Tuesday, February 18, 2014


    In today's post I'd like to reprint an email I sent to a local independent bookseller in response to their email detailing their outrageous policy for hosting book signings for local authors. This is not, of course, any representation of independent booksellers as a whole. In general these are some of the warmest, friendliest people with the biggest hearts that has ever been my privilege to know. But I do think the last paragraph of my letter to this particular bookseller says it all.

"Dear M. Bookseller,

    "Thanks for your courteous and professional email. Unfortunately it appears I will not be able to do a book signing at your store after all. Let me explain why.

    "Your requirements are, to be brief: a reasonable expectation of 40-50 attendees; at least 20 sales at the event to consider it successful; a $200 co-op fee; a 40% discount on at least 50 books; and a $5 voucher fee from each attendee. I am surprised if, under these strictures, you are scheduling any such events at all at your store.

    "For anyone to be willing to buy a $5 voucher to attend such an event, they would already have some certainty of buying the book, in which case they most likely have bought the book already, given all the more convenient options than attending a booksigning at a store to do so.

    "If I do not have a reasonable expectation of drawing 40-50 people to a signing event you will not host it. On the other hand, if I already had a reasonable expectation of 40-50 such people in any one community attending such an event my sales would already be strong enough in the community not to warrant the 40% discount, $200 co-op fee, and $5 vouchers to do such a promotion. I would simply choose another, more writer-friendly venue. I am scheduling book signings to attract new readers for my books, not to simply glad-hand the readers I already have, grateful as I am for them.

    "The margin of markup for all of the participants involved in publishing a book - writer, publisher, printer, distributor, retailer, etc. - is already narrow, and you are asking me or my publisher to remit a $200 co-op fee for an event only considered successful if it sells 20 books, which comes to $10 per book if that many are sold, more than that if fewer books are sold, when books in general are priced between $12 and $20 retail. Then, additionally, you want a 40% discount on 50 books provided for the event, and the right to return unsold books.

    "In short, you will only host a book-signing event at guaranteed revenue for yourself, 0 risk, while beggaring every other participant along the supply chain who also has fair expectation of making a profit on the enterprise.

    "Finally, I was not even asking for a formal signing event, with reading and discussion and Q&A. I was only asking to set up a table somewhere in your store to sign books purchased by your customers. Such an arrangement requires minimal but equal effort on both our parts (you have an employee set up a table, I carry boxes of my books in from my car) and $0 in cost to each of us, since the retail space my table would take up in your store is presumably empty at the moment anyway. As to promotion, we each do promotion on our own parts utilizing our own resources to benefit the enterprise collectively.

    "Respectfully, in today's anemic print-book-selling climate I feel it is the responsibility of all of us in the industry, especially us independents (publishers and booksellers) to work in unity to promote reading and the enjoyment of the written word, not to further the demise of reading as an entertainment form by seeking to exploit each other out of all possible profit.

    "It pains me that we cannot help promote each other in that spirit of cooperation.

"Sincerest best wishes,
"Kevin Paul Tracy"

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Blogger Karen Duvall said...

Great letter, Kevin. You're so right! This bookseller is shooting himself in the foot by making it so difficult for readers and authors to find each other. It makes you wonder. Bookselling isn't big business anyway, so it's hard to understand why someone would hobble their own chances for success. I hope you find some book venues that are more savvy to the needs of their customers.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freakin' give me a break. High-Five, Paul!

5:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for the record, I somehow mistyped KEVIN'S name (not "Paul"), above! Apologies, Kevin! :-]

3:31 AM  

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