Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Being Frank and... by Cathy Ace

What change in the publishing landscape over the past decade and a half has impacted you the most?

First of all, if you didn’t read Frank’s piece yesterday…do that, because he said what I would have said, but better than I would have said it. He talked about self-publishing and the access to e-books…then mentioned the perennial problem of getting readers to find out about and choose to read your books, but – as Frank wisely observed – that’s a blog for another day.

So, moving forward – and bearing in mind that in the “current situation” (my chosen euphemism for being quarantined due to the global pandemic) my answer might change within the next two hours – I think a huge change has been the shift in accessibility to Print On Demand,both for traditional and indie/self-publishers. E-books are e-books, and print is print, and the way the two options get themselves into the hands of readers is very different (NB: Yes, I know that these are extraordinary times and that the new normal isn’t anything close to normal at all, so bear with me?).

Well, here’s the thing: my Canadian traditional publisher and my British traditional publisher both shifted my books onto a Print On Demand (POD) footing long before I stopped signing contracts with them. They took the business decision that they didn’t want their money tied up in boxes and boxes of books sitting in warehouses. Fair enough. But that meant that certain booksellers wouldn’t stock those titles because – no matter if it’s a traditional publisher using POD or an independent/self publisher using POD – bookstores won’t pay upfront for books to put on their shelves without knowing they can return them to the distributor if they remain unsold, and both my publishers had a “non returnable” clause with their POD provider. When I signed with those publishers, this wasn’t the case. But the contracts I had signed with them allowed them to do this. So, there I was, being published by two traditional publishing houses, neither of which could get my books onto bookshelves in bricks and mortar bookstores any better than I could by setting up my own publishing company and taking up the same contracts for my new books with POD providers that those publishers had.

So that’s what I did. I’m no worse off than I was. 

And now the blatant self promotion…PLEASE consider trying my books while you’re holed up? My Cait Morgan Mysteries offer traditional puzzle mysteries for the armchair traveler, with each book being set in a different country; my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries feature a quartet of softly-boiled female PIs who run their business out of a Welsh stately home; my amazon #1 bestseller The Wrong Boy is a tale of psychological suspense set in a clifftop village in Wales. You can find out more about my books by clicking here.


Paul D. Marks said...

Print on demand is a great middle ground. And, as you say, they weren't doing anything for you that you couldn't do yourself. We end up doing so much of our own PR that if they don't do that or get books face out on shelves in stores you might as well do it yourself. Good luck!

Frank Zafiro said...

@Cathy (see, that looks so much better than the all-caps I've been using in these comments), thanks for your kind words about my post.

You adroitly point out another important aspect here. I have to say that I don't actually feel bad for the traditional publishing/brick and mortar bookstore industry on this count. Their business model is antiquated, and they've refused to change. For years and years, it was the authors who directly suffered (royalties withheld pending returns).

If brick house bookstores are going to survive (and I sincerely hope they do), they'll have to adopt a new paradigm.

One day we'll hopefully reach a point where POD creation equipment can be localized enough that the bookstore can have one or two copies on the shelf, and if that copy sells, the sale registers electronically with the publisher. The bookstore purchases another copy, which is immediately printed on site, right in the back room of the bookstore itself. This would remove shipping time/cost and make putting a book on the shelf more efficient and less risky for both parties -- which is a win for the author.

I remember reading about this a while back, but I don't know how much closer we've come. If I get a chance today, I might have to do some work on the case with my partner, Detective Google.

But thanks for putting a personal face on this particular issue, Cathy. Having to be on consignment with almost every bookstore I've ever dealt with has had its interesting moments over the years.