Re: Re: The B&N Brick Wall

Home Forums Writer’s Digest Forum Writers’ Block Party The B&N Brick Wall Re: Re: The B&N Brick Wall


Mikala Engel

You’re releiving them of all issues except the biggest one of all. . .you aren’t a writer who has a book coming from a large publisher, your book isn’t coming through a national distributor, and you don’t have a name a lot of readers will flock to the store to see. It isn’t about POD. Bookstores don’t care what technology is used to print the book, and almost assuredly stock books printed with POD on a regular basis, if they come through a large distributor. They do care about the size of the publisher, pleasing both large publishers and their distributor, and being able to bring a lot of buyers in just by advertisng your name. You can’t remove the “not enough profit” issue.

From my experience, you can’t break through the wall at chain bookstores, at least not in worthwhile numbers. You have to come in through the front door. First you generate decent sales numbers, you find a way to have your book reviewed in places people notice, and at some point, sooner or later,
usually later, after you’ve generated sales, you get a distributor.

1995 was a long, long time ago, and the publishing world has changed dramatically. Tens or thousands of new writers are using POD, Amazon is selling a bazillion books online, the chain bookstores aren’t generating the profit they were in ’95, B&N stock is down somewhere around twelve bucks from ’95, and even with the issues you mention removed, the odds of a bookstores making enough of a profit to warrant a signing is almost nil. Multi-million dollar businesses make money from crowds, not from the few sales POD writers usually bring in. The chain bookstores are having to tighten their belts just like the rest of us.

I don’t think it will be long before book signings, except those by the biggest of the bestsellers, will be a thing of the past, certainly outside of tiny, independent bookstores, if any survive.

On the bright side, and a very bright side it is, a few years ago, a woman sold 60,000 copies of her book by going on tour, and she bypassed the chain bookstores entirely. She hit all the libraries, any and all groups and organizations she could find that might be interested, etc. She went to the source, rather than going to bookstores in hopes that the source would come to her. A large pubisher then grabbed her book, of course, and she sold a heck of a lot more copies going through the front door of the chains.

At any rate, there’s nothing scummy about B&N not allowing POD writers in for signings. B&N is a business. A very large business. Like any large business, they have the responsibility of making a profit for the stockholders. The bigger the better. They have no responsibility at all to writers who don’t come through the system, and no responsibility to those who do come through the system, unless they sell a lot of books.

I thonk POD writers concentrate way too much on bookstores signings, and not nearly enough on other, more receptive and productive venues.