Monday, May 7, 2018

On the Death of Barnes and Noble (And TradPub)

The NY Times have decided that Barnes and Noble is in dire straights, and need to be saved. Obviously, the way to do that is to blame Amazon and their terrible strongarm tactics, lowballing prices, making them cheaper and easier for people to buy and read books....

The NY Times is, of course, full of crap, as usual.

Look, fellas, let's break this down nice and easy-like, okay?

Traditional Publishing is kept afloat by Barnes and Noble, who are the only brick and mortar store really left in the business.

Barnes and Noble is on the rocks because TradPub is making pricing demands that the market will not sustain. Hardcovers used to be under $25 within the last twenty years. Now they're easily over and above that, some reaching $30 and above. We won't even go into the Kindle prices where the e-book is more expensive than the hardcover (see the early release of John Scalzi's Collapsing Empire).

Then you go to Amazon, and discover $15 hardcovers. Because Amazon wants to sell books. Shocking, isn't it?

Barnes and Noble could easily correct this by playing hardball with TradPub, or by being more open to indie authors and small press publishers -- Silver Empire or Superversive come to mind. But the boat has sailed on both of these. B&N has been so crappy to indie authors that they'd have to issue a personal invite to have me come play with them.

As for TradPub ... they could easily fix all of their problems. But these seem more bound to tradition than the Catholic church or the military put together. I could tell you four things that would save TradPub this minute.

Okay, at least Manhattan

As much as I love my city, we have the highest taxes of anywhere else on the planet... okay, California seems dead set on beating our record, but Manhattan has killer property taxes, murderous property rates, and the cost of existing adds more to overhead than I want to contemplate.  If they moved almost anywhere else in the country, they could slash costs and thus slash prices.

Move into the 21st century

This goes hand in hand with leaving Manhattan. Do you know why TradPub was in New York City? Because they needed industrial presses to make the books. To make THAT profitable, they needed to print thousands upon thousands of books, because the larger the order, the lower the price is per unit. (If I order a copy of my novel, it's $25. If I order 20,000, it's $1 per copy, around those lines).

Leave New York City, get a publish on demand printer, and make the books in house.

Alternately, TradPub, in conjunction with Barnes and Noble, puts a POD printer in every store, making the brick and mortar shop a place where B&N will make the novel for you in the store while you wait. This takes a larger burden off of the publisher, and puts it on Barnes and Noble, but it's still cheaper than a lot of the crap they have to go through

(And stop taking the lion's share)

Look, a lot of publishers take a bath on advances. Don't even ask how many are worth the cost of the advance. Seriously, don't. There was even a Guardian article that discussed that the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, as well as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter was sued for part of the advance to come back. And these were both books that were made into films. So think about that a moment. Even big books that have a lot of press behind them don't necessarily make back the money paid out in the advance.

It really makes you look hard at that Scalzi payout from a few years ago, doesn't it?

If you look at most authors when they discuss royalty payments, you quickly realize that TradPub pays out one or two dollars for every copy of a novel sold. I think it's why James Patterson has become an industry -- if he's making a dollar for every book sold, it pays to have thousands of copies of a new book out every month.

The only people I know of who care about royalty payouts for their authors is Baen. They even talk with Amazon about raising e-book prices (only to $7, on the outside) in order to get a cut they can pay their authors.

So hey, TradPub, stop shilling out the big bucks for an investment you'll never make money on, and stop pillaging the royalties, and maybe you'll at least break even, maybe keep your head above water. What do you say?

Work with us, people

Sigh. Another good reason to leave New York City is to escape the prejudices of the city. Let's face it, the disdain for "flyover country" you see in Manhattan isn't good for selling books anywhere between the coasts of America. And moving into ... anywhere between California and New York would screen out a lot of the employees who couldn't dare think about living anywhere else. Heck, even a move to Long Island would be better. Queens. Staten Island. Pick something. (Trust me, everything that Manhattan thinks about "flyover country," they think about the "outer boroughs.")

In short: stop with political agendas. Or, heck, be open to other lines of political thought. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a right-winger to get into TradPub. Nick Cole told us that story on my radio show, and he wasn't even that big into politics. Two of the bigger right-leaning authors I can think of started in small press (Tom Clancy, Annapolis University Press) and self publishing (Vince Flynn), or politically neutral (Brad Thor didn't start by being overly political. His first villains were the Swiss). Jason Matthews is politically neutral, mostly because he dislikes politicians in general.

Last time I checked, Baen works with everyone, and they're doing fine. You want the commie Eric Flint? The ... I don't even know what Michael Z Williamson is. Let's call him Libertarian. Ringo and Zahn, who are at least right-ish. I don't even know what David Drake is. Left winger Ryk Spoor.

These are things I've come with off the top of my head. At random. In no particular order. I'm sure this list is only a fraction of what Barnes and Noble and TradPub could do. But the ship is sinking, and there aren't enough coffee shops in the world to stuff into their stores to make Barnes and Noble ultimately profitable in the long run. I used to have four Barnes and Noble within easy drive of my home. I now have two.

TradPub needs to shape up, and thus save Barnes and Noble. Because the two of them are in a symbiotic relationship, and when one dies, the other will either have to adapt overnight, or die right alongside the first... and what we've seen of both of them shows that they won't.

TradPub will not leave Manhattan because they've become a bunch of elitists who wouldn't move to Queens, to heck with Ohio.

TradPub won't change the technology because that would require doing Something Different. The horror.

Much the same with advances and royalties. Like the politicians they vote for, they think that pumping out crap and slapping a higher price on it will somehow result in the same number of people buying the higher price, and thus result in higher revenue. Nope. Higher prices means that we're not going to buy the book, Ciao.

And TradPub going politically neutral? BWHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHA


And since TradPub won't change, Barnes and Nobles can't change. Everything TradPub does to jack up their prices only causes Barnes and Nobles to suffer. When the host dies, so does the symbiote.

Support indie books, buy a set of the Pius Trilogy today. It's something to read by the firelight of watching TradPub burn.

Pius History: The Facts Behind the Pius Trilogy by [Finn, Declan]

1 comment:

  1. So, I had to check. There are 2 B&Ns "near" me. Both 33 miles away, so a 40-60 minute drive depending on time of day. Two Books-A-Million, both slightly closer (28 miles), both in unsafe areas.

    It isn't the pricing that drives me away from the Big 4 (I pay full price for JD Robb new releases, and usually get my favorite Baen authors in eARC, Kindle, and Hardcover, so obviously money is not the point). They don't seem to have anything I'm interested in, and they reward both mediocrity (Twilight) and copycats (all remaining YA fiction aimed at girls).

    I don't know, maybe it's because I live in a sub-rural area (my neighborhood used to be a dairy farm, and we're still literally surrounded by corn fields), but the only thing I miss about shopping in big stores in the people watching.


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