A couple of weeks ago, I reported on a Createspace-self-published children’s book that was helping get children to fall asleep. I heard about The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep just in time to order the paperback as a birthday present for my nephew, who was really too young for it but it would also work for his sister, a couple of years older, until he was. I heard today from my brother that he has found it works really well.
It looks like I ordered it just in time; on Amazon, the paperback has shot up from $12 to $50. The reason for this turns out to be that it has been acquired by Penguin Random House for Random House Children’s, who have taken over world English rights as well as buying rights to two more books from the same author. Publishers Weekly reports rumors of a 7-figure advance, though PRH declined to comment.
Random House Children’s has released its own e-book version of the book already, but the print version will be held up until next month. So, until then, Amazon is left with third-party sellers, who seem to be jacking the price of the paperback (though, oddly, the hardcover is now cheaper than the paperback was).
At the same time comes news of another Createspace title, Beautiful Redemption by Jamie McGuire, that will be available in select Wal-Mart stores without being picked up by a major publisher. This marks one of the first times that a print-on-demand book from Amazon-subsidiary Createspace has been carried by a major retailer.
But it’s not the first time, as self-published author Hugh Howey notes in discussing these two cases. The print-on-demand edition of his self-published book, Wool, made its way into Barnes & Noble and top independent bookstores, Howey explains, on the strength of reader demands for it despite most stores’ tendency to blacklist Amazon-published titles. When a reader requests a book by name, and it’s available for order from someone, bookstores will order it no matter who it’s from. After all, they do like money, and word of mouth is one of the most powerful indicators of real demand.
(And it’s been this way since long before printing on demand was even possible. Jean Shepherd, better known for the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, took advantage of this in the ‘50s in a literary hoax by spurring so much bookstore demand for a fictitious novel called I, Libertine that he ended up collaborating with Theodore Sturgeon to write the actual book by that title!)
Howey thinks that getting POD titles into major retailers and bookstores is the wave of the future, and authors who take longer-term deals with traditional publishers on the strength of print bookstores may find that’s not as big an advantage as it originally seemed.
John Scalzi recently blogged about his decision to take a long term, muti-book deal with his traditional publisher. No one can fault John for wanting the security of knowing what his income will be, at a minimum, for the next decade. But part of his reasoning, which is access to readers through bookstores, has suddenly become outdated. With change happening so fast in the industry, being locked into a 10-year deal is an enormous risk. Even worse is signing over rights that won’t expire until after you do. If Jamie can get a Walmart deal through CreateSpace, imagine what an independent John Scalzi or Neil Gaiman could do. JK Rowling showed what was possible with going indie with her ebooks. Jamie is showing us what’s possible in the print space.
While it is still early days for getting print on demand books into retailers, and a lot may depend on how well Beautiful Redemption does at Wal-Mart, this is heartening news for anyone who chooses to self-publish. Whether it’s getting picked up by a traditional publisher or bypassing them altogether to get into stores on their own, these titles are starting to demonstrate they’ve got more reach than anyone could have expected.