Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Current State of Publishing and Bookselling, Part 1

Today, I'm starting a short series of blogs on the state of publishing and bookselling and how that affects writers and readers. I'm focusing on genre novels.

Sources for the information I'm using include "Publishers Weekly," "Shelf Awareness," "Publisher's Lunch," and various professional trade blogs.

My credentials: I'm a publishing news junkie of over thirty years, and a published author of over ten years.

First, an overview of what's happening in the business.


Not surprisingly, the problems with the economy are hurting the sale of books. If it's a choice between food and gas or books, books are almost always the loser.

Even romance, which has always been considered an economy-proof genre, has struggled recently although it remains healthy with steady growth.

Readers are borrowing books at the library and buying used books. Neither venue is good for the author bottom line.

If a reader has a choice between a "name" favorite author and another author for a new book purchase, she will buy the name author. New authors' books tend to be bought used.


The current trends in bookstores and other physical locations is more books by just a few authors.

Target and Walmart which sell large numbers of books have cut down the amount of books by around fifty percent in the last few years. The books added to the shelves each month are almost always that month's list leader -- the publisher's lead title for that month, and it's usually a name author.

They believe they make money by having more space taken up by more books by a few bestsellers than with a wider range of authors and books.

Meanwhile, the chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders are putting out more authors and titles, but they, too, no longer carry most of that month's books by the major publishers.

Borders has started a series of concept stores which display books cover forward. So far, they've seen an increase in sales although they have cut the number of titles displayed by thirty percent.

Independent stores are dying at an alarming rate, and those which remain often keep themselves afloat by selling used books.

Still, a vast majority of all books sold are in brick and mortar stores.

In the next days, I'll cover online markets, print on demand, ebooks, and the problems with Amazon, then I'll discuss options for authors as well as the near and far future as publishing changes.


Lillian Porter said...

I enjoyed this post. Here in Canada I believe the same trend is happening. Part of the problem has been the pricing. Often books published are priced much higher. Many refuse to pay the higher price including me. Prices are starting to come down -but the average price of a HC book is $28.00 so I wait till the pb comes out or I find it in a UBS

Marilynn Byerly said...

As a poor writer, I use the local library and avoid used books when I can.

And, yes, the prices are horrible and will only get worse.

Marie-Nicole Ryan said...

As one of those newer unknown published authors, I despair that I'll ever seen one of mine in the store, although there have been a couple of reported sightings. LOL