Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Tor’s Open Door Policy is Perfect for Readers

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Tor opened Tor Store to great fanfare a few weeks ago. The big news was that Tor Store was publisher agnostic. It plans to offer science fiction and fantasy book fans a one stop shopping place. Combined with the Tor blog, Tor is destined to become the preeminent online authority for all things science fiction and fantasy-ish. (Now, if they would only get their ebook store working.)

Mike Shatzkin, with whom I agree most of the time, is a preacher of the verticality mantra. He believes that those that adapt will succeed and those who cling to the horizontal business models of the day will be buried. Certainly we can see the success that Amazon is having with verticality as it gobbles up other suppliers such as print on demand technology that will undoubtably play a big part in its publishing future or ebook technology used to form the basis of the Kindle format.

Already online retail sales are overtaking brick and mortar store sales. According to this article, Barnes & Noble saw a slight increase in sales while Amazon similar media sales was significantly higher.

BKS closed FY2008 with a slight 1.5% increase in sales revenue, (AMZN) saw its 1Q 2009 sales revenue for books, CDs, music, and DVDs jump by more than 7%, largely due to the popularity of its Kindle 2 device and Kindle books.

Or maybe just take a look at this chart.


Tor benefits in a number of ways but two that I think are most important.

Increase in Brand Awareness

For those unfamiliar with the publisher (and that probably includes most casual readers), the Tor Store and it’s corresponding blog will increase reader awareness of its brand.   Obviously more and more   people are buying online, whether it be books or toilet paper.   It makes perfect sense for Tor to jump on this. In the future, I can see Tor and SciFi Fantasy books becoming nearly interchangeable to the point that Tor is like the Kleenex of publishers of this niche.

This results in not only increasing the visibility of a Tor book online but also in retail stores.   The Tor Store and blog may have the ability to increase book for its genre without mass promotion in stores or across the web because of the increased traffic from those who will be visiting the Tor Store and blog for exactly that information.

Increase in Brand Loyalty

One of the books that is profiled on the Tor Store site this month is Marjorie Liu’s July release, Darkness Calls, published by Ace, a division of Penguin.   Another featured book is Greg Van Eekhout’s Norse Code, published by Spectra, a division of Random House.   2 out of the 6 books in the slider at the very top of the page are published by houses not Tor and not its parent, Macmillan.

The support Tor is giving to other authors increases the believability of its recommendations; thereby increasing the readers trust in the Tor voice.

Why This Would Work for Romances

Readers want easy things. They don’t want to chase around the internet to find release dates, to find new books to read, to find out interconnected titles, to get recommendations. It’s one reason that Amazon is so powerful. Clay Shirky said that Amazon is just an amazing search and logistics tool. (I would put in a link to this but I can’t find it. I swear I read that he said this).

The majority of readers would love a one stop shopping area for books with all the information that a reader needs in a handy search tool. I hear time and again that people would like one site with all the major publishers new release information.   Mrs. Giggles correctly identifies that there are a number of ebook publishers that publish sweet and mainstream ebooks yet readers rarely visit those other sites, gravitating toward one or two because visiting a number of ebook sites is really too much of an effort for readers.

Both Samhain and Ellora’s Cave have made an effort to be more agnostic, but even they haven’t fully embraced true publisher independence like Tor has.   A publisher has a great opportunity to do this with romance ebooks and become the Tor version of romance. Essentially become a voice of authority in romance.

I’m curious to see whether any romance publisher is ready to do this, ready to become publisher agnostic in direct sales to consumers? Another way that the publisher could capitalize on this is to sell its books at a discounted rate (because it would be a direct sale from the publisher) while offering the competitor’s books at retail.   I think we readers are ready for something like this. Who will deliver it?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Bonnie L.
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 09:21:41

    That’s awesome. I would totally dig a Romance oriented online bookstore wherein I could see what is new, read reliable reviews of the offered books and buy said books all in one convenient package. It would be even better if it was inclusive, meaning that I could see NY published books side-by-side with ebooks.

  2. Robin
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 16:07:58

    This just seems so intuitively smart to me. I think of how Trader Joe’s, for example, stamps its own name on some bestselling brands (Costco, too), but sells lots of other brands alongside their own. And I basically figure that if TJ’s (or Costco) is selling something, no matter what the brand, it must be good.

    So a Romance publisher that presented quality books from publishers other than itself, right along with its own quality books, would likely make me buy MORE from that publisher’s store, including more of the publisher’s books. Assuming, of course, they were establishing a quality brand with their own name and the names of other publishers whose books they were selling.

    One of the things I hate most about shopping, both in brick and mortar and online, is having to go to multiple stores to get what I want. I will pay more for convenience (within reason) and am actively seeking ways to cut down on the real and virtual traveling I have to do in errand-running. So the quality Romance publisher (especially the quality Romance epublisher) who did something like this would be the publisher I’d try my hardest to purchase from (building loyalty to the publisher brand, even if I wasn’t buying exclusively or even a majority of my books from their press).

  3. Mary Winter
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 17:29:32

    I am working on the technology end of it, but Jupiter Gardens, LLC (parent company of Jupiter Gardens Press and Pink Petal Books) is definately looking into opening Jupiter Gardens ebooks. While we still maintain publisher/imprint-specific portals, all our ebooks are available on our Jupiter Gardens site along with other books and items. It’s something I feel very strongly about and agressively want to pursue.

  4. Moriah Jovan
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 18:07:23

    I'm curious to see whether any romance publisher is ready to do this, ready to become publisher agnostic in direct sales to consumers?

    *confused* Isn’t this what My Bookstore and More does? I see them adding e-publishers all the time and I LOVE it.

  5. AnneD
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 19:52:27

    Huh! I had absolutely NO idea that My Bookstore & more was anything more than Samhain publishing.

    I always thought it was odd that they ran two separate sites but had no clue that MBaM was totally separate and stocked other publishers books too. The things you learn!

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