Tag Archive - Bookselling

Thank a Bookseller

by Steve Laube

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With this being Thanksgiving week I thought it appropriate to urge you to take a moment, visit your local bookseller, and say, “Thank you for supporting books!”

As I wrote elsewhere, it is tough to be in the retail side of the business. Online sales, rising rent and utilities, rising salaries, etc. are competition enough. I know many booksellers who are in the business for the love of the business not that they think they will become millionaires. They still enjoy the thrill of matching a customer’s need with just the right product. I still remember being honored when a customer came back and thanked me for recommending a particular book to them. One man even decided to go to seminary and enter the pastorate after reading a recommended title.

So before you join the chorus of pundits who seem to be gleefully announcing the demise of the bookseller, let us not forget they are real people with real jobs doing a real service to your community.

And despite the rise of e-books, the physical book is still at least 70% of all book sales. And a lot of those sales happen in a brick and mortar location.

We all have a part in a grand business. The business of changing the world word by word. Authors, agents, editors, marketers, public relations, sales, production, executives, designers, warehousing, accountants, shippers, printers, booksellers, AND readers. Quite a team we make. I, for one, am thankful for them all.

News You Can Use – July 3, 2012

What Retailers Know that Publishers Need to Know – Mike Shatzkin analyzes the importance of data in what is truly the “Science of Bookselling.”

Your Hotel Bible is now a Kindle – This is a new one. Kindles in the nightstand in your hotel room with the Bible pre-loaded. Fascinating.

Using Evernote for Screenwriting – Brilliant adaptation of the Evernote software by Héctor Cabello Reyes.

The Incredible Resilience of Books – Peter Onos wrote a great article that the naysayers quickly skewered. Which side of the debate do you land on?

Thou Shalt Not Steal Shaun Groves Music – The artist makes a statement “If everyone stops paying for music, then music will stop being made.” Do you agree? Does it apply to books as well?

Solve Mysterious Bible Passages like Sherlock Holmes - Eric McKiddie writes a very clever article. Well done!

Be Your Agent’s Dream Client – Agent Greg Johnson tells it straight. (from the ACFW blog)

Bacon for Calvinists! (Thank you Kevin DeYoung)- see below:

News You Can Use – Jan. 24, 2012

The Secrets Behind the Bestseller List – Ever wonder how those lists are compiled? The Sacramento Bee takes a stab at uncovering the secret.

3 Important Questions about Digital that No One is Asking – Nick Atkinson adds to the ongoing discussion in a sharp manner.

Do Book Bloggers Still Matter? – Beth Kephart asks whether this form of marketing has any influence any more.

10 Bits of Advice to Stop Giving Writers – Nick Mamatas presents a contrarian view of the kinds of things we are teaching at writers conferences and in our blogs. Agree or disagree?

Is Profanity Okay to Use as Part of Your Writing? – Relevant Magazine has this provocative take on profanity in music lyrics. My mom would have washed his mouth out with soap.

The New Logo of a Combined Zondervan and Thomas Nelson – Just Kidding! Robert Treskillard engages in some fun speculation and adds in his own graphic design talents.

Amazon is Gunning to Put Traditional Publishers Out of Business – An anonymous publisher spills his opinions to Sarah Lacy at PandoDaily.

Watch this quick video about the things that have all but disappeared because of technology:

Bestseller List News – October 3, 2011

Some of our authors have recently hit the bestseller lists! Congratulations to all.

Harvest of Grace by Cindy Woodsmall hit #22 on the tradepaper fiction New York Times extended bestseller list for August 28st. And is #2 on the ECPA “Multi-Channel” bestseller list for October.

Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Center Street) hit #17 on the hardcover fiction New York Times bestseller list for October 2nd and will be #31 on the extended list for October 9th.

Log Cabin Christmas an omnibus of novellas (Barbour) hit #34 on the tradepaper fiction New York Times extended bestseller list for October 2nd. The collection included our clients Kelly Eileen Hake, Liz Tolsma, and Deb Ullrick.

Still House Pond by Jan Watson (Tyndale) is #10 on the ECPA Christian Fiction bestseller list for October.

A Whisper of Peace by Kim Vogel Sawyer (Bethany House) is #15 on the ECPA Christian Fiction bestseller list for October.

Double Trouble by Susan May Warren (Tyndale) is #16 on the ECPA Christian Fiction bestseller list for October.

News You Can Use

Would John Locke Be Better Off with a Traditional Publisher? – Mike Shatzkin analyzes the revenue of million copy e-book selling author John Locke. The math is fascinating. According to Shatzkin, the author is making less than $30,000 per book. It is highly likely a traditional publisher would pay him a lot more for his work. Read the post. You decide.

Twenty-five Rejection Proof Markets – A clever article by James Watkins. I like #24. Proof that I can remain rejection free.

Amazon Rank Obsession

Admit it. You’ve checked your Amazon.com sales ranking at least once since your book was published. You feel the need to have some outside confirmation of the sales of your book. And Amazon’s ranking are free to look at.

I’ve even seen book  proposals where the author has gone to great lengths to include the Amazon ranking for each title that is competitive with the one the author is proposing. A prodigious amount of wasted effort.

Publishers rarely pay attention to Amazon rankings unless yours gets below 1,000 or if you get in the top 100.

What was on Your Bestseller List?

What was the bestselling novel or non-fiction book the week you were born? Follow this link to a delightful search engine on Biblioz, an Australian company. Make sure you type the date first (not the month).

It is a bit startling to see how fleeting the popularity of books can be. They were the most popular in the country at the time! But I have to admit that I don’t recognize most of the novelists.

E-Book Sales: Behind the Stats

There is mixed news with regard to book sales in May of this year. Store sales were down 2.6% but publisher sales were up by 9.8%. Read all the various stats here. Remember these are simply comparison of 2010 monthly numbers with 2009.

The biggest area of growth, percentage-wise, is in e-books (up 162.8%).

But lets look at actual dollars, not percentages.

Publisher sales (according to the Association of American Publishers) were $715.3 million in May. Of that total, e-books accounted for $29.3 million…or about 4%. If this was a 162% jump over 2009, then e-book sales in May of last year were $11.2 million.

There is no question that this is a huge leap. But it still means that 96% of all sales are still in hard copy.

Many experts claim that in five years (by the year 2015) that e-books will “tip” and account for over 50% of all book sales. I’ve heard this from two major publishers (one was the head of the digital initiatives for that publisher) and from my friend Randy Ingermanson in his excellent e-zine (read pages 2-11 for his full report on the issue).

For that to happen a 100% growth rate would have to be sustained. That would mean 2011 would have e-books at 8% of sales, 2012 at 16% of sales, 2013 at 32%, etc.

I’m not arguing that it won’t happen.

The Shack Gets Sued

Sad news from the LA Times that the author and publishers of The Shack are now in court fighting over the royalty earnings.

Read the entire article here.

Then weep.

Then pray that cooler heads prevail and that it can somehow be kept out of the court system.

ICRS Observations 2010

Some have asked for my thoughts on this past week’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in St. Louis. I’m glad to answer.

This was my 29th consecutive booksellers convention. At its height there were approximately 14,000 in attendance, many years ago. That is no longer the case. Statistics released indicate total attendance was 6,812. Registered pick-ups in attendance was  4,747 (flat compared to 2009); professional attendance was 1,675 (up 4.5% over last year); and international attendance came in at 390 (up 4% over 2009). I’m not sure if they combine exhibitors and retailers in that first number of if the exhibitors (publishers, etc.) are included in the second number. As an agent we are considered “professional” attendees.

Apparently the national average retail trade show attendance is down 16%, so the convention is feeling pretty good about this year’s showing.

I’ll admit to being skeptical about St. Louis as the locale. In my nearly 30 years of attendance it had never been in that city. I was pleasantly surprised. I was fortunate to be staying at the hotel directly across the street from the convention hall which made moving from one thing to another very easy. I was also impressed by the number of fine restaurants in the area, most within walking distance. I had the fun to host two author-related dinners and both restaurants were excellent.

Since I don’t go to the convention with tourism in mind I have no idea what I might have missed, other than traveling to top of that Arch. However I spoke to the husband and son of an author who thoroughly enjoyed the area and filled three days with a wide variety of activities.

For me the event began with the Christy Award reception on Saturday night. Our agency had three authors who were finalists. None received the top award, but being recognized as a finalist is an honor in and of itself. I love the Christys and what it represents. If you ever have someone criticize Christian fiction as being vapid or poorly written, challenge their assumptions by suggesting they read the finalists. I predict they will be chagrined to have made their accusations after having a chance to read some of the incredible writers represented among the award finalists.

The rest of the week was a series of scheduled meetings and “hallway” or “aisle-way” conversations. I had thirty scheduled appointments and probably ended up with over 50 significant conversations when the time was done. Even had the chance to discuss deal points on a new contract that surfaced during the convention (that almost never happens).

I was also privileged to hear a hour and a half presentation by Hachette Digital. They are working very hard to maximize the opportunities created by the digital revolution. I came away feeling like some very smart people are working hard on doing smart things in this world. They were open to questions and suggestions. Very impressive. Thank you Rolf, for the invitation.

Tuesday was an odd day in that every meeting was in the hotel until late afternoon. I did not actually hit the convention floor until 4:00. That was something new for me since, in the past, most meetings took place on the convention floor or in Publisher suites. This was also the first year that not a single appointment took place in a publisher’s suite!

Because the convention itself was smaller in scale it fit in the hall very well. There were always people visibly roaming the aisles all the way until the closing announcement on Wednesday afternoon. It “felt” busier because of that.

The International rights section was a hive of activity. Goodness. There was never a dull moment in that space. It is incredible to think of the marvelous activity of great Christian literature and its impact around the globe.

I’ve had some disagreement with a colleague or two over whether the ICRS convention is a dinosaur that will soon disappear. I tend to remain positive about its place in the industry and truly hope it does not go away. There is simply no other single event where so many industry-related people gather in one place. I can think of a half dozen conversations that would not have happened if were not for this event.

For publishers it has become an Author-Relations event, not much of a sales opportunity. The stores have already placed their orders for forthcoming books and music. And while there are fewer Christian stores, many major big box retail buyers were in attendance. Therefore while actual orders may not be placed at the show, the seeds for new sales were being planted.

Since both Chi Libris (fiction) and AWSA (women speakers and authors) organizations have their retreat in the days before the convention, many authors are there. I believe we had at least 12 or 13 of our clients who were there for at least part of the event.

The gift section was humming the entire show. And that will always be. Many gifts are such that they have to be physically held or seen in person before knowing if they are a product the retailer can sell. If ICRS goes away the retailers will have to rely on the general market Gift Shows which would not have as many vendors and their selection opportunities would decline.

All the usual suspects of kitchy art, gifts, and toys were there. Nothing made me exclaim, “you’ve got to be kidding.” So that either means I’ve become immune after all these years or there were simply fewer products to see. (Years ago, my all-time worst observation was a clown making balloon art. He was methodically putting together a six foot high brown crucifix with a flesh colored Jesus on it…all made out of long thin “clown” balloons. From the back of the adoring crowd I muttered a little too loudly, “My kingdom for a pin.” And then walked away shaking my head.) In general I don’t mind most of that material since I sold a lot of it during my days as a Christian retailer. For many people the items are a real blessing in their church or home. But that balloon art exhibition was over my line.

I enjoyed taking pictures of client’s book covers and displays and emailing those to them. A lot of fun for those who couldn’t attend.

Bottom line? Publishing is alive and well. Publishers are still looking for great content and great authors. The Christian retail business is small, but those who survived the “crash” are still working hard and serving their communities. It is nice to see there are those still dedicated to the call of being booksellers.

I can’t wait to get to work each day to find out what’s new in this terrible, horrible, wonderful, exciting, frustrating, exhilarating business.

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