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We’re reposting this because another article just came out on 22 December, regarding the same topic from Book Business:

300px-Barnes_and_noble1

The notes on the first posting of this blog were interesting– a lot of emotion about whether someone “liked” or “disliked” B&N. But that has nothing to do with business. A motto we’ve lived by at Cool Gus is: It’s not a good thing, or a bad thing, it’s a real thing.

What we mean by that is that in Bob’s 30 years in publishing, every single event had two sides to it; the key to success is to factor it into our business plan, regardless of how we feel about it. So:

Our take at Cool Gus: Barnes & Nobles current financial situation is something to be concerned about in publishing, even for those who earn the majority of their income from eBooks. This situation is not Indie VS Trad or eBook VS Print. This is an industry wide situation that affects all of us, but in different ways. So as business people in the publishing industry we need to plan for what our business will look like in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, but just as important: what does that mean for YOUR career.

Nook is costing B&N money, which is bringing down any profit they might earn to try to turn their bottom line around. They spun off their college bookstore unit. They’ve had 4 CEO’s in five years. Stocks are in the red. Not looking too good for Barnes & Noble right now. Yet I was in a quite large B&N a couple of weeks ago with my son where we spent over 100$ on books. Probably the first purchase I made in that store both physical and on-line in 3 years. Not because I’m not a fan, but because I don’t like to shop. I’m also an early adopter of technology, so I’ve been reading eBooks since before the Kindle came out on a Sony eReader. I guess that’s the Betamax of eReaders? And I rarely mind waiting two days for something (unless it’s a computer or other fancy shiny tech item).

But I don’t make up the vast majority of consumers. I’m not even in the bell curve for consumer behavior, and many career authors and other industry professionals aren’t either. It is a mistake to think that because you do things a certain way that everyone else does it that way too. Market research is not a pure science like chemistry, but it is a social science and uses statistical science to find the majority slice in any given market.

This is very difficult to do in the book business and the only way to do it is to measure what consumers buy. Where they buy it. And what influences their decisions. Then break that up into categories because there are bargain book hunters, bestselling top of the list at any price readers, and everything in between.

So what is an author to do? Our suggestion? First, take the emotion out of it and remember this is your livelihood. Next, understand what you control and what you don’t control. We don’t control what is happening to B&N. We do control our own business strategy. With that in mind what happens to you as an author if Nook goes away or if B&N goes under? Will your publisher be able to get you racked in WalMart? Costco? Target? Who, by the way, all have less shelf space dedicated to books. The only books I see there are those of authors who have recently passed or those on the top 20 of the New York Times and a couple of lines from Harlequin (but not all of them). My Target just expanded to carry groceries (big mistake if you ask me since we’re in the heartland of Wegmans) but in doing so, they took space from other departments because they didn’t expand their square footage. Wegmans used to have entire half row dedicated to books. Now it’s half that size.

But does being racked even matter to you?

Barnes and Noble is being crippled in a way by its own uniqueness and its inability to adapt. B&N helped put many a bookstore out of business, but it wasn’t the only entity that did that. Changes in technology. Changes in consumer buying habits. They all helped. Just like Blockbuster knocked out all my local small video rentals. Then Netflix knocked them out, now we have a wide variety of digital downloads and streaming. Welcome to the changing world of technology.

Amazon has offered a different option to consumers and its done that very well, just as B&N did so many years ago. But Amazon isn’t the only one offering other options. Apple has a bookstore and we know many authors who do quite well there. Kobo is a great option in Canada. Amazon maybe the leader, but its not the only game in town. PC is the leader in business and personal computing, but Apple does okay. Apple is the leader in cell phones, but Samsung does quite well. Verizon and AT&T.

It appears that B&N is in trouble and that is going to affect us all. If it does go under, are you prepared?

Every author we work with at Cool Gus Author Centric Team has a different reason for publishing with us depending on their own goals in publishing. It’s commonly recommended that an author not put all their eggs in Amazon; at Cool Gus we don’t think an author should put all their eggs into Traditional or Indie. It’s why we do the heavy lifting helping a traditional author becoming hybrid. Its why we support our authors traditional careers as well as their indie releases and work closely with them to look ahead and plan so that we are acting ahead of changes in publishing; not reacting.

2016 is going to bring some changes in publishing, both good and bad. Are you ready?

I received a couple of “rejections” the other day.  As a professional writer with over 20 years experience, I’ve had more than my share of rejections.  In this case one was from Amazon regarding publishing with their Encore program and something else.  The other was for a book we’ve already published but I was looking to see if a major publisher would pick it up considering the success I’ve had the last two years.

My reaction, as is normal for most when they get a “rejection”, was negative.  But as I teach in Write It Forward I didn’t respond.  I sat on it, thought about it and talked it out with my wife and business partner.

Then, the following morning, I had a moment of enlightenment, while working out in the fitness center in the hotel in Melbourne where I was presenting at the Australian RWA Conference.

Re-reading Amazon’s response, I realized they weren’t rejecting me. They were complimenting me.  They basically were saying the royalty cuts and exclusivity they wanted in exchange for their Encore program were for a long list of things they would do for me; except we’re already doing all those things at Who Dares Publishing.  So it made no sense and they understood that.

Jen Talty and I formed the company in November 2009, not long after Amazon had launched their Encore program (and most people hadn’t even heard of it—I hadn’t) and long before there was a Thomas and Mercer.  Even before Borders went down the drain.  Before eBooks took the publishing world by storm.  When people were laughing at eBooks at the January 2010 Digital Book World Conference, saying “Why should we worry about something that’s only 3% of our income?”

I formed it because my experience as a Green Beret A-Team taught me that a small, highly efficient team can do things which larger, more cumbersome, and less efficient organizations couldn’t.  An A-Team is a force multiplier, which can have an effect far beyond the scope of most teams.  It’s the most formidable military organization in the world.

Jen worked full time for all of  2010 and neither of us were able to take even a single dollar out of the business. We had to put every hard-earned dime right back into it.  In essence, working for nothing.  Very few people would have worked as hard as Jen did for as long as she did, with little reward and no guarantee it would work.

The first author we brought on board besides my books was Kristen Lamb with We Are Not Alone: The Writers’ Guide to Social Media.  I think that’s telling.  We knew back then that the key to success in the electronic world was promoting via social media, and it’s the first thing we published.  And we incorporated the things she espouses in the book; the primary one is have your content first, before you start blasting things out on social media. The fact Jen and I were able to evolve into the Write It Forward blog we now have here and the new Write It Forward book that was just published last week is a key part of our success.

Slowly, we brought other authors on board. Amy Shojai, a well known multi-published pet expert and speaker. Natalie C. Markey, expert in special needs dogs and also teaches Writing Mom’s. Victoria Martinez, an expert in unique and unusual tidbits of Royal History. Marius Gabriel, best-selling author of Romantic Thrillers.  What we were looking for, besides great content, were authors who were willing to promote, to be part of a team.

We also had some authors shy away, not willing to take a chance with us.  Some ran back to their traditional publishers and signed deals with very low e-royalty rates, but they were going for the known, rather than be willing to take a chance.  I’ve seen none of those author’s books doing much of anything on Kindle or PubIt, so I’m not sure how that worked out for them.  In fact, I haven’t seen any of the backlist titles we’d already have available for sale even published yet in eBook.  I imagine those titles are sitting somewhere in that publisher’s queue waiting for it’s chance.  Meanwhile, they are earning nothing.

In the space of 24 hours I went from feeling bummed over a rejection to feeling very excited with the realization that we did it right at Who Dares Wins Publishing and we’re continuing to do it right.  That a rejection is actually a blessing, that frees me once more to focus on taking Who Dares Wins to the next level.  The key is that we can move to the next level because we’re not reacting to try to achieve what others are scrambling to do right now, because we already did all those things that publishers and authors are trying to comprehend.  We’re moving into the future because we’re acting, not reacting.

Write It Forward!

Time Patrol: Ides of March

15 March 2016

Ides of March 480 BC: Go Tell The Spartans . . .

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Ides of March 1783: Washington Must Stop a Mutiny

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