About Writing, Life and Writing About Life

I went to buy a book last week, in my local independent bookshop. I asked them if they had any novels by local authors, which seemed to bemuse them slightly. They thought of Tracy Chevalier, who has written about the area – but she is well known, traditionally published and lives in London. I don’t have anything against any of those things, but what I wanted was to support a local author just starting out, or someone who had self-published their novel. I thought that an independent bookshop in a town as quirky and individual as Bridport was bound to feature this kind of book, but I was disappointed.
This brought me back to thinking about the publishing industry. I love self-publishing, and the opportunities that are available to anyone nowadays to become an author. However, the main goal of most authors is to use self-publishing as a stepping-stone to the mainstream. To be published by Hay House, Simon & Schuster or one of the other big houses is our dream. Why is that? It’s because of just what I discovered in that bookshop – it is still mainly traditionally published books that get in front of the browsing public. And that’s what leads to big sales – really big, significant sales that can change your life. Of course being traditionally published doesn’t always lead to those life-changing numbers of copies sold, but self-publishing rarely does on its own. Most ‘self-publishing success stories’ quoted show the author moving into mainstream publishing, whereas I think true success would be to sell those millions of copies whilst still self-published.
Part of this situation is due to history and inertia on the part of booksellers, but a large part is also due to one significant factor. The traditional publishing industry is good at marketing books. In fact I think I might rename it the Book Marketing Industry, given that the tools of publishing are now available to us all.
What does all this mean? Should we just accept the situation as it is? Well, we have some choices. We can do exactly that, accept the situation and be honest if we see self-publishing as merely a step on the road. We can search out the few bookshops that do carry independent physical books. Or we can ignore bookshops and concentrate our efforts online. Whatever our ambition, one thing is unavoidable – we have to become good at marketing books too.

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Comments on: "The Book Marketing Industry" (9)

  1. Hi Anne your excellet blog post has got me thinking. Like you I’ve become very curious about the work of other independent authors ever since I embarked on my own self-publishing journey, and it’s interesting to reflect on why these authors don’t feature in book shops. But the only reason we don’t is because we haven’t put ourselves in front of the seller and requested a book signing event, and for them to stock our books and support our marketing campaign. So what if we began our own campaign to raise the profile of local authors by putting ourselves in front of the booksellers in our local store – and deliberately asking for the work of local authors whatever book store we visit?
    We’ll show that Book Marketing Industry that there are so many other ways to skin the cat!!

    • What a great response Juliet. It is true that it’s easy to assume that bookshops won’t be interested and just not bother to ask (it’s also pretty scary to approach them). I think you are right that we should get out there and find out which bookshops will consider stocking our books. We could start a list and share with other authors, and then we will see how things shift in the years to come. If anyone has already had any success, please do tell us about it and we will give you a round of applause.

      • Since I read your post this morning I’ve thought of one book store near to me that I’m going to approach about stocking my book. How’ bout you?

      • I’m working with my friend who has published my latest book for me, so we will be dividing this between us. It did remind me that there is a bookshop in Weymouth which I was told carries indie books, so it is on my list to search out the contact details I was given. Good luck with the bookshop, let me know how you get on.

  2. There is of course another consideration, and that is like it or not, an awful lot of self-published books are not that good. Bookshops are arbiters of taste, and like other retailers if they consistently suggest (by placing them on their shelves) that people buy poor books, then people will stop entering them and buying from them. The online stores like Amazon can wear the issues because they have the traffic to cope, most small retailers don’t.

    • That is an excellent point, Linda. I guess there is suck a vast quantity of self-published books that it would be hard for a bookshop to determine which are good quality and which are not, so they simply do not even try. So, assuming that we have produced a top-notch high-quality offering, how do we let the bookshops know in a way that they want to stock it?

  3. Reblogged this on The Journal Writer's Handbook and commented:
    Anne’s thoughts on book marketing as opposed to book publishing have got me thinking – what of book selling too?

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