I say, thank God for Amazon.

Anita Davison said...

Good point Allan, and I agree that Amazon has given all authors a level playing field in which to offer our work. I am not alone though in wishing the bookselling chains would put our books on shelves - even though we haven't appeared on reality TV! or are a 'celebrity'