You might have heard it on the news. Maybe you read it here.
The question on the mind of every author — and everyone in the publishing industry — is, “What does this mean to me?”
Tate Publishing is preparing a statement, and I don’t know what the official word is yet. However, I wanted to share a couple of my thoughts as our leaders prepare theirs.
The first thought is this: DON’T PANIC! We’ve been saying for months that this could happen. We’ve also said that even if every single bookstore in America closed, we would still have a plan for our authors. Unlike most publishers, our plan for our authors’ success does not depend on anyone but us and our authors. Having others involved is great while it lasts, but we don’t rely on it. In fact, as independent bookstores have closed in large numbers, and other publishers have reacted by laying people off and shrinking production, Tate Publishing has added staff and increased production. June was a record month for book sales at Tate even as the economy sank again. Authors who follow our plan are succeeding. If you are following our plan, Borders closing means very little to you personally.
The second thought is this: There are some major points in the article linked above that I’ve been saying for a long time. Here’s one: most traditional publishers don’t have a plan beyond bookstores. Consider this quote from the article:
“It saddens me tremendously because it was a wonderful chain of bookstores that sold our books very well,” said Morgan Entrekin, the president and publisher of Grove/Atlantic, an independent publisher. “It’s part of the whole change that we’re dealing with, which is very confusing.”
It’s only confusing if your plan relies on things you can’t control. We’ve long told authors that they need to focus on the things they can control. Any author that spends any energy on trying to move bookstores without moving people to those stores is putting their fate and the fate of their book in someone else’s hands. With this in mind, Borders closing is a reminder to focus now more than ever on what you as the author can control.
Here’s another quote from the article:
The news exposed one of publishers’ deepest fears: that bookstores will go the way of the record store, leaving potential customers without the experience of stumbling upon a book and making an impulse purchase. In the most grim scenario, publishers have worried that without a clear place to browse for books, consumers could turn to one of the many other forms of entertainment available and leave books behind.
Not only has Tate NOT shared this fear, we’ve been saying this very thing for over a year. The experience of “stumbling upon a book” is alive and well on Amazon.com. While this is welcome news, I’ve never thought that any good plan includes much reliance on “stumbling”. Apparently most publishers haven’t noticed that consumers have been turning to many other forms of entertainment for decades. That doesn’t mean no one is reading books. It just means that they are less likely to choose them first. What does this mean to an author? That books, in and of themselves, are not as much of a draw as they used to be. Another mantra of mine stems from this: “Don’t lead with your book.” When seeking speaking engagements, focus on what you have to offer the audience in terms of your message. If they buy you and your message when you’re speaking, they’ll buy your book when you’re finished.
Finally, there’s this:
Publishers said with Borders gone, they would plan for smaller print runs and shipments.
This is yet another area where Tate is ahead of the curve. We’ve pioneered the business model of smaller print runs and shipments. The days of publishers killing thousands of trees with books they are just going to throw away may finally be coming to an end.
So if you published your book with Tate, be confident that your publisher has been prepared for this for a long time. In fact, if you go back to the emails you’ve received from your marketing rep and replay their phone conversations with you in your head, you’ll realize that your publisher has been preparing you for this for a long time. And don’t forget that we’re here to help you implement the plan.