Who Buys Books?

For some authors, the decision of whether to go with a smaller publisher, a larger one or to just self-publish their book can be daunting.

Many authors believe a larger publisher might be a better choice because they have more market dollars to commit to a book than smaller ones. Another assumption is the only way to become a famous author is with a larger publisher.

All publishers market, but where they market and to whom is where the misunderstanding originates. For example, large publishers send advance reader copies to review magazines such as Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, Midwest Review and others and small publishers don’t.
Large publishers also employ large sales forces and small publishers don’t. To do this, large publishers must have very high marketing budgets. So it looks like if an author can’t place a book with a large publisher, he or she won’t sell any books.

But who buys books? Do bookstores buy books? They kind of do but after a book sits on their shelves a period of time and doesn’t sell (about 60 days), it’s returned to the book distributor who returns it to the publisher (usually just the covers because shipping books is expensive). These books are then destroyed. On average, 50% or more of books sent to bookstores are returned. What this means is if your book doesn’t sell, it’s returned.

Small publisher use a method called print on demand (POD). Books are only printed when they are sold. This is a much more effective way to produce books. This method is also employed by larger publishers, but not to the extent that small publishers use it.

Large publishers use distributors to get their books into bookstores.  Small publishers also use these same distributors. However, most small publishers don’t except returns so does this give the big publisher an advantage? With a 50% return rate, are you kidding?

So where does the larger publisher have an advantage? The advantage is in larger publisher’s ability to sell movie and TV rights. This is where large publishers make their money. Amazon, for instance, doesn’t make its money from books. They stay in business by selling other merchandise.

The bottom line is that books fail no matter who publishes them. Books fail because of misconceptions about who buys books and who is best qualified to sell them.

Large publishers market to bookstores and libraries and small publishers attempt to market directly to readers. Size does not seem to matter because neither is very well equipped to market directly to readers.  Only authors know, or should know, his or her reader directly.

So to be rich and famous, an author must connect directly with the person who will read and love what that author writes. Readers read, readers talk to other readers, word gets out and the next thing you know the movie comes out. The question, then, each author should ask him or herself is how do I more effectively make readers notice and then talk about my book. If this question can be answered effectively, then you too can be rich and famous.  Ask Amanda Hocking or H. M. Ward how they did it both and without signing with a big publisher.

Posted in Publishing.

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