What if Bookstores Go Away?

Author Marketing ExpertsPenny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

Feature Article: What Happens if Bookstores Go Away? by Penny Sansevieri

That sentence alone is enough to send chills down my spine. No bookstores? I can’t imagine a world without them. Yet the fact of the matter is, that’s likely where we are headed.

I don’t often share this, but you know that term “bucket list”? One of my bucket list items is to get locked in a bookstore overnight – with a fully-functioning Starbucks of course because a girl needs her caffeine to stay up all night and dig through the thousands of titles on the shelves. Truth is, that one bucket list dream may never come true (and I suspect, neither will the dinner date with Bradley Cooper, either). Let’s face it, the world is changing rapidly. Amazon is making book access so much easier and without having to get in your car and, you know, drive somewhere. Look, I do love Amazon and what they’ve done for indie authors is tremendous, but the opposite side to all of this good is that bookstores are desperately trying to find a market. Ironically, in the mix of all of this, the independents, once proclaimed to be dead, are not faring as badly as the chains. Well, the chain: Barnes & Noble.

My prediction, though perhaps wild and seemingly out there, is that we’re going to start seeing more niche stores, so children’s bookstores, all-fiction, etc. because at the end of the day, we are catering to an audience who doesn’t want to have to sift through hundreds of books to find the niche they are looking for. We live in the custom society: custom coffee, custom cars, custom pretty much everything. Would the same go for bookstores? Sure, why not? I also think that we’re going to start seeing a lot more book departments expand within stores. Hallmark has been experimenting with this for years, though granted their book section is small compared to everything else they offer, they could expand this, too. I don’t think you’ll see airport bookstores go away anytime soon. There’s a need there, gotta have something to read on the plane, though the surge of eBook purchases may change the need for those too.

Let’s face it, the structure is changing. Ironically it’s not going in the direction we once thought. A few years ago many bloggers said that libraries were a thing of the past, sweet but ancient dinosaurs. However, libraries have seen a resurgence in a down economy and librarians are eager to keep step with technology, offering eBook lending, etc.
The biggest challenge we face as authors and book promoters is that if, in fact, bookstores go away that takes away a huge chunk of those trusted book connoisseurs who would otherwise be out, on the frontlines, recommending books. Also, the shelf space, which for most of us isn’t really a factor since our books won’t be in bookstores anyway. But for those publishers and titles that depend on bookstores, how will they gain exposure? The answer is, of course, online.

I think as we see the market changing, we’re going to see things like niche social media sites, which despite Facebook’s online real estate could pull in more readers because, again, we want what we want. We don’t want to sift through tons of data to find that great, new read.

Free books and excerpts will become a must. I’ve spoken with a lot of authors who feel this is just something they don’t want to do. The numbers would, however, encourage a second look. Whenever we’ve run freebie campaigns we see a huge uptick in sales after the freebie is over.

Book bloggers: As time progresses, we’ll need more voices out there. As we do now, we’ll start seeing a lot of niche blog communities popping up and, I dare say, that if the bookstore demise happens we’re going to see a lot more paid reviews.
Paid placement: Yes I think you’ll start seeing much more of this. Though not through ads but through paid content online. Some call it advertorial, and perhaps that’s a better term for it, but I think as we progress, content generation to drive sales will become a huge factor.

What can you do now, this far ahead of the curve? Candidly, I think we’ll start seeing the downturn of the bookstore right after Christmas. We’re seeing it now already but as 2013 continues, more and more of the sales numbers are going to be facing a decline. What you can do now is stake your claim. Make friends with bloggers, network, put out good content. Don’t wait for the bookstore rug to be ripped out from under you before you act. Do it now. And when the eventual demise of bookstores happens, you’ll be ready to face that challenge.

Many of us ignore the library market because it’s not glamorous, but guess what? Librarians are a fantastic group of book lovers who could really help your book succeed. Been ignoring the library market in lieu of something more glamorous? You may want to rethink that approach.

No one wants to see bookstores go away, least of all me. But the writing has been on the wall for a while and even if I’m wrong, which would be great, I still think that the online world will become more and more significant in all of the ways I’ve described. Let’s face it. With all of the books published each day in the US, the market has been expanding on one side and shrinking on the other for a while.

So, head to your local bookstore and support them, but make sure you keep an eye on the future.

ALSO – A RESOURCE EVERY WRITER SHOULD OWN! an NQ recommendation!
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Thanks, Penny! Until the 10th, everyone keep reading and writing! NQ

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About NL Quatrano

Award-winning author, speaker, editor and ghost writer, Nancy owns a full-time editing, writing and specialty publishing business: On-Target Words/WC Publishing. Volunteer/member of professional writing organizations including Florida Writers Assoc., Sisters in Crime, and AWAI. 2010 Professional Woman of the Year by the NAPW. Linked in Editor Pick May 2013. International Women's Leadership Association nominee for Outstanding Leadership 2014.
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3 Responses to What if Bookstores Go Away?

  1. This is an interesting speculation that we have heard quite a bit over the last few years. Then we hear that Borders closed up and Barnes and Noble is closing a number of stores over the next few years. So 1+1 = 2 right? The truth is the story is quite a bit different and hopefully I can ease your mind and one day that bucket list item can be fulfilled.

    First of all, Borders did NOT close because ebooks pushed them out. Borders closed because Borders made very very bad business decisions for several years. The biggest mistake being they tried to be a DVD and Music store before wanting to really be a Book store. Borders destroyed Borders.

    Second, look at Barnes & Noble’s financials . . . $1.97 billion in retail sales (yup, that a ‘b’ in the beginning) in Fiscal 2013 3rd Quarter (‘Retail’ includes store and .com sales – http://www.barnesandnobleinc.com/press_releases/2_28_13_fy_2013_3Q_financial_results.html). That’s NOT all online and that figure is pretty large especially for a store model where the average purchase price is around $15.00 – $20.00 per transaction. Do the math and you’ll see that’s quite a bit of traffic that goes through their stores. The St. Augustine store alone averages typically 800+ transactions per day.

    So what’s going on with B&N and stores closing? First, B&N put way too much focus on the Nook and they handled apps way way wrong. They are trying to be a digital company and compete in a world they can’t possibly compete in (Well, they might if they didn’t try to approach it like Apple does.). B&N should be offering a variety of digital tablets and readers while expanding their stores to house book espresso for print-on-demand and layering in consistent events in all of their stores. Instead they are wanting everyone to choose Nook (ain’t going to happen when there are far superior tablets on the market with way better app selections . . . Nexus 7!) and constantly sending customers away because of the return model surrounding print-on-demand publishing. B&N’s top offices need some shaking up. It’s a company that is filled with very long-term execs that have gotten very narrow-minded in my opinion.

    The long and the short, consumers are clearly showing they want book stores and they are going there. An individual company makes bad business decisions is not the “sign of the book store times” (unless the “sign” is large book store companies making bad business moves . . . then it might actually be the “sign of the times”). Whenever there is clear demand a supplier will step in. B&N will be around for quite a while. Someone would pick them up if they messed that the finances that bad. Digital is going to continue to be huge and for good reason. But digital doesn’t mean that people all just huddle behind their screens in their homes. We’ve heard brick-and-mortar going away for the last 20 years (music is entirely different and I point out hat you really can’t compare music and books) and it hasn’t happened. In fact, online is enhancing in-store and the companies who marry the two worlds well and doing just great.

  2. Jack Owen says:

    WoW!
    The one and only reviewer (who rated it ONE-Star) SCORCHED the book as a “newsletter dump” not worth .99 cents.
    I guess caveat emptor applies here.
    ps: Not too happy about the forecast of the demise of bookshops, either. Hard-copy books – other than much general fiction and text-books – will always be in demand by “discriminating” readers and buyers (can you say “custom”). Those palm-sized kitty, flower, inspirational, soppy-quote books to coffee-table-sized scenic, historic, artistic tomes with three-dimensional additions, cannot be squeezed into Kindle & Son.
    And an Audubon Folio or Gutenberg Bible is STILL going to worth big bucks for books^D

    • Nancy Quatrano says:

      Thank you Jack! I have to say, that even after putting my emotions aside (I cannot imagine life on this planet without bookstores or libraries), I *do not* agree that all our bookstores are going away. I actually see many indications that indie stores are beginning to grow in numbers and quality, which makes me dance for joy, not just as a writer, but as a reader, too. However, I do believe that as writers, we have a responsibility to support them in any way we can and that goes for libraries, too. We cannot take them for granted or expect them to be around if we are not going to do what we can as writers to encourage people to frequent them. Yes, I am learning the e-book world as well – as a business person I’d be foolish to overlook that large market. But Penny is a top player in the field and I think she’d be remiss if she didn’t address the ongoing and changing division of the book-selling pie. Is she an alarmist? I’ve known her many years and I’d say she isn’t. If any of us are paying the slightest attention, we know the marketplace is changing weekly; for NY, the Indies, Amazon, B&N and all the others. I’m glad the blog stirred some response and thoughts. I am going to do all I can in my tiny corner of the universe to support the indie stores and our libraries, though. They are not going to be “dinosaurs” if I can help it.

      Thank you!

      Sincerely, Nancy Quatrano nancy@ontargetwords.com

      On-Target Words: Coaching, Editing, Media Kits and Press Releases that work! Website: http://www.ontargetwords.com Blog:Faith, Hope & Grace: Information for Writers Facebook: Nancy Quatrano 386-546-5164

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