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.

1 comment:

  1. I think you're generally right. It's all a question of timing. How long will it be, I wonder, before printed books die out completely?

    I recently published an E Book on Amazon Kindle. My first book was printed as paperback.

    God bless.