Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why Bookstores will Die

I sent a very polite email to a book reviewer asking her to consider reviewing The Saintmaker, my Catholic genre mystery novel. She emailed me back saying that as a mystery bookseller she was offended by my linking to an online site where the book was available.

First, I didn't realize she sold books; and if I had, I wouldn't have linked to Amazon--I'm not totally insensitve. I read a lot of books, both print and e-versions. I can't remember the last time I actually walked into a bookstore and bought one. Coffee, yes; books, no. This doesn't make me a bad person, but rather one who is in the midst of a changing business model.

This bookseller should feel threatened. The bookstore model of business just doesn't work very well right now, and won't work at all much longer. It's not working for authors (the suppliers). It's not working for the stores, who have become "showrooms" for on-line purchases.

  • Authors want to make more money. Look at the price of your favorite print book. The author's cut is probably between 10-15%. That means a whole lot of books must sell for the author to make real (quit your day job) money. It takes a long time to write a good book. The $ just aren't there to justify this effort for 10% of the take.
  • With technology, more authors will take their knowledge, passion and expertise and make it work for themselves, especially through ebooks. An author can publish an ebook and keep 60-75% of the take. All the services that a publisher provides an individual author can "buy": editing, cover design, marketing and publicity, and still be better off. Publishers have been whining for at least 15 years about how hard their business is and why they have to keep a firm hand on royalties, but I'll leave that for another blog post on another day.
  • Consumers are liking ebooks more and more, and are "pushing back" at the higher sticker prices of printed versions. If I pay $20 for a print book and don't like it, I feel cheated. If I pay $5.99 for an ebook and don't like it, I'm annoyed. If I pay $5.99 for an ebook and love it, I feel like a savy consumer who found a great bargain.
  • And, the author of the $5.99 ebook is making more money on that consumer's happiness (or annoyance) too. This is a win-win. If somebody doesn't like my book, I'd rather have them be mad at me at the $5.99 level than the $20 level.
  • Through recent incentives to authors, online ebook publishing sites are causing them to consider dumping traditional publishers. For example, for books with a price point less than $10, Amazon will offer the author 70% royalties on ebooks. What author in her right mind wouldn't jump at that vs. 10-15% of the print price?
  • The nostalgia for books is fading fast. My kids are used to doing research, reading and socializing on-line or with their smart phones. That's their world. Assuming that most of our kids are going to outlive us, 30 years from now they won't be reading paper books. Yes, there will always be a few who like "the old ways," but certainly not enough to sustain the current bookselling business models.
  • Green, green, green. E-books are green. Enough said.
So, to my offended bookseller, you better have an exit strategy. You won't be making money selling books much longer, if indeed you are now. You are right to feel threatened, and I'm sorry I accidentally rubbed your nose in it.

Shameless self-promotion: You can get The Saintmaker for less than $5.99, less than $4.99, less than $3.99. Yes, that's right, for $2.99 you can get a mystery that you will either love, be annoyed with, or be somewhere in between. Such a bargain. Click here to order for the Kindle Version, Click here for other ebook versions.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Movie Review: The Mighty Macs, a Chick Flick of a Different Kind

Last night my daughter's high school basketball team and I went to see The Mighty Macs. A quick plot summary: a small, underfunded Catholic college women's basketball team goes on to become the national champs. I heard the movie referred to as "Hoosiers for Girls," and while it is a compelling story, the adrenaline rush just wasn't there.

Yet, The Mighty Macs is a nice chick flick of a different kind. It shows a happily married woman (Cathy Rush, who sadly got divorced in later life) determined to help other young women live their dreams without trying to "find themselves" through a series of  relationships that leaves them empty and unfulfilled--over and over again.

The movie is also a reminder to young women about how really tough it was to be a female athlete only a few short years ago (1970s). Today's athletes enjoy so many more advantages simply because our "foremothers" loved their sport so much that they didn't let inferior equipment, early morning practice times, lack of school support, and ugly uniforms keep them from playing. Although The Mighty Macs won, they represent countless other foremothers who played high school and college sports and didn't win championships. Today's athletes, including my daughter, reap their legacy.

Another contribution the movie makes: The Mighty Macs show that strong women, whether they be the nuns, Cathy Rush, the team, or the alumni supporters, can be faith-filled and feminine, and still get the job done.

SO--if you have young women in your life, athletes or not, an outing to see the Mighty Macs is a fun lesson. Showing up, working hard, and believing don't guarantee that your dreams will come true, but NOT doing these things will give you a life of regrets.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A bit of Purgatory for a Good Cause

Yesterday I dedicated two hours to the "Ethics and Integrity" training that the diocese requires for anybody in just about any ministry. Well, I think if your ministry involves only healthy, physcially and mentally fit adults, then you can get an exemption. Otherwise, you have to attend full-scale training once, and a "refresher course" every three years.

I hated that I had to spend time learning about sexual abuse, even though I am not and never was an abuser. I hated to be reminded of the the minority of priests who broke the sacred trust the faithful placed in them, and the majority of blameless and dedicated priests who have suffered because of the scandal. I expecially hated that the session reminded me that the majority of bishops (yes, that's right, a majority of the successors to the apostles in the US) were in some way complicit in enabling these priests to abuse our children. Well--that fact was not highlighted in the training, but I was reminded of this, not in a "holding grudge" kind of way, but in a "we must never allow this to happen again" kind of way.

Yet, if we want to ensure that abuse never happens again to a child or vulnerable adult, all of us in ministry must be trained to learn the signs of abuse, the appropriate and inappropriate behaviors regarding children or vulnerable adults, and what to do if we become aware that something just isn't right.

The training is all about the kids and those who can't take care of themselves, and making sure that the Church is a welcoming and safe place for them--not about me, my comfort level, or the little sacrifice I made to attend. The training also reminded me that I can be aware of what's going on around me without treating priests, friends in faith, and ministry partners with suspician.

Not my favorite way to spend a Saturday morning, but it was the right thing to do. However, I'm still shallow enough to hope that I racked up at least a few purgatory bonus points.