How Indie Bookstores are killing Indie Books

The last sacred cow of the book world is planting the seeds of its own irrelevance. The untouchable, most holy of institutions, hailed as the prime literary taste-maker and engine of new discoveries, no longer holds its touted powers, yet none dare voice out loud that the ‘Emperor’ is no longer wearing their clothes.

Until now.

Once upon a time, in the blissful days of the pre-Internet literary world, local independent bookstores played a crucial role in discovering and publicizing new books. Great books on small presses could win the attention of literary agents and major publishers, and the then-Big-Six’s ‘hidden gems’ could find the accolades they deserved.

For the last fifteen years, the Web has been usurping the indie bookstores’ ‘power of influence’. Countless literary review sites and blogs, and book retailers’ online reviews, have, for the most part, taken over the role of “taste-maker and engine of discovery”. Yet, everyone in the literary world still treats the local indie stores as the most sacred of cows.

They shouldn’t.

indie-bookstore-meme

Yes, one of their biggest issues can be summed up nicely in a meme. Yet, the problems here go much deeper than that. Indies are backing away en-masse from “local author” programs and even stocking any books released by small presses. With the Big Five’s ever-increasing risk aversion, and honing of commercial formulas, how much “literary discovery” can the local indie stores really do, when they restrict themselves to carrying only major-publisher books?

Soon, the indie bookstores will be forced to recommend books by “James Patterson” his hired writers, because they’ll be the only titles left on their shelves.

james-patterson

A slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

Due to the aforementioned risk aversion, increasing numbers of excellent books will never be published by the Big Five. And those books have to go somewhere.

Over the last five years, many have headed for self-publishing. The preponderance of best-selling self-published books has long since proven that the Big Five’s commercial formulae are missing many #1 New York Times (e-book) best-sellers, and even “The Martian”, a novel that served as the genesis of a hit movie. No indie bookstore could have discovered or championed “The Martian”, because it was never on their shelves in the first place.

And the indies’ lack of shelf diversity is creating an even bigger problem for themselves.

Given the relative ease of self-publishing, it is safe to say that any author who signed to an independent publisher after, say, the year 2010, was an author who was committed to having print versions of their books available for sale at bookstores.

With the local stores turning a blind eye to small press books, in the process they also shelf-block the authors who committed themselves to the more difficult path of traditional publishing, just to have print versions of their books, that the typical indie bookstore will now no longer stock. In other words, the indies won’t stock the books by the authors who gave up full creative control and self-publishing’s higher royalty rates, just to get print editions for stores that will no longer carry them.

Not a great way to make friends of those authors. Or, for that matter, their independent publishers.

In the face of this trend, some great small presses have had to shut down (R.I.P. Booktrope). Others, like my own publisher PDMI Publishing, LLC, have moved on to targeting large book retailers. For the last several years, PDMI has been holding its author signings at major chains such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, which have proven to be more receptive to the small press, its authors and its books than the typical local indie bookstore.

Other small presses still vainly holding out hope for the indie shelves will probably go the way of Booktrope, sad to say. And once all of their authors realize the “local indie Emperor” is no longer wearing their shiny book-championing armor, they’ll be free to move on.

Once again, their books will have to go somewhere.

“Yes, self-publishing,” you say, “but what about print? Print isn’t dead.”

Which is precisely why Amazon is venturing into brick-and-mortar book retailing. If the indie bookstores thought CreateSpace was bad, “they ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Once Amazon’s brick-and-mortar infrastructure is in place, any “Kindle” that catches fire can be on Amazon’s bookshelves in a couple of weeks. Are the Big Five and their self-appointed ‘indie’ taste-makers ready for a world where books that bypass them entirely can become #1 New York Times PRINT best-sellers?

Another hypothetical question: What would happen if more independent publishers followed the path of PDMI and focused on large retailers? Unlike the Big Five, smaller publishers could sign exclusive deals with large retailers, in return for print book shelf space. A “Barnes & Noble Exclusive” title could easily reach #1 NYT best-seller status, if carried in enough stores.

And, given the local stores’ current exclusionary climate, would any of the publisher’s authors really object if their publisher went “Barnes & Noble Exclusive”, especially if it meant their book got shelf space at B&N’s across the U.S.?

And, of course, there are other retailers large enough to be able to sell enough print copies of a title by themselves to push said title to #1 NYT best-seller status.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Jack-Wendell-s-Vampire-Syndrome-Book-1-in-the-Vampire-Syndrome-Saga/53628570

One thing is sure to continue. Once Amazon entries are regularly populating several places of the Top Ten New York Times print best-seller list, the indie stores will whine and complain about it. Yet much of the ‘blame’ will rest with themselves, for turning a blind eye to the smaller publishers and their authors, all parties involved who had dedicated themselves to the difficult task of producing print books, only to be rebuffed at virtually every turn. Killing off some of the geese that laid the golden eggs, but those eggs have to go somewhere.

Straight to Amazon’s waiting nest. 😈

UPDATE 9/08/16: A quote from this excellent Observer article The Truth About The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists :
“(For the N.Y.T. list) a hardcover copy of your book purchased on Amazon.com is counted differently than the same hardcover book purchased at indie bookstore X.”
Here may be a more valid reason why people are still treating indie stores like sacred cows.
Yet, if you could sell a million books at Wal-Mart alone, you may not make the N.Y.T. list, and you definitely wouldn’t make the W.S.J. list, as Wall Street Journal doesn’t even tally Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club sales, which is a ‘hole’ big enough to drive literal semi-trailers full of books through….

Why Authors Should Pay Attention To Gravity

Well, okay, you should always pay attention to gravity (as in the earth’s natural force), but there is another, graver “Gravity” story you need to know.

Kristin Nelson Pub Rants Article: “Why Authors Should Pay Attention To Gravity”

Quick Summary: Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen brought the suit making a claim that the movie was based on her book that New Line Productions had optioned in 1999. Warner Bros. acquired New Line studios and what is in question is whether Warner Bros, after the acquisition, is required to honor the New Line option agreement.

One thing Nelson didn’t touch on is the possible ramifications for those who are (specifically) pursuing “indie” film adaptations of their novels. For example, it might be quite possible your “vampire novel” is more akin to the artistic spirit of successful recent indie vampire films such as Let The Right One In/Let Me In, Byzantium, Only Lovers Left Alive and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night than middling ‘major’ projects such as Vampire Academy and Dracula: Untold.

If a major studio buys out your indie film producer(s), a situation like Tess Gerritsen’s could easily happen. Authors pursuing indie projects will have to trust their “gut feelings” that the producers are committed to crafting the films that Hollywood won’t or can’t do. 😈

The Mouse That Roared—Invasion of the Micro-Trend & Why Indies Hold Increasing Power

Her post explains why I’m glad to be on PDMI instead of the Big Five…

Kristen Lamb's Blog

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The Digital Age has arrived, and the ramifications of a connected world are still being revealed daily. But, there’s one trend I’d be hard-pressed to argue with. The 20th Century was all about homogeneity. Madison Avenue flourished by telling us which clothing brands made us cool, which car made us special, what foods were “healthy.” Tower Records controlled what music we heard and The Big Six selected which books we read.

Gatekeepers controlled information and retailers restricted commodities because homogeneity dictated many business decisions. Homogeneity was simpler and required less paperwork and thinking.

Generations bought Wonderbread because it was “fortified with vitamins” and “good for your kids.” In 1986? Hope you liked stirrup pants. There was a cultural need to “fit in” and be like everyone else, especially those who were the “cool kids.”

“Pillars of Same” Go Crashing Down

With the advent of the Internet and widespread use of social…

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Vampire Syndrome Sells Out?

Well, folks, I’ve made the big commitment.
The entire Vampire Syndrome saga (the three main books, short stories, etc.) is now contracted to PDMI Publishing LLC.

Next year is the time for PDMI and “Vampire Syndrome” to Rock And Roll.
The risks are big, but so are the rewards.

I couldn’t be happier to be signed with a publisher on the right path of expansion, ready to reap the rewards of the Big Five’s ever-increasing weaknesses regarding new/midlist authors, as the Big Five tighten the reins on any acquisitions that do not fit into their ever-more-rigid, bottom-dollar-driven marketing formulas.

This gap is becoming so wide, the Big Five are letting potential number-one best-sellers slip through their fingers, leaving these authors to the wilds of e-book self-publishing.
Or right into the arms of an ‘indie’ publisher who is preparing to make the big leap to a larger scale of operations.
The time is right for a company to be what the Big Five used to be decades ago.
A company devoted to quality, with a belief that quality work can succeed.

I would now rather be on PDMI Publishing LLC than any of the Big Five.
Yes, I mean it!
PDMI will support my artistic vision far more than the Big Five ever would, and PDMI is now poised to reap the rewards of success in a way they never were before.

And I can honestly say this for one reason: I know enough now to where I could re-write Vampire Syndrome to be a sure-fire Big Five contract-getter.
But I don’t want to.
With PDMI behind me, you get Vampire Syndrome the way it was meant to be.
Not a version crippled to fit the Big Five’s narrow templates. And what scares even me is that 90+% of Vampire Syndrome’s basic plot is retained in the “Alt” storyline… 😈
And, without further ado, here is that version:

***

Seventeen year old JACQUELINE KENNEDY (“Jackie”) WENDELL, high school state champion track star, prom queen and class valedictorian (and NOT differently abled); dances at the prom with a Prom King who has Down Syndrome. (the “token nod” to the original project, as often seen in bad Hollywood movie butcherings of novels)

Later that night, Jackie succumbs to the charms of outlaw Vampire gang member JAMES PERRINO. Jackie’s one-night stand with James transforms her into a Vampire (note that the sexual transmission method of vampirism stays!).

Chief Venator DAMIEN TEPESH sights Jackie with James and targets the pair for death. Damien kills James and the rest of his outlaw comrades, but Jackie escapes, because she is now the world’s fastest-running Vampire.

Vampire President LILITH MORRIGAN secretly sympathizes with Jackie’s plight, due to her own marital troubles. Lilith sequesters Jackie in the Secret Room, and begins to realize Jackie’s incredible potential as the world’s fastest-running Vampire.

Damien contacts Romanian Venator ZETANIA VINESCU to hunt down Jackie. Lilith assigns Zetania to protect Jackie. Once they meet, lesbian Zetania immediately falls in love with Jackie. Bisexual Jackie consummates this mutual attraction with Zetania.

(Note here that Jackie’s bisexuality serves as the “controversial, daring and ground-breaking issue” to ‘replace’ Jack’s special-needs status. The YA target audience is very accepting of bisexuality, and the inevitable pockets of parental controversy add a ‘cool’ cachet. Zetania is also reduced in age to physical-equivalent eighteen years old, since this worked for Edward Cullen in Twilight.)

Zetania and Jackie, now a couple, encounter Jackie’s former track coach RON PEPPER and his wife DIANE during a cattle mutilation investigation. Jackie discloses her Vampire status to the Peppers. Damien and Lilith visit the Peppers shortly thereafter, and transform the pair into Vampires via a “vampire wife swap”.

Jackie receives a telepathic message from Pure Vampire MEL’AG, who is hiding in the distance. Mel’Ag runs to her boyfriend TIVOR’S truck and escapes the human Vampires’ pursuit. (Note that the reason for Jackie’s telepathic ability is never explained in this version!)

Jackie and Zetania go to the Vampires’ headquarters, and are presented with bravery medals by Damien and Lilith.

Jackie’s plans to move to Romania with Zetania are rudely interrupted when Mel’Ag and Tivor break into the compound and kidnap Jackie. Damien, Lilith, Zetania and others leap into their cars to pursue Mel’Ag and Tivor in a wild car chase through US 285. Jackie escapes her captors and runs to the Peppers’ car.

Jackie and Zetania fly in Lilith’s jet to Romania to live happily ever after, which of course they won’t. As they walk hand-in-hand inside the gates of the Romanian compound, Jackie gets another telepathic message. This time. it’s from the Pures’ leader GL’AG.

(the end of “Alt-Version” Volume One)

***

Thanks to PDMI, you won’t have to suffer through reading this kind of butcher job. 🙂

Writer’s Toolbox – yWriter5

The scenes and chapters that authors write are pieces of a puzzle. Standard word processors such as Microsoft Word and Open Office Writer are ideal for composing your pieces. When you have gathered all the pieces and are ready to start assembling your puzzle, it’s time for a specialized editing tool. yWriter5, created by author Simon Haynes.

You can download and use it for free, with no time restrictions or ads. If you find this program to be beneficial, you can make a donation or click the links on the donation page to spread the word about his software on Google, Twitter, or Facebook.

The basics of yWriter5 were covered in Ron Heimbecher’s “Mapping, Trapping and Zapping” class at the 2011 Colorado Gold conference. After editing the first thirteen chapters of my novel in yWriter5, I have some useful tips.

In yWriter5, the building blocks of your novel are scenes. Chapters in yWriter5 are simply the upper level folders in which scenes reside. Your written text is pasted into scenes. This means when you create a chapter, you have to create scenes within the chapter before you paste in your text. In our critique group documents, we tend to mark scene changes with asterisks or the like. When pasting your documents into yWriter, you’ll copy and paste one scene at a time. yWriter5 can automatically split your scenes with asterisks, pound signs or your own custom characters when you export the project.

Sample story content tab
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The logic behind organizing a project by scenes is readily apparent from Simon Haynes’ own example. He had saved the chapters of his first novel as individual files (as I did). The organizational difficulties he experienced after moving a scene from one chapter to another (and back) are what prompted him to create yWriter5. Relocating a scene from one chapter to another is, of course, a quick and easy operation in yWriter5.

You can even define scenes as “used” or “unused.” If you wish to leave a scene out of an exported project, all you have to do is change it to “unused.” This ability comes in particularly handy if you have scenes you wish to leave out of agent and publisher submissions, but you want to keep those same scenes in your eBook version. When the scene editor is closed, a quick way to determine if your scene is “used” or “unused” (besides the small “Sc” or “U” boxes) is to check the chapter’s word count in the left pane. The chapter’s word count will drop when the scene is marked “unused”, and increase when the scene is again marked “used”.

yWriter5 features a Character index for scenes. Characters are assigned short names (ie: Holden) and full names (ie: Holden Morrisey Caulfield). I created some middle names for minor characters to make the index complete. A naming convention I had to consider is that European-descent working-class persons born before the 19th century generally did not have given middle names. Thus, my vampires born before 1800 lack middle names. One glance at my yWriter5 name listing quickly tells you which of my vampires are older. (One exception, L. She now uses her maiden name as her middle name)

In addition to the Character index, scenes also have Location and Item indexes. For example, you can quickly summon each scene occurring at Denver International Airport, or the scenes in which a Nissan GT-R appears. The indexes are very useful for editing out duplicated information about your locations and items.


click on image to view in full size

One issue I haven’t found an easy solution for yet is: If you paste double-spaced text into a scene, there’s no easy way to change it to single-spaced from within yWriter. My workaround has been to paste my text into plain text files (which removes all the formatting), then paste from there into yWriter and re-format. I prefer having the plain text files as an extra form of backup. You can also reformat your document as single-spaced, save it, then paste into yWriter. YWriter does have a global “remove all formatting” option, but this will strip out all your bolds, italics, underlines, etc.

yWriter5 does have a few idiosyncrasies you will have to learn before you master it, but it’s a well-designed program that will be of great help to you. And it’s free! 😀