The business of print publishing — producing physical books and shipping them here and there — has taken two more serious blows in the last month.
Borders, the second largest book chain in the US, filed for bankruptcy on Feb 16. Though the company hopes to restructure and emerge with a pulse, it has set about closing more than 200 of its current locations.
These announcements are simply two in a long string from the past year, including the dissolution of Canadian publisher Key Porter and the closure of indie bookstore after indie bookstore.
The economics of moving print books across the country and around the world are becoming increasingly untenable. It’s relatively expensive to create, ship and store physical books, and with already razor-thin margins, traditional publishers, distributors, and booksellers are feeling the pinch.
But what does it all mean for you as a self-published author?
Physical space for selling books is decreasing
Sobering fact: Your book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore. With shelf space dwindling, competition for what’s left is fierce. You think it’s hard getting your self-published book into a bookstore now? Expect it to get even harder. The thing is, while mainstream bookstore distribution is great if you can get it, for a lot of business authors, it’s not the only game in town.
Exploit other channels
You’ve got all kinds of other sales channels available to you, such as back-of-room sales at speaking engagements, bulk sales to special interest groups, direct sales to your client base, and online sales through Amazon. Use them.
Lock in your digital strategy
Yes, a print book still confers the most cachet, which is important for the freebies you give as gifts to clients and contacts. But don’t neglect the e-book market — it’s booming and will only continue to grow. At the very least, make sure your print book is available on all the major e-reading platforms. It’s not hard to do.
And start to think about ways you can establish your e-book as the premium gift. How about giving top prospects an e-book reader skinned with your book cover and a link to a free download of your book?
The print book market will be around for quite a while yet, but it will get increasingly harder for self-published authors to get distribution through mainstream channels. Pursue that distribution if you like, but don’t let it be your only or even primary strategy. Multiple channels for reaching readers are your best insurance.