Do Self-Published Authors Need Barnes & Noble?

Little Known Fact: I played the bearded love interest in 1987's "Some Kind of Wonderful."

No need to prolong the suffering.  Let’s just rip the band-aid off.  Barnes & Noble doesn’t want to carry your self-published print-on-demand book.  In fact, they are annoyed that you would even ask.  It’s nothing personal.  They have limited bookshelf space and they are selling a product that is losing market share to other forms of entertainment.  From a business perspective, they want books that are going to carry the smallest amount of risk.  They want books that have the best possible chance of disappearing from the shelves and turning into profit.  Your self-published book with its limited marketing budget and your author’s name that has zero brand recognition just doesn’t fit the bill.  Not to mention they get a sweet returnable deal with major traditional publishers that basically gives them 90 days to sell the book or return it with no financial penalty.  In other words, it’s just business, and they are only annoyed with you because you are about the 100th POD author to ask in the last hour.  Barnes & Noble is not a bad company.  They are not trying to think of ways to prevent you from selling your book in their store.  They are trying to make money.

Do they think your book is crap because it’s self-published?  Probably, but that really doesn’t enter into their decision.  Plenty of crap is published by traditional publishers, and they have no problem carrying those books. They don’t care that your book is well written or is designed well or even won an award or two.  They just want to know what you’re going to do to get the books out of their stores once they agree to shelve them.  And frankly, you can’t match what the traditional publishers are offering them.  I’m blunt because I care, and I don’t want to see you waste your time.

You don’t need brick and mortar bookstores, and if you think you do, you shouldn’t use POD.  It’s not for you.  If you’re POD, and you’re trying to solve the brick and mortar puzzle, STOP!  You know all those goofy romantic comedies where the unpopular guy is always trying to get the homecoming queen, while totally ignoring the cute geeky girl who is madly in love with him?  Well, in this case, you’re the unpopular guy making a huge mistake by not seeing the opportunity right in front of your face.  Amazon is your geeky girl, and she’s head over heels for you, my POD friend. But she’s not just a geeky girl.  She’s a very popular geeky girl. Stop ignoring her, and get on with the relationship.  How?

Concentrate your efforts on building your personal brand online.  Make a name for yourself through all the personal branding tools, blogs, social media, podcasts, Youtube, etc.  Use that energy you would have used to get into brick and mortar stores to no avail and drive traffic to your Amazon detail page.  You have all the power to sell your book online where you are wanted.  Why are you wasting your time and energy trying to sell in an arena where you have no power and you’re not wanted?

I close with one piece of advice.  If you’re considering a POD company that has convinced you that they can get you into brick and mortar stores, run away as fast as you can.  They can’t.  They aren’t going to spend a second of time trying to place your book in brick and mortar bookstores.    They want you to buy into their returnable program, mostly likely with Ingram.  This will include your book in Ingram’s database, but they won’t carry any inventory in their warehouse.  Your book will be available as a special order title.  Someone will have to enter the store and ask for your book to be ordered.  So, I ask you, if the returnable program doesn’t mean you’re going to get shelf space, what is its value?

Stop looking for love in all the wrong places.

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What is a writer worth? (Repost… because I’m lazy like that.)

The typical scene after a writer cashes his first royalty check.

So what does a blogger do when he runs out of things to say?  He reposts old blog entries.  This is from February 12, 2008, the day John Scalzi shook my world and actually announced how much money he made as writer.  Totally insane and undeniably educational!

Ever wonder what a working writer makes? Wonder no more. John Scalzi, winner of the John W. Campbell Award and a Hugo Award nominee, gives a very revealing look into the finances of a working writer. Along with letting you peer into his wallet, he also gives you some salient advice on how to manage your money and stay out of credit hell. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s possible to make a good amount of money as a writer. Most writers don’t. You should assume, strictly for business purposes, that you won’t, or at the very least, won’t for a very long time. It’s not all about you, it’s also about the market. Don’t get defensive. The median personal income in the US in 2005 was $28,500. You have a lot of company in the bottom half.

It’s a long article (or posting or whatever you call a blog entry), but it is well worth the read. John is a very successful writer. The key to his success is beyond being an exceptional novelist he is also a gun for hire. By his own admission, he will write most anything as long as the money is good. Click here to read the entire post, and I would also make it a habit to visit John’s blog on a regular basis. He’s got a lot to say and most of it is worth listening to.

If you’ve never read any of Scalzi’s books, I recommend Old Man’s War. It’s a military sci-fi novel, but the writing is good enough to make it enjoyable even if you’re not into that particular genre.

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