Posts Tagged ‘Bookselling’

Are you an old movie mystery fan? You know, black and white. Real Whodunnits with Noir and tough sounding dialogue mixed with the comedy of yesteryear?

I bought all of the Thin Man movies and got a Blu Ray player last Christmas to watch them and my Charlie Chan Collection.

BUT IF YOU HAVE ROKU on your TV I recommend the Free Channel you can add called TV TIME COZY MYSTERIES. It has all six of the Thin Man Movies and no commercials.

There are many other old Mystery Series available too. Think Charlie Chan, Torchy Blane, The Lone Wolf, The Shadow, Agatha Christie (with all Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple Movies), Boston Blackie. Bulldog Drummond, Dick Tracy, Ellery Queen, The Falcon, Mr. Moto, Nancy Drew, and a few others.

I’ve found some of the above free on YouTube, but this channel has pretty much the whole series on each of them. The caveat? There are some commercials, but there are some with no commercials too. Most are 1-2 minutes between breaks.

Many newer TV’s have the Roku app built in, but if yours doesn’t you can always buy the Roku Streamng media player and remote for $40 at Best Buy. For $10 more you can upgrade to a voice activated media player.

There are tons of free channel apps and many have old mystery channels, but none as good as TV Time’s. Search for the channel and add it to your ROKU lineup and you are ready to go.

Remember browsing in your favorite bookstore?

Hitting the stacks looking for that next intriguing author. The smell of the books. The place where a community of readers could meet and talk books with knowledgeable sales staff. Maybe where you might find a book club that met once a month?

A child reading in Brookline Booksmith, an ind...

Remember When Books were Fun?

What happened to all of that?  Could it possibly make a comeback?

I remember when I could drive a mile and visit Tower Records and Books, a great place to browse and find a good mystery to read. Then came the Behemoth Border’s Bookstore Chain, followed by another giant, Barnes and Noble.

Tower Records and Books closed in Portland, Oregon and so did a lot of other great independent bookstores. Looking Glass Books in Sellwood, OR., folded last year after 38 years.  Great Northwest Books downtown burned down in August 2010.

When I get a chance, I head over to Murder By The Book on SE Hawthorne in Portland, a surefire place to score a good mystery. But it’s eight miles from where I live. Powell’s Books, also eight miles. You get the picture!

It’s hard to find a good bookstore these days, even in Portland. There are some, but they are spread out. In earlier years, the giant bookstores forced a lot of independents out of business.

But this past year something happened no one foresaw. Borders went out of business chiefly because of the advent of the e-book. Barnes and Noble, the last bookselling giant, is struggling and may be the next to enter bankruptcy. Its Nook tablet and selling off a division of its properties was enough to keep it barely afloat in 2011.

Amazon is doing to the big bookstores what the giants once did to Independent bookstores. By providing a one-click purchasing machine on their Kindle readers they are making it simpler to find any book you want and be reading it the next minute.

For the first time this year, Amazon sold more e-books than hard cover. It has had help from iPads, its own Kindle, and other tablets that have more than doubled in number during December with one in four adults now owning a tablet or e-reader.

Here’s My question: What happens if Borders and the larger booksellers do go out of business. Where will we be able to buy a print copy if not from the Internet?

I dare to hope this might create a better environment to support smaller bookstores. People are still buying hard-cover books and not everyone is plugged into the Internet. I always envisioned myself running a bookstore, preferably at the beach, but I never had any misconceptions about making a lot of money.

Mainly it would be a place to hang out and work on my book and talk with others who like to read. One thing the Internet does not do is get people to meet face to face. Skype has tried it, but it’s not the same as being with a real person.

If you don’t want to lose your last contact with the printed book, and the world it creates, make a bee-line to your favorite (still existing) bookstore and buy a book. Heck, by two or three or more. Let the proprietors know you appreciate the vital service they still offer and tell your friends to go out and buy a book locally once in a while.

Other Bookstores in Portland: Annie Bloom’s Books, Broadway Books, Powell’s

The Portland Aerial Tram in Portland, Oregon. ...

There might be 60 people inside this tram buying my books and there are two trams.

Have you thought about your marketing for when your book get’s published. If not, how come? Marketing is widely left up to the author these days.

Publishers will do some PR for you, but unless you are on the Best Seller list, they expect you to carry your own weight. Heck they expect that even if you are on the BS list.

I attended a book launch last week because it was a member of one of the writing groups I volunteer for and because I wanted to learn how it was done. I attended one a few years back and it was a standup affair in a wine shop, serving–you guessed it–wine.

The one I attended last week was held in a church. it was a good venue. There was a large lobby where people circulated, bought books, ate deserts and punch, and the author shook hands.

Then, we were ushered into the pews and the author read a few portions from her book and left us wanting more. I guessed if the turnout was meager, the whole thing could have been done in the lobby. Since she had upwards of 120 there, we moved to a larger area..

I asked one of the people how they knew the author. Turns out she was a friend of the spouse, and she was curious.

One of the questions I always ask myself, is if I held a book launch would anybody come?  I think they would because writers seem to have this aura among readers. Whenever I tell them I’m writing a book, they inevitably say, “I’d like to read it, when it’s done.”

Tip:  Always write their name and contact info down when they say this.

Here are some random ideas I’ve thought about to get people to turn out:

1. Put together an email list of my former real estate clients (they all know I write), former chamber members, writing colleagues, friends and family, former co-workers. Email them at least three times prior.

2. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, etc., and send invites. Ask people to send it to their friends.

3. Write a PR news item (I’m a writer, right?). Send it to all news media, from the biggest to the smallest. Put it in the church bulletin.

4. Have a contest or incentive. i.e: Bring a friend to the event, put your name in the pot, and the author will draw a name at random. If you win, the author will use your name as a character in his next book. Give a book away in a drawing.

5. Pick an interesting venue–some place where people might want to go anyway. A restaurant, a book store, the aerial tram that goes from the waterfront to OHSU at the top of the West Hills (my hero rides on down from the top of it and it holds 60 people.) You get the idea.

6. Have food. Lots of Food. Good Food. Wine? Advertise it: We have Good Food!  Food brings people out.

7.  Invite a local community college radio station or public radio to attend and broadcast or cover it. After all, you are a local author.

8. Schedule interviews on local radio stations prior to the book signing.

9. Ask colleagues to write a review of your book, including when the book launch happens. I know of two or three people who write reviews for the large daily paper in Portland. They are authors themselves.  Invite blogs to review your book: See Blog Tours on this blog.

10. Promote it with Writing Associations. Willamette Writers and Oregon Writer’s Colony (in Portland) offer free web space on their web pages for authors to plug their book and WW also does bulletins. If you’ve been volunteering in writer organizations you will know where these opportunities exist.

11. Make It Fun!  How? That’s up to you. But make it a happening and let people know it will be fun.

12. Spread announcements out to all bookstores in your city. Ask if you can circulate or post a flyer.

So those are the ones I came up with just sitting here. Can you add other ideas? Think inside and outside the box. Comment and share your ideas.

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Amazon Kindle

I attended the monthly meeting of Willamette Writers Tuesday night and listened to Agent April Eberhardt tell her audience what many of us suspected or already knew: The power in the book publishing business is shifting.

How it’s shifting depends on your point of view. Some say the authors will have more say in their works. Others see the Internet giants gaining power. Either way the ten largest book publishers will lose.

One thing is sure. The advent of the Ipad is changing the book industry. Not alone, because the Amazon’s Kindle had been pushing readers toward online reading for the past few years.

But get this: According to April Eberhardt, the Big 6 Publishing companies were responsible for 80 percent of all book sales 3-4 years ago. That number dropped to 60 percent this year. E-books accounted for 10 percent of all book sales last year and are expected to account for one-third of all book sales this year.

WOW!  Is this the beginning of the end for print books. I don’t think so. At least not right away. Most people still prefer to hold a real book in their hands. But e-book sales are definitely increasing at a much faster rate than expected by the industry.

The book industry that is; not the Internet Industry. Google, Amazon and Apple have been positioning themselves for the future of online book publishing for the last half a dozen years. Meanwhile, the book publishing industry has been dragged along reluctantly, to the point now where they’ve been caught with their collective pants down.

The trade magazine, Publisher’s Weekly, has chronicled negotiations between the largest book publishers and Amazon recently and Amazon is demanding a much higher commission rate than print retail distributors have received in the past. Many publishers have begrudgingly gone along with Amazon’s charges, but some have not.

Borders Books, which has seen book sales drop 13 percent last year (to e-books?) is fighting to stay solvent and most book publishers have been sending the store books on credit even though not receiving payment, not eager to see one of the largest bookstores falter. This week, however, it has been reported that the creditors are circling the Borders brand demanding a say in any restructuring or payouts that may be ahead in bankruptcy and reorganization.

So how does all this help the author? Things are changing on that horizon too.

There has been a proliferation of Print on Demand websites where anyone with a story can tell, can upload their book, edit it, purchase online editing and book cover design services, and order as little as one copy—making self publishing easier and cheap enough for anyone to publish their own book.

This used to be called vanity publishing. A would-be author could pay to have 100 copies and spend thousands of dollars and get a book published. The publisher would make money from gullible people and charge outrageous fees.

Today, anyone online has the opportunity to research and make informed decisions. They can edit and design their book covers themselves, buy jacket templates as part of a package (not recommended) or find a specialist on their own and pay for such services.

Why would a budding author choose to do this? Well, its awful hard to find an agent to represent your work these days, nearly impossible—even if you have a good book manuscript. You almost have to be somebody ( a celebrity of sorts) or know somebody.

April says she received about 10,000 query letters from hopeful novelists last year and was only able to represent 25 new people. Of those 25 only four have book deals to date.  Even if you get represented and get a book deal, the days of the publishing house promoting your book are gone—except for top 20 booksellers. Most of us will enter at the mid list level.

That means we have to set up our own book tours, spend our own money to promote ourselves and spend maybe 20 to 30 hours a week marketing our book. We have to set up websites, Facebook web pages, twitter, Flickr accounts and social network ourselves silly.  Where is there time to write?

So if we have to do all of this extra work and spend our own money, and we can’t get an agent or a book contract, why not go the self publishing route? Did I mention that the amount an author collects is paltry by the time everyone is paid: the publisher, your agent, Amazon, the IRS.

Why not cut out one of the middlemen?  Most Print on Demand publishers will list your book on Amazon and would-be authors are noticing. And although most of the successful e-books are by published print book authors, some of these authors are holding onto their e-book rights or going the direct publishing route themselves on new offerings.

It hasn’t translated to similar successes for-self publishing first-time authors, but who knows what these new e-book and Print on Demand trends will bring.  Self publishers still are not very credible, but if current authors are branching out on their own, it could legitimize self publishing in the near future.

However, credibility lies with the attention to detail in providing an excellent product with good storytelling, perfect editing, an eye-catching cover design and professional quality/mistake free product.

Although I’m not ready to jump into the self publishing pool yet, I’ll bet a lot of authors might be willing to take the plunge.