Reality vs Perception
This isn’t the post I planned on writing this morning. But there are times when you have to throw plans out the window and adapt. This is one of those times and you can blame Sarah for lighting the fire. You see, she left me a message after I turned off the computer last night that started the wheels turning. Then I read the comments to Dave’s post and the idea took hold. So welcome to the latest installment of “Reality vs Perception” or “How We Still Deceive Ourselves About Publishing”.
Let me start by saying I’m not picking on anyone. But some of the comments I’ve seen echo sentiments I see elsewhere on the internet and in some writers groups. The first comment runs along this line, “If I wanted to be a real writer and make real money from my writing, I’d find an agent and sell to a traditional publisher.” There are variations on this comment but it all boils down to this: if you want to be a “real writer”, you have to have an agent and be traditionally published, preferably by the Big 5.
Except. . . that isn’t the way to make real money unless you are one of the very lucky few who they decide to push to best seller status. Even then, that’s no guarantee you will maintain that status or that you will get the money you think you will. Gone are the days of the six figure advances (on the whole). And remember, you don’t see all that money. Before it even gets to you, your publisher will manipulate the monies owed by taking out “expenses” and relying on Bookscan for sales figures instead of a more reliable inventory tracking system. Then they send the money to your agent. Who also manipulates it. Not only will they take out their percentage but their expenses. Then Uncle Sam is going to take his bite out, as will the state if you are one of those “lucky” enough to live in states with an income tax.
“But, Amanda, I need to go with a traditional publisher to get into the bookstores.”
Reality check time again. Barnes & Noble is the major bookseller in the US. While locally owned indie bookstores are making a comeback, they make up a very minor part of the market right now. Reality check #1. Walk into a B&N. Look around. Where are the books in the store compared to the other products the company now sells? How much of the footprint of the stores is used for books and how much for other things. Now here is the real reality check. B&N holiday sales were down and the bookseller has lowered its estimated earnings for this year. Needless to say, this has not helped its stock prices. In fact, last I checked, you could buy a share of B&N stock for less than you’d spend in one of their stores for a children’s paperback book.
Read that again. One share for less than you’d pay for a book.
Shares dropped to $5.11 on Thursday, or less than the average $6.99 price for a children’s mass-market paperback. Its stock has plunged by 28 percent since the year’s start, when it traded at $7.11
But it gets better–or worse, depending on your point of view.
But it’s not only books that are suffering at Barnes & Noble. The store, known for a place where readers can grab a cup of coffee while browsing the shelves, also saw “slowness” at its cafes. On top of that, sales for seasonal gifts and the tchotchkes it sells as “impulse” purchases were slow.
Do you see the problem here? You have to have items on the shelves that people want to buy to get them through the doors. They aren’t going to come just for a cup of coffee. Ok, they might stop by, grab their coffee and leave. But that isn’t what the cafes were built for. They were supposed to keep people in the stores and browsing. So what happened?
That’s simple. First, B&N forgot it was a bookstore and started stocking other items people didn’t want day in and day out. Then, because those items had a higher profit margin, they gave them better placement in the stores than they gave books, the reason people were coming. Because profits were down, they started increasing the square footage given over to non-book items and less footage to books. Other factors include having staff that isn’t familiar with the stock or conversant with books, the overall problems with publishing, etc.
And, yes, Amazon. But even then, B&N had a huge hand in turning customers to their competition. When your online presence says you have a book in stock at a particular store but you don’t and it will take days, or longer, to get it for your customer, you have a problem. When you turn your ordering over to regional and national buyers, ignoring the fact there are local interests in El Paso that may not sell in NYC, you have a problem. When you are always two steps behind your biggest competitor when it comes to tech, you have a problem.
I could go on.
But the reality is, as a writer, you will sell more print books through Amazon than you will through B&N on the whole. It is ego that has us wanting to go into a store and see our books on the shelves. Hell, I would like to be able to do that. Reality, however, reminds me that I make much, much more through Amazon than I do through any of the other stores combined.
So don’t go hanging your career on the possibility your book might be carried in B&N or another bookstore if you are traditionally published. In fact, if you were to take the list of all books traditionally published in a single month and went to your local bookstore, you might be surprised at how many of them are not on the shelves. Traditional publishing does not guarantee bookstore shelf space.
The second thing that struck me when I was reading the comments to MGC and ATH yesterday was when someone made a comment that, basically, traditionally published books, before KDP, were longer, more rich and tighter stories. But the onset of KDP and indie publishing led to indie writers and their inferior books with little to no editing and lower prices and, by inference, a lowering in quality of traditionally published books.
Pardon me while I laugh hysterically. What we have been getting fro traditional publishers are goat daggers, especially in fantasy, that they love in hard cover because of the higher price they can charge. These books, on the whole, could be split into two–or more–books but publishers won’t do it. BECAUSE THEY CAN CHARGE MORE FOR A BIGGER BOOK.
Pardon me while I laugh because I’ve seen how little actual editing goes into most books coming from traditional publishers. People complain about the number of mistakes they find in indie books. I can find just as many, or more, in books coming from the Big 5.
Oh, and I would rather suffer through a few misspellings or comma faults for an entertaining story. That sort of story is getting harder and harder to find in traditional publishing.
Here’s the thing. Amazon isn’t the enemy. It isn’t pure. What business is? But it isn’t to blame for the current state of the publishing industry, at least not alone and certainly not the major factor. Publishers, bookstores, bean counters and boards of directors all have their hands in the mess. But to say the only way to make money as a writer is to be traditionally published is to ignore the facts. There are many, many indie authors out there making enough to quit their jobs. Others are making much more than the majority of traditionally published authors. The key is writing books people want to read and are willing to pay for. So you hav etc look at price points as well.
Okay, time to step down off my soapbox. Instead, here’s a bit of self-promo. Nocturnal Revelations, the latest installment in the Nocturnal Lives series, is now available for pre-order. (The other books in the series have had a price drop in preparation for Revelations coming out.)
This book has been both a joy to write and difficult because it is the last in the current story arc. It also took some twists and turns I didn’t expect. But final edits have been done and it is in the hands of the last beta readers (Uncle Lar, you will get it shortly. You are my last line of defense, so to speak.) Anyway, here’s a quick blurb (which I still need to work on.)
As a cop, Mackenzie Santos knows every shift might be her last. That was driven home two years ago when Samuel Wilcox came much too close to killing her. She still had nightmares of waking in the morgue. But that was nothing compared to leaning she is descended from one of the oldest and most powerful shapeshifter bloodlines. Until the night she “died”, she always believed shapeshifters and werewolves were the thing of bad Hollywood movies.
Now she knows differently. Monsters really do walk among us. Some are human. Some are shifter. . . And one wants her dead.
Worse, so much worse, whoever it is wants to reveal the existence of shapeshifters to the humans. He–or she–doesn’t care about the consequences. Somehow Mac and those who know her secret must discover who their enemy is and stop them before it is too late. But can Mac do that and stay alive?