On selling print books and eBooks – Part 2

This is the second in a 3-part series of posts on eBooks, print books, and my musings after having read many copies of both formats over this past year. Here’s a link to the first post: On eBooks and ePublishing – Part 1

For this post today, I have compiled a number of articles on the subject of selling books – both print and eBooks. Having been a bookseller and a publishers’ sales rep for most of my working career, I do know *something* about selling books to readers, to bookstores, and to libraries, as well as how to promote and publicize both print and eBooks. As far as I can see, after having promoted and sold my own publications, both in print and eBook formats, what we have is a broken traditional model that no longer works efficiently in getting books into the hands of readers, but that few people in the business want to let go of or fix. I have experimented with many new ideas I’ve developed on this subject and I promise to put those thoughts together in a future blog post. Some people in this book business will not be happy to hear what I have to say, but there needs to be a fundamental shift in how we conduct this business if we mean to ultimately serve the “end-users” – the Readers – who are the most important people in the writing-publishing-distributing-bookselling-lending equation. And we should never forget that.

New and innovative styles of bookstores that are thriving
From Publishers’ Weekly: Small Is Beautiful: Micro Bookstores Find a Place and The BookBar Expands to Meet Club Demand, both by Judith Rosen
From The Washington Post: Independent bookstores turn a new page on brick-and-mortar retailing by Michael S. Rosenwald
From TeleRead: Ada’s Technical Books shows how bookstores can survive in an e-book world by Chris Meadows

The Problem of Discoverability – How do you get known? How do readers find your books?
From Publishing Perspectives: What’s the Key to Solving the Book Discoverability Problem? by Edward Nawotka
From The Shatzkin File: Future systems needs for publishers to manage marketing becoming clear
From Writer.ly: 16 Key Ways to Sell eBooks, Drive Reviews (and Maybe Land on the New York Times Bestseller List) by Laura Pepper Wu

Ways that bookstores can improve their business
From Publishing Perspectives: Why Don’t More Bookstores Stock Self-published Titles? by Tanja Tuma
From GoodEreader: Kobo to bring e-Readers and eBooks to Spain via La Central Bookstores by Michael Kozlowski
From GalleyCat: Buying eBooks Through Your Local Indie Bookstore by Jason Boog

What the Big Boys are doing to improve their bottom lines
From The Bookseller: Sainsbury’s to cease selling physical books online by Lisa Campbell
From The Digital Reader: Amazon Vending Machines Now Popping Up in Airports, Malls by Nate Hoffelder

And there will always be the Chicken Littles
From Daylight Atheism: Chain Bookstores Are Doomed by Adam Lee
From Publishers’ Weekly: Sales of Print Units Slipped in 2013: Units sold through Nielsen’s retail & club channel fell 2.5% by Jim Milliot

And if you don’t see the whole slew of opportunities that I see in those last two articles then you have not been paying close attention!


Let your imagination run wild! Here’s a few examples of brick-and-mortar stores that have been nothing less than innovative. I’d also like to add a link to a Canadian independent bookseller I discovered recently who runs a successful brick-and-mortar as well as an online bookstore. Elizabeth Campbell Books seems to have got it right, in my books!

Would you like to share any interesting examples of bookstores (physical or online) or stores that carry and sell your books as part of their original business concept? Please comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

6 responses

  1. I’ve always admired you two book mavens. And appreciated working with you over the years. Kudos to both of you for promoting the written word- print, electronic, new, used, and otherwise.

    1. Thanks for bringing us together, Rorie!!

  2. Thank you so much for mentioning my bookshop (Elizabeth Campbell Books) here! It was a delightful surprise.
    At Kenora’s book festival in October, two authors published by Random House mentioned that they were now able to go into an authors only area of the RH site to monitor sales statistics for their titles. It was intriguing to learn that the sales of ebooks for both of them (both writing in the mystery genre) were remaining pretty constant at about 5% of total sales (hard cover, paperback and ebook; I’m not sure if audio books are also included). So it appears that there is still a place on readers’ shelves for books…
    Perhaps access to ebooks is only a small part or one facet of a larger challenge for booksellers?

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth, for commenting. When I was a sales rep, I always said that indies should not try to compete with the chain, but do something better than what the chain does – by specializing or offering a different kind of service or catering to a niche market. That’s why I started Alberta Books Canada – to promote Alberta authors specifically – and I set up displays primarily at library conferences, because the librarians in the province were not otherwise hearing about which authors were publishing (and especially not hearing about the self-published authors).

      I see that you are fulfilling that niche market by catering not only to your storefront customers in Kenora, but also to customers on the internet, by providing them with a comprehensive catalogue of titles and an easy way to purchase and receive the books. Plus, I notice you champion and promote self-published authors who write in various genres, and many local authors. So extra kudos to you!!

      As for the flat eBook sales you mention, I have a theory about that, as well, but you’ll have to wait for the third part in this series to hear what I have to say.

      By the way, it was Rorie Bruce who first told me about your store and website. Nice to “meet” you here on my blog. Thank you for reading!

      1. Yes. I focus a lot on regional authors and books, too, and I write as much as I can about them. I have a sporadic column in a regional cottaging magazine about the history of literature on the Lake of the Woods. It’s a great way of giving the shop and the used and out-of-print books I carry some exposure with a new audience. And I know they are readers, LOL.
        I eagerly anticipate your next post!
        Funny, but as I was writing my initial response, I was thinking of Rory… I was reminded of him by your similar career path from bookseller to publishers’ rep.

      2. Ah, and there’s another area of specialization you have that most indies don’t follow – used and OP books. And being a resource person for the media in your neck-of-the-woods … literally woods! And a cultural hub, too. Very good job you’re doing there, m’dear! Rorie and I were colleagues at a sales agency. We’re still in touch!

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