Tuesday, July 17, 2012


"It's time we take a stand against the archaic, and down right theft, from the big chains"

Closed Borders
"Mortar and brick" is a new term describing physical stores instead of internet shops like Amazon.com. This is a curious reversal that describes the reversal in culture and business, because Amazon used to be the one described as "virtual," and now the emphasis is on the physical business being distinctive instead of the internet one.

Mortar and brick bookstores such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, and so all have a basic policy for new books. They will take copies of a book only if they can return them for full purchase price after a certain time. That way if they get books they can't sell, they don't take a bath on the cost and have books lying around in their inventory.

This isn't an unreasonable desire on the part of the stores, because they cannot afford to buy multiple copies of stock they can't move. It allows them to carry copies of works that might not sell as well and have greater variety as well as the sure-thing sales like the latest Steven King book.

However this also means that the publishers make less money because they have to eat the cost of published books they can't sell, and it means that guys like me who sell print-on-demand (POD) books cannot get into book stores because they simply won't carry a book they can't get a full refund on when it won't sell. POD shops like Lulu won't give a refund.

It also is a burden on little bookstores, the small independent one on the corner owned and run by a single person, because they cannot get this deal. Bob's books doesn't get that refund policy, only big chains.

Well that may be changing. Shane Moore is the author of several books, including his latest zombie apocalypse novel with religious-themed zombies (he took concepts from the book of Revelation, although its not a Christian book) and his publisher is doing things a bit differently. On his facebook page, Moore writes:
With Borders going under, Barnes and Noble already filing bankruptcy once, and the emergence of e-books has proven that the day of the big chains is over. The comet has hit, and the literary cretaceous period is coming to a close. What does that mean?

Well--it means like the mammals crawling out of their holes--I'm coming out against the return policy. After careful negotiations with my publisher (New Babel Books), I will be the first professional writer to REFUSE a return policy. So, that means if Barnes and Noble wants to carry my books they will have to PAY for them. *gasp* You mean they actually have to pay for them?

Of course, they will refuse and thus not order my books.

I'm ok with that. It will hurt my bottom line, but you know who it will help? The middle class mom and pop stores that are struggling to make it. I'm doing well as a writer. I make a nice subsidy to my royalty checks by touring at conventions, school speeches, library talks, fan dinners at restaurants, et al. (Thanks to all of you!)
Will this work? The publisher is banking on it working for one simple reason: they have the big chains over a barrel. This might push them entirely out of business, but the publishers are desperate as well. Book readers are declining and publishing is facing a crisis, which I've written about several times in the past. That means they are starving for funds to continue as a business, and this is one way to cut their bottom line. Naturally they won't pass this on to the author, but that's another topic.

Its probably a matter of time before the big book selling chains go under. Its likely smaller stores will too, and all that will be left are used book sellers who also have some new books. I don't like to see that happen because of what it means for our society and literacy in general, but that's where things seem to be headed. But as they stagger and try not to fall, these chains have lost their leverage and at least one publisher is taking advantage of that.

And if it works - and the chains can survive - that opens up a huge door for guys like me to get our books into chains through the POD market. Without the no-returns policy blocking shelf space for guys like me, that means a larger market and maybe more sales.

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