Tuesday
Mar262013

Saving the bookstore

I have long suspected that the big publishers were the ones who were slowly putting bookstores out of business. Not through any misdirected or ill-conceived plan, but simply through greed. Bookstores represent the final leg of the distribution chain, and publishers have a monopoly they want to preserve. To sell your title in a bookstore, you pretty much have to be a client of a big publisher. Independents are locked out.

To get a publisher, you have to have an agent, which completes the gatekeeper cycle. This allowed the publishers to select the authors who were deemed worthy. They controlled the space, much like Hollywood controls the big-screen. No one complained because when someone purchased a book written by a mainstream author, they often left with five or six other books they picked up while browsing. I remember walking into Barnes & Noble with my children and walking out with several books from an entirely different series. This used to be a frequent event, but seldom happens anymore.

The miscalculation made by the publishing industry was believing they could control the distribution chain forever. There were literally thousands of writers just waiting for a chance to break in. These independents wanted and needed a place to sell their material. Along comes Amazon, a place for independent authors. Pretty soon all the independents were putting their books on Kindle and aggressively advocating that everyone should move to Amazon to purchase them. This started the slow migratory shift away from bookstores to online retailing. Honestly, the bookstores should've seen it coming. Once a relative or friend bought little Sally's independent novel, they found it quite easy to download additional products onto their Kindle app.

So how can the bookstore recover now that the masses are shifting over to e-books? The answer is they have to shun the big publishers' monopoly and embrace the independent; and they need to do it quickly. They need thousands of independent writers telling people to shop at their local bookstore. But how can they do that? Particularly, if the independents are still locked out. Here is the answer.

My rescue plan for the bookstore has them purchasing one of these nifty Espresso Book Machines, and hiring a promotional person to conduct tours. They can set the machine up in the corner and call the tour "The Best of the Independents." The PR professional will be responsible for bringing independent authors into the store, holding book readings, and promoting the event. It is likely that independents would flock to an opportunity like this because, like it or not, they still want to be part of the bookstore process. Old habits die hard, and there is a certain cachet to being in a bookstore.

The Bookstores will prosper because they don't have to stock or purchase any independent books, and yet when customers come in to hear the Independent authors speak, or pick up a printed copy of an independent work, they will once again browse and purchase several other authors. Therefore, the cost of the Espresso Book Machine will be indirectly subsidized by mainstream publishing. The book machine should be for independents only. Make the big six publishers compete for the rest of the retail space. This puts the book seller in greater control, and maintains the loyalty of the independent producer. So the plan benefits everyone, the independent, the bookstore, even mainstream writers. I have other ideas on how to convert these customers to alternative reading devices for their e-book purchases. But that's a subject for another blog.

 

At least, that's the way I see it:

Through a writer's eyes,

Cliff

In the meantime, here's another espresso machine you might like.

 

 

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