Bookbuying by the Numbers

Publishers Weekly reports today that online booksellers account for 30.5% of book sales, chain book stores 32.5%, discount stores (like Wal-Mart and Costco) 13.5%, independant booksellers 8.7% , grocery stores 3.7% and author/publisher websites 1.8%.  The article states that combined internet sales (32.3%) could overtake big chain bookstore sales soon…but it seems to me that they still have a ways to go to eclipse the share claimed overall by brick-and-mortar sales (which now account for 67.7% of sales).

Projected Share of Consumer Book Purchase in 2008 (source Publisher’s Weekly, Fairfield Research, Greyhound Books)

Online bookstores: 30.5%

Chain bookstores: 32.5%

Discount Stores: 13.5%

Used Sales and Stores: 9.3%

Independent bookstores: 8.7%

Grocery/Spec/Newsstands 3.7%

Author/Publisher/Web: 1.8%


I read an ARC of Robert B. Parker’s RESOLUTION and I really
enjoyed it….but less so than APPALOOSA, which  is the best Parker book since DOUBLE PLAY. Parker’s books are so short
and so similar, and feel so much like contemporary westerns anyway (particularly the Spenser novel POTSHOT and all the Jesse Stones), that I felt like I’d read it before. Actually, RESOLUTION feels more like a sequel to STRANGER IN PARADISE, the latest Jesse Stone, than it does to APPALOOSA. Lawman-for-hire Virgil
Cole is essentially Jesse Stone, right down to the philandering
wife/girlfriend he can’t let go of, but somehow it plays a lot better in the wild west than it does in present-day Massachusetts. The book, which comes out in June, left the door wide open for a sequel and I’m looking forward to it.

An iUniverse of Regret

This following is actually old news…I only stumbled on it today. CAGNEY AND LACEY executive producer Barney Rosensweig told Publishers Weekly back in August that he now regrets publishing his terrific book about the making of the show through iUniverse.

Rosenzweig developed a happy relationship with Susan
Driscoll, president/CEO of iUniverse, who he calls “a standup person
who was terrific to work with.” But he admits that most of the people
under Driscoll, “found me abrasive. They’re used to publishing books by
grandfathers for their grandkids. I was trying to put out a national

“I knew that I wouldn’t be in bookstores, but I
didn’t realize how devastating that would be,” said Rosenzweig. “Not
having a warehouse full of books that will accept books back from
booksellers if they don’t sell really puts a crimp in your ability to
sell. Booksellers are not interested in becoming book buyers.” He also
realized that his primary demographic was older female fans of the TV
show and, he said, “they’re really not savvy about the Internet. When
they saw me with Rosie O’Donnell on The View, they looked for the book in a bookstore, they didn’t order it online.”

Even with a guest appearance on THE VIEW to promote his book, he still couldn’t succeed with a book through iUniverse. That should tell you all you need to know about the chances for success with a POD book…(by comparison, a guest-shot on THE VIEW sent my sisters’ book VISUAL CHRONICLES to #1 on Amazon within minutes of the airing and led to thousands of sales through brick-and-mortar stores)

I know how he feels from first-hand experience with iUniverse. I reprinted my book UNSOLD TELEVISION PILOTS for free through the Authors Guild’s Back-in-Print program with iUniverse shortly before the broadcast of the one-hour, ABC Special based on the book. But even with that national exposure, and lots of articles in major newspapers and magazines that mentioned the book, the sales barely ticked up from the usual handful of copies I sell each month. That’s the reality of POD.

Book Lust

I went a little crazy at the Paperback Collectors Show & Sale today…the books were so cheap and the selection was huge. My buying binge included a bunch of Ashley Carter (aka Harry Whittington) books as well as:
TRAIL OF A TRAMP by Nick Quarry (Marvin Albert)
NICE GUYS FINISH DEAD by Albert Conroy (Marvin Albert)
THE ROAD’S END by Albert Conroy
COCOTTE by Theodore Pratt
GET SMART! By William Johnston
THE MOONLIGHT WAR by Clifton Adams
DESIRE IN THE DUST by Harry Whittington
CALL ME KILLER by Harry Whittington
CORNERED by James McKimmey
CASE OF THE PETTICOAT MURDER, CASE OF THE BEAUTIFUL BODY, CASE OF THE BRAZEN BEAUTY, MORGUE FOR VENUS, and COME NIGHT, COME EVIL by Jonathan Craig (based on Bill Crider’s enthusiastic blog posts about the author recently)
TRAGO by Frank Bonham
EYE OF THE HUNTER by Frank Bonham
GOAT ISLAND by William Fuller
I LIKE’EM TOUGH by Curt Cannon (aka Ed McBain)
NO SCORE by Chip Harrison (Lawrence Block)
STRONGARM by Dan J. Marlowe
DEATH DEEP DOWN by Dan J. Marlowe
13 FRENCH STREET by Gil Brewer
ASSIGNMENT CARLOTTA CORTEZ by Edward S. Aarons (who, I discovered today, wrote some TV tie-ins based on THE DEFENDERS).

I think, all told, I spent about $70. A perfect day.

Amazon Deals Blow to POD Companies

Amazon won’t carry any print-on-demand books unless they are produced by Booksurge, the online site’s own POD printer.  This is clearly an attempt by Amazon’s Booksurge to steal market share from their arch rival Lightning Source, which produces the majority of POD titles for companies like iUniverse and PublishAmerica.

This news has, of course, rocked the vanity press industry. POD "publisher" Angela Hoy’s Writer’s Weekly blog was the first to break the story, which has since been picked up by Publishers Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, Writer Beware, and many other publications and blogs. Hoy reports:

Amazon/BookSurge representatives have been approaching some Lightning Source customers, first by email introduction and then by phone (nobody at BookSurge seems to want to put anything in writing). When Lightning Source customers speak with the BookSurge representative, the reports say, they are basically told they can either have BookSurge start printing their books or the "buy" button on their book pages will be "turned off."

The book information would remain on Amazon, and people could still order the book from resellers (companies that list new and used books in Amazon’s Marketplace section), but customers would not be able to buy the book from Amazon directly, nor qualify for the coveted "free shipping" that Amazon offers.

Amazon confirmed the story to Publishers Weekly:

An Amazon spokesperson explained that the new policy will allow the company to "marry" books with other products that a customer might buy at Amazon, which would be combined in the same package. She said for publishers that don’t use BookSurge for pod, they can still use Amazon’s Advantage Program (which works on a consignment model) or third party vendors to sell their pod books.

This could have a devastating impact on scams like PublishAmerica. Hoy reports:

As of Thursday, the "buy" buttons for the vast majority of PublishAmerica books were removed from The books can now only be purchased by resellers.

PublishAmerica issued a press release today that states, "PublishAmerica will not comply with Amazon’s ultimatum, and will not allow that company to dictate who will print PublishAmerica’s books, and at what conditions."

I can’t say I’m shedding any tears over Amazon’s attempt to corner the POD market…especially if it cuts into the profits of scammers like PublishAmerica. If the POD scammers can’t promise suckers that their books will be listed on Amazon, this will seriously undercut their ability to lure gullible, aspiring authors into the fold. Why? Because "resellers" are highly unlikely to stock POD vanity press titles…which means only the vanity press websites will be selling them. Why is this a problem for POD titles? Well, how often do you visit the PublishAmerica bookstore when you are looking for books? There’s your answer.

(Thanks to Joshua James for the heads-up).

UPDATE: Predictably, the vanity presses are screaming about this, accusing Amazon of attempting to create a "monopoly" and engaging in "restraint of trade" and "anti-trust" activities.

I don’t get it. Sure, it’s a strong-arm move to boost Booksurge’s business…but how has Amazon created a "monopoly" or engaged in "anti-trust"
activity with this policy?

There are many other book retailers on the
web — like Barnes & Noble, Chapters, Wal-Mart and Borders — that
will continue to "stock" and sell POD titles produced by Lightning
Source, Lulu, etc.

Besides, Amazon will still list titles produced by other POD
companies…they just won’t sell them directly any longer or include
them in their free shipping program.

The POD outfits also have their own websites where they can offer
their list of titles directly to consumers…though I would argue there
aren’t that many consumers of POD books to begin with.

Granted, there are some reputable companies that rely on POD
to produce their books (Point Blank is a good example of one) but "self-publishing"/vanity press companies
like Authorhouse and PublishAmerica account for the majority
of the POD business — and their "consumers" are primarily authors, not

I can see how companies utilizing POD to print their books might be
irked by this news, but the vast majority of Amazon’s customers won’t
notice or care.


Return to the Past

I just got back from our whirlwind road trip through central, northern, and coastal California. Along the way, we stopped in Capitola, where I spent most of my weekends as a child. The cabin we used to stay in (the yellow one), and the beach haven’t changed much. The village is much more "upscale" compared to the shabby, hippie-dippy feel it had in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was there but I was relieved to see that it hadn’t lost any of its charm. It’s basically the same as it always was. 

I sat on the beach and watched the kids playing. They were about eight or nine years old. I could have been looking forty-some years back in time at myself and my friends. I know it’s a cliche to say this, but it seems like it was a much more innocent time when I was growing up…or maybe we were more naive. I’d have breakfast with my parents and then they wouldn’t see me again until dinner, unless I was playing on the beach or in the river. Otherwise, I’d roam freely all over town, visiting the used bookstore, shopping at Disco (a Wal-MartP3270483 type store in its day), playing with my friends, having an ice cream at the Dairy Queen, walking to the  Crockers in Soquel for a cheeseburger, or looking at the magazines at Nussbaum’s grocery store. Some times I’d run into my Mom,  who would be shopping for antiques, chatting with the artists at the galleries, or browsing the clothes at the Plum Tree. My Dad always stayed outside the cabin, reading books or chatting with the neighbors. Even at night, we were allow to go off on our own to  play Skeeball until 9 pm.

If I had a cabin there today, I would never let my daughter roam around town unsupervised…and she’s twelve. When I was a kid, I knew all the shopkeepers and they all knew me. So, in a sense, the town was watching out for me. Maybe that would also be true today
for my daughter…but I doubt it.

When I think of the freedom I had when I was my daughter’s age and younger…and, by contrast, how much we supervise her….I wonder if times have changed or if I am being over-protective.

(You can click on the photos for larger images)

I Should Go Out of Town More Often…

I’ve been on a Spring Break road trip with my family through California, and wireless access hasn’t always been available or reasonably priced…so it has taken me a few days to discover all the nice things that Bill Crider had to say about MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE. He said, in part:

I’ve never seen so much as a single scene from the television
series. So why do I enjoy Lee Goldberg’s books about the character so
much? Well, let’s see. They’re funny, they’re well-written, they’re
carefully plotted, and they’re poignant. They probably have other good qualities, too, but those should do for starters.

Thanks so much, Bill!


Sorry I haven’t been posting — I’ve taken my family on a road trip for Spring Break. So far we’ve been through the California Gold country (which is like taking a time machine to the 1800s), Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe. Tonight we are in Sacramento…and tomorrow we head out to Napa. It’s great to be rediscovering my home state…and for my wife and daughter to discover it anew.