This is a question which has been coming up more and more lately. Back in March I made quite a few posts on that author site I hang out on stating the business model could not survive. I have even had a previous blog entry about it last year some time I think.
Here is a prediction for you though:
Inside of three years there will either be no large publishing houses, or their financial condition will be worse than Borders was two years ago.
The future printed market is not wide scale distribution through traditional, but “available exclusively at xxx” like Craftsman used to be available only at SEARS.
I did some research and found that when book buyers at Target choose a title for their on-line book club (I didn’t even know they had a book club of any kind) it is generally a minimum 100,000 copies sold, but usually closer to 250,000 copies. We are, of course, currently talking about books available to the general book buying community. Currently they are using some broker/distributor which I have never heard of, but I cannot believe that company is getting into the middle of book buying transactions for free. If Target wants to really wade into the $10 hard cover market it is going to have to start making deals directly with Indie authors and small publishers. The other Big Box stores are all moving into the book market and many have joined the $10 hard cover battle.
While it is quite true that nobody could possibly hate Amazon.com more than I do, here is an interesting article.
Please note the portion which says Amazon will be printing this book. It didn’t say Simon & Shuster (sp?), Random House, or any other large publisher. Amazon is going to print the book and compete directly with publishers who are selling books via their site. Quite frankly, this is the new model…well close to it.
Books will be initially released in PDF or eBook form via authors directly (hopefully with heaps and gobs of professional editing first, because right now a lot of raw sewage gets released by CreateSpace and the other enabling firms which don’t mandate any professional editing.)
A paid reader for one of the big box chains will read and like one of the titles.
After checking with the author and verifying no other deals are on the table they will kick the title up to the buyer.
The buyer will skim or just take at face value the paid reader’s recommendation, then make an offer to the author of “available exclusively at XXX”. No investment will be required by the author, they will simply pay them roughly $2.00/copy and contract out the printing themselves. Deal good for one year with right of extension.
Author will tell friends and jump with joy when they see a small add in the weekly sales flyer for their local store.
Some 30-90 days later, checks will start arriving and author will be quite happy.
The new model won’t have 20 layers of middle people all taking a cut. There won’t be pulped print runs (unless there is a major printing error) as we’ve all seen these stores run “end of season clearance” sales, which is what they will do with the few titles they buy and don’t put on the book club list.
New authors will end up with something they never get from a major publishing house. Marketing! These big box stores know how to work their customer base and they won’t select a title which doesn’t feed directly into their market. The companies buying movie options will have something they don’t often get…real numbers and direct feedback from Joe and Jane consumer who paid for and read the book. (Most of those big box book clubs have on-line forums for people to comment on the books.) In short, we won’t have to live through another “Sahara” movie or court drama.
Major grocery and supermarket chains have also started wading into the book business, and even the $10 hard cover battle.
Meijer has taken books in their store from a small rack on a back wall to a section of the store which stocks roughly 100,000 units according to some sources.
Think about it. What is pretty much the only thing fueling the growth of POD right now? Scams telling Indie authors they can make big money paying an exorbitant per unit printing cost if they “publish” with this service, only printing books as needed…after they pay for NNN copies up front. While there are legitimate business reasons to move long tail titles into POD, printing first run books which are not low volume textbooks or graphics intense is simply inexcusable. Toner puts out a much lower quality product at a much higher cost than ink. You need to have a print run of around 1,000 copies to get the benefits of ink, but for a big box store that is going to print 100,000 – 250,000 copies initially (or only 5,000 copies if the title is to be a regular shelf title) this is not a problem. (Actually, some of the direct to plate printers can only print about 50,000 copies with a single set of plates, so the bigger runs would be scheduled as separate runs of 50,000 each.)
Amazon has already fired the first volley. They have announced that THEY, not one of the publishers supplying them with books, will be the printer for that woman’s book. This won’t be an isolated case with them. It is one of the reasons they make it so free and easy for Indie authors to get books onto the Kindle. They want the Kindle to be the screen for those titles they choose to print. Now other retailers will have to buy books FROM Amazon if they want the title. If it sold 36,000 eBooks, it will most likely sell enough print copies to warrant shelf space. Some current industry numbers put eBooks at 5% of unit sales for a title: 0.05x = 36,000 x = 36,000 / 0.05 x = 720,000 if the industry analysts are correct.
Yes, there will be some die hard book buyers who will say nothing compares to the experience of reading a book with a $12 Latte before buying it from a book store. They are a minority. Everybody has to eat and go to the bathroom. This means everybody shops at either a supermarket or a big box store with a grocery section every week. If you don’t consider yourself a book buyer, how often do you actually go into a book store? Only during the Christmas shopping season? I thought so.