According to recently released data from Bowker’s, shopping at big box retailers have fallen from 31.5% to 18.7% while online retailer share increased from 25.1% to 43.8%. Independent booksellers are regularly bemoaning the state of the industry accusing Amazon of trying to crush them, even so far as filing a lawsuit against Amazon’s “open source DRM”.
But on March 16, 2013, over 1300 readers stood in line for 3 hours in the near freezing temperatures to buy a book from one of 30 authors, all of whom started out self publishing. The Boston Author Event was held at the august Omni Parker House and was organized by three avid bloggers with help from the attending authors.
The authors foot the bill for the hotel conference room, the table to sign on, and their Createspace books to sell and the swag that they gave away. Three authors who had traditional publishing deals sold books at a different table, facilitated by a bookstore.
1300 readers. 30 authors. Thousands of books sold. 1 bookseller selling only three authors’ books.
There are more author signings scheduled for 2013 at hotels in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. A large author signing event is taking place in Orlando organized by popular blogger Maryse.net. The Book Bash started with about 10 authors and has mushroomed to over 70.
What’s the connection?
Most of these authors are indie authors who are signing books that are becoming collectors’ items for readers says Jillian Dodd, the That Boy and Keatyn Chronicles series.
Signed paperbacks are almost becoming a collector’s item. I’d say close to 100% of the people who I signed books for have already read the stories on their kindle. It’s really more about interacting with our fans. Most successful indie authors are very active on social media with their fans. These book signings are an extension of that.
These New Adult/Young Adult self published authors are digital book sellers first. Colleen Hoover earned a spot at the #1 slot of the NYTimes bestseller list with her self published book “Hopeless” and is one of four indie authors who have sold over a million kindle copies. She saw great success with her first two self published books “Slammed” and “Point of Retreat”. Those two books were acquired by Atria but when Hoover turned down a substantial offer from Atria for her third book “Hopeless”. Hoover is not in search of a publisher and hooking up with booksellers are the last thing on her mind. Hoover is using the tools Amazon (and to a lesser extent Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble) is providing and her own social media presence to connect directly with the reading public.
It is one reason why the constant mislabeling of the New Adult genre and the dismissive attitude toward what these authors are doing in the mainstream press doesn’t bother Hoover. “As long as my books are out there and available, I’m happy,” says Hoover.
Dodd explains that the print book sales at the event are not designed to make the author money, although it can help to ameliorate travel costs. The book signings that are taking place require the author to pay for the signing location, the signing table, pre-purchase books and ship them to the event, buy swag, and fund travel expenses. No publisher is is paying or organizing these book tours. This is all coming out of the author’s pocket. However, even the small markup from the print books can help to alleviate these costs. Authors report selling around 200 copies per book signing, some at the site and many others pre-orders. These numbers vary per author.
Indie authors are often turned away for booksignings at Barnes & Noble and local independent bookstores. Left without a traditional location, these indie authors have combined forces to bring their books directly to the reader. Hoover had her first signing with 14 other authors, all indie, and over 400 readers showed up.
A long time ago, Berkley asked me if I would do two book events in 2013, one with Julie James and one with Nalini Singh, both in Chicago. I agreed. The event with Julie James was originally to be held at a bookstore but now it will be at the Lady Jane Salon in Naperville which is held at a Le Chocolat du Bouchard (we’ll be there April 2). Instead of a bookstore, we are going to be at a chocolate house. Not that I don’t love chocolate and don’t agree that there is a symbiotic relationship between reading and sweets, but does this make any financial sense for bookstores?
With the success of the John Green Carnegie Hall event and the ongoing success of the indie author book signings, it is clear that there is an appetite for physical contact beyond the digital confines of a book. But right now, it is the authors and readers who are driving that and booksellers are being left out in the cold.