BookTour.com is closing

While on the subject of eBooks, and changes in technology, I just got an email announcing that BookTour.com is closing. I was one of the first to welcome them when they came on the scene a couple of years ago, and for a while they seemed to be striking just the right chord.

To quote from their email:

“We regret to inform you that BookTour will be shutting down….fewer author tours and changes in book marketing budgets have made our company financially unviable.”

While stores like Borders are closing and ceding territory to Amazon and other eBook vendors, the emerging market for eBooks has put a premium on online promotion and virtual book tours, not to mention social media in general.

For book publicists this is a new wrinkle in the terrain, and raises further the question of what role publishers, publicists, book chains, and Indies will be playing in the new market.

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Some Observations From a Book Tour

Since I only work in promotions part time (I am a psychologist by trade, and an author, book promoter, and online poker player all tied for second) I get only snapshots of the ever changing book market. There are many new trends since I last managed a book tour in 2002. First and foremost is the internet, but I will save that for another post. I will also save my thoughts on the Kindle, and on the chaos in the publishing industry.

But I wanted to ask if anyone else has noticed a couple of trends in the chains, especially Waldenbooks, but to a lesser extent other chains like Borders and Books-A-Million. The big things I notice are:
1. The centralization of power away from the bookstores.
2. A Just-in-time inventory management approach.

The first issue, centralization has been happening for a while. There was a time when a book seller with some clout, such as Kathy Baker (who has won bookseller of the year and other such awards), could get her store to stock what she wanted to push. It seems now that most if not all of the say has moved up to at least the district manager level, and of course these people already have plenty of clout because they do the hiring and firing. If much of the ordering and inventory control lies now at the district level, (what does not fall squarely to the computers and bean counters) one of the main reasons for touring is now subsiding. Namely, if you develop a good relationship with the local store owner they will push your books, and of course that helps with everything from sell through to making a list. But if they can’t get your book in, it doesnt really matter so much how much they love it.

Of course centralization will not be an issue with the typical small to medium size independent book store. If I manage another tour soon, however, I for one may be inclined to do fewer of the Waldenstores and such and quite a few more independent stores. That would be a philosophical preference of mine anyhow that was always trumped by the practical consequences; but realistic considerations now seem to be pointing away from the chains.

The other issue is the inventory management. It seems that more and more they are ordering only a small number of each book when they first come out, keeping the inventory low. This makes financial sense to them, but can have severe impact on how you promote. I have tended to have much of the promotion I do front loaded, which in the  good old days was great for bumping you up the list and assuring that your initial sell through looked good. But if you spend a lot of money or creative genius targetted at the first few weeks, and instead of ordering 48 they order 12 and then reorder as they sell, you will only sell about 12 initially, then need to wait for reorder and shipping. It speaks for the need to spread your efforts flat like the inventory over the first 8 or so weeks.

Any body else notice this?

Overview of Social Media: New Opportunities for Book Promotion

While many authors by now have discovered MySpace, most writers still glaze over when they hear about Twitter, Stumbleupon, Digg, Facebook, De.li.cio.us. YouTube and Linked In.  In a series of articles over the next few months, I hope to put the reader on more friendly terms with this strange but wonderful new world.

 

Today I am going to explain why authors need to learn to use social media to promote their books and themselves. In later posts, we will spend a little time getting acquainted with some of these tools, and to introduce a few of the major opportunities for networking that can help you launch the next best seller.

 

Be realistic. Even with a top notch publicist pitching it, your best book ever, and a hot and catchy title, you still have virtually no chance of getting your book featured on Oprah’s Book of the Month.  The number of newspapers and magazines that still review  books has been scaled back dramatically–  for example Sara Pearce, book editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer has left and is not being replaced. Traditional means of promoting your book to the media have been evaporating for some time. But all is not lost, a new champion is riding to the rescue, on the white horse known as social media.

 

Social media is a phrase that describes interactive social communities like MySpace and Facebook.  It also includes blogs (at least when they are actively networking, and social news sites like Digg and Stumbleupon, that ideally allow the average web surfer to decide (literally vote) who on the internet gets the headlines and all the traffic. And it consists of strange forms of communication like  YouTube, or Twitter, an instant messaging mini-blogging tool. All of these and more have converged to create a whole new media face that is rapidly replacing the traditional print, TV, and radio media stallworts. Social media is faster, more creative, more personal, more connected, and typically much more knowledgeable than old fashioned TV, magazines, and newpapers.

 

To authors who hope to promote their  books, with social media it is much easier to rise to the top, if you are funny, talented or interesting.  If your book is good, or your voice one that grabs the ear, you have a better chance of being “found” because your peers- your old and new readers, your fellow authors, book store owners, librarians and the next door neighbor all will have a say in this new media. Because people are getting connected, the reach of web sites, blogs,  and various social media is now limitted only by how much interest your book can stir.

 

In coming articles in this series I will describe more fully the various ways an energetic and talented author can promote a book on the internet with social media, and I will point out some of the pitfalls to avoid. I will also help you, if you are new to all this, to decide which doors you want to open first. Next in the series?

Part II: Five Best Tools For Your Book Promotion on the Web
Part III: Friends or Fans Social Networking Basics for Authors

Initial post, musings and introduction

As a psychologist, teacher, publicist, author and ranked online poker player, I have a little to say about a lot of things. I intend to use this blog as a way of musing and commenting and will post to categories for books and authors, psychology, publicity/promotion topics, poker and other areas by category but many of my posts will be across several areas and so more general, or on topics far affield such as politics.

None of my comments are offered in a professional sense. I am not writing as a psychologist with prescriptions for improved mental functioing based on research in my field nor am I diagnosing George Bush (thankfully never met him) when I say he seems to be on a dry drunk..Nor am I working as a publicist if I praise or pan a book or a teacher as I share information I stumble accross. So let me be clear, this is not a professional website. I do not spend much money on it, and it reflects my personal and not my professional veiwpoint on wide ranging issues, While me expertise in poker, pschology, and writing/promoting invariably  effect who I am and what I believe, I will charge for my professional opinions. These are free for what its worth, although I still maintain the copyright claim. You have my advance permission to quote anything I say, so long as you provide a link back from it to your website, or if you print it, a referenece to the URL (https://authorfriendly.wordpress.com).