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Nov 16, 2010

How Your Book Is Like a Banana

I've been reading Dean Wesley Smith's blog about publishing, and the Velocity of Sales vs The Long Tail. Traditionally, your book was sold as though it were a banana:

Now, understand, in a grocery store, produce is put out to be sold quickly and then is replaced before it spoils.

Over the last twenty plus years publishers and bookstores put out books and then yanked them quickly as if a book would spoil in a week or two. They treated books exactly the same as produce. And guess what, just as with produce in a grocery story, if a book didn’t sell, it was tossed away, destroyed.

This practice has become so bad that often a book will be deemed out of print within a month of the release date because it didn’t have the orders the sales force was expecting. Or it didn’t have the number of projected sales in the first week or so. Of course, it won’t officially go out of print until all the warehouse stock is gone, but it will have a do-not-reprint order on the book from almost week one.

But the one thing modern publishers and big bookstore have forgotten:

Books don’t spoil.

Treating books like bananas has resulted in a lot of lost book sales, canceled series and even ruined authorial careers. (It also explains why I couldn't find all of the books of his wife's Fey series.)

He concludes:

So what’s happening outside of traditional publishing?

Basically, a huge wave is happening. Many, many authors are figuring this new model out. Many, many small publishers are figuring this out, publishers who can turn their ships quickly. Many small publishers are springing into life to fill this void with a new business model and help writers.

...And as an old time writer, I haven’t been this excited in thirty years about writing new stuff. It’s a great time to be a writer. Finally our work will no longer be treated as produce and any reader who wants to find a story will be able to find it. Even twenty or thirty years from now.


On a related note, Ian Fleming's James Bond E-Books will bypass the print publisher. It's been predicted for a while now that Big Name Authors would figure out they could do better going straight to the source.

"Penguin accepted long ago that they didn't have the digital rights. Of course they wanted to do it, but why would we? With a brand like ours, people are looking for the books anyway, so the publicity and marketing will happen. It also gives us greater clarity of sales, which books are selling and where. We are very lucky to have such a big brand."

Indeed.

5 comments:

Heidi C. Vlach said...

This is part of why I've decided to go with self-publishing in e-book format. I certainly won't give up on my work, even if it isn't an instant megahit.

C. N. Nevets said...

Open Road: Integrated Media is doing some awesome stuff with authors' back-catalogs on eBook format. It's wonderful for readers, and it's extending the effective shelf-life of books. I think this, more than most other benefits of the electronic format, may be the one which really pushes eBooks to success.

Digital music partly took off because it was cheap and portable, but it really started taking off when the depth and breadth of digital music catalogs started taking off and consumers in places like small town Indiana were suddenly able to get their hands on the back catalog of urban music, beyond the Barnes and Nobles samplers in world music, etc.

Susan R. Mills said...

I so don't want my book to be treated like a banana!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

This is really interesting! It makes me happy to start out with a small publisher. Are all bigger publishers like this, really?

Jacqueline said...

We have no bananas today.

Kindle authors are the lucky ones.

Jacqueline Howett Author The Greek Seaman, a seafaring novel.