This is the blog of a company that fell into the publishing industry through the love of feeling an ink-and-paper book in your hands.

We don't pretend to know what we're doing, leaving us dealing with the realities of the modern publishing industry, harboring numerous iconoclastic ideas, and having an internet-sized repository of information at our fingertips. The blog is here to let us express our ideas, communicate among members across long distances, and act like we're an authority on something we know little about...and isn't that exactly what blogging is all about?

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In A World, Where Books Are Read...
18 Jul 2006, 2:56:40 pm

HarperCollins Canada has started a program where books are given movie-trailer-like advertisements; the movies, however, aren't released on the big screen, but are available through HC's website. As expected, some are suspicious of success, while authors are happy to see promotion done in any form.

This brings us to marketing, something my company is trying to get a handle on almost a year into the business. Not that we've ignored it; we've sent out review copies, updated our Amazon page, gotten B&N brick-and-mortar stores to carry the books, bought advertising in magazines...but we aren't sure yet what beings people to buy our books.

ParaPublishing has a nice bunch of statistics on bookbuyers. The most interesting ones from our point of view were:

  • The jacket has between 14 and 23 seconds of "eyeball time",
  • Women buy 68% of books,
  • 59% of bookbuyers go to the bookshop with a book in mind; 41% are browsing
What this tells me is that book covers, while a valuable marketing tool (41% of people buy based primarily on that), 59% of bookbuyers -- who are mostly women -- are getting their information from someplace else.

But -- where do they get it from? Advertisers have, no doubt, gotten this down to a science, but as a small book publisher that's not my forte. It's hard to convince myself that buying an ad in a magazine (which, depending on the mag, could be tens of thousands of dollars) will result in enough sales to cover the ad, let alone increase profit. I've got a mailing list of bookstores around the country, but will a couple hundred dollars on postcards and stamps pay off? It's a gamble, almost moreso than the signing of an author to publish their book. The author gets paid their royalties out of our profit; that profit needs to be big enough to make it worthwhile. After the actual printing, marketing is probably the biggest expense -- but could prove to be the most influential force in keeping those profits up.

So it's no wonder that publishers are trying creative new ways to get the word out. Who goes to the movies without knowing what they're going to see? The trailers have to be worth something, then, right? Making trailers for books seems wise. If the big boys are getting creative with their advertising, is means the little guy has to look outside the box, too.

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LGBT and Feminist Bookstores
7 Jul 2006, 3:32:44 pm

AfterEllen.com just published A Survey of the Lesbian Fiction Publishing Industry.

The article begins:

"In June of 2002, Martin Arnold wrote in his “Making Books” column in the New York Times that gay and lesbian bookstores were “seriously endangered” and may “soon be extinct.” Now, four years later and their numbers diminished, gay and lesbian booksellers are still struggling in the age of big book chains and Internet retailing."

The article also claims that "feminist bookstores have been even harder hit than LGBT stores."

All of this reminds me of two debates. One, the typical "are big chain bookstores killing all the independent stores" discussion, is still rather on-going in my mind, and will be saved for later.

The second debate is about the idea of such themed bookstores in the first place.

Like any book with a more limited appeal or presumed to have a smaller market, it seems on the surface, that themed or niche bookstores would be the way to go. But does labeling a book as 'feminist' or 'lesbian' actually do a disservice to the work? Why 'feminist' and not historical? Why 'lesbian' rather than 'sexual' or in the case of fiction, just a plain old 'mystery' or 'thriller' etc.? Perhaps the labels actually limit the work's scope and appeal.

In a not-too-long-ago round-table discussion called the Labeling Lesbian Fiction Debate, a group of us discussed the merits of categorizing books in just such ways, and I believe most if not all of the same arguments apply to themed bookstores.

While I personally do enjoy shopping in feminist bookstores and can imagine the LGBT crowd may feel the same, is the segregation part of the problem? For example, do the store themes limit the customers with the niche label and the offerings of that label? And if there were no small 'feminist' and 'LGBT' bookstores, would 'the big boys' be more willing (i.e. forced) to carry more of these works?

I don't know for certain -- as the blog states, "we don't pretend to know what we're doing." But I do have to wonder if themed bookstores are dying off not because of less customer interest, or even the effects of the big chain book retailers... Maybe it's because customers don't want to be limited by the labels.

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