I just posted about how Amazon, via self-publishing and agent-based publishing, poses a threat to publishers who still haven’t updated their business model to compete. Here’s a post from self-publishing booster J.A. Konrath’s blog that points out one of the reasons why Amazon is such a threat.
Responding to one bookstore calling for a boycott of Stirred, the book he’s publishing under Amazon’s new Thomas & Mercer imprint (and which will consequently be placed as printed editions in bookstores as well as published electronically), Konrath points out that he has done a lot for bookstores over the years, and the reason he’s publishing with Amazon is that, after his traditional publisher dumped him, Amazon has treated him a lot better than any traditional publisher he’s been with before.
Amazon allowed me to get into bookstores–something self-pubbing couldn’t do for me without a lot of extra work on my part. They offered me a terrific deal, and have done more marketing and promotion than any of the publishers I’ve previously worked with.
They’ve treated me with nothing but respect, listened to and implemented many of my ideas, and have been an absolute joy to work with.
They’re the new publisher on the block. But they’re already doing it better than anyone else.
Konrath and his co-author Blake Crouch have a number of suggestions for bookstores feeling the pinch of e-books, including selling used books (if they don’t already), playing to their strength as independent book experts, holding author events, selling e-books, and—most intriguingly—going into publishing themselves. Crouch writes:
If you’re an indie store beloved by authors, ask those authors for a story to put into an anthology, which you can then publish in print or as an ebook. Or ask favorite authors with out-of-print backlists if they’d like to partner with you to re-release those books. If Amazon is becoming a publisher, why can’t you?
Between Joe and I, we have over twenty book-length works available. If you’d like to publish any of them and sell them out of your store, contact us. We’ll give you an 85% royalty, send you our already formatted interiors and covers, and you can print and sell as many as you’d like. Or we can do the printing, and ship them to you signed, and give you the same 40% discount the major NY Publishers give you per book.
Shifting print-on-demand to a bookstore operation is an interesting idea. It’s the idea behind the Espresso Book Machine, of course, but a store doesn’t need to have its own copy contraption to benefit from print-on-demand if it wants to put together an order to a print-on-demand supply house or even a local printer capable of doing small print runs. (Printing technology has improved to the point that a lot of print shops are capable of doing smaller, more economical runs than used to be feasible.) Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have done something similar for quite some time, operating “SRM Publisher” to sell chapbooks of Liaden short stories and story collections they couldn’t bring to press through a traditional publisher.
Of course, it would be going outside the core competency of many bookstores, which do not have experience with publishing—but then Amazon didn’t have any experience with publishing either before it got started, and just look how well that’s gone for it.
Like publishers, bookstores are caught in the middle by the e-book revolution, and it remains to be seen how well they can adapt. Hopefully at least some of them will manage it somehow.