During my recent visit to a book store in Sacramento, California for a book signing, I was privileged to meet a young writer with interesting insight in the bookstore world. For a published author, she confirmed what I always sort of knew...but found refreshing to hear it from someone so young and insightful.
Please enjoy today's guest blog by Drea Moore.
I love to read. It’s how I started writing and it’s how I got a job in a bookstore. I love culture, which got me my degree in Anthropology, and keeps me puzzling over human behavior four years after graduation. The combination has driven my interest in two key but related areas: the future of bookselling and book-marketing.
Book selling is what I do at work and book marketing is the application of the study of the behavior I have seen both as I went through my 20’s with increased dependence on digital communication and by paying attention to how people actually bought books.
I also write fantasy and am currently revising my camp Nano novel “Rule of Magic,” a Sword and Sorcery novel I plan to self-publish.
Book buying in 2013:
Who buys books? A search on quantcast.com will show you that the predominant web-viewing and purchasing audience for a bookstore--independent or chain--is 60+ women with college degrees.
That tracks with the actual in-store sales at my day-job.
What do they buy?
New York Times Bestsellers sell well--constantly. Not because of in-store signage, but because of NPR, Book Group selections and Colbert, Stewart, and other radio show interviews. Word of mouth sells more books than advertising does.
Gifts-- increasingly books are bought as gifts. Gifts for birthdays, retirement parties, baby showers, and more. I've sold books that were to be given to cheer up individuals who’d had a recent personal tragedy and a friend wanted to give them a good hearty laugh. I’ve sold books purchased to reward someone for a promotion, for graduation from any k-12 grade you can pick and for anniversaries.
More often than not, these gifts are bought with one prerequisite: “Do you have it in hardback? Or can I order the hardback?”
While individuals buying for themselves, within a severe budget, want paperback. Largely, I suspect most of these individuals haven’t made the transition to e-readers, or are consciously "voting with their money,” though they have limited funds to spend. They are, in all shapes and forms, book lovers.
Which is why I think that print isn’t going anywhere.
In anthropology, we considered material possessions to be “cultural artifacts.” That means that they convey something about our individual identity, from how we see ourselves to our place within the broader culture.; The print book will have a place because booklovers have an intellectual identity which they convey to like minded individuals through the possession, discussion, lending, borrowing, and gifting of books.
You can see my interests on my shelf.. As a reader, I tend to like quiet and introspective people with similar interests. So when I have guests are over things will be quiet until the wine and beer are poured.... or someone finds the bookshelves.
I believe that many booklovers are prone to have similar social encounters. So having books you can talk about--rather than impulsive purchases--lining your shelf space is good for the whole industry. Especially with the increased importance of word of mouth to actual print sales.
But what does this mean for bookstores?
Independent bookstores have been teetering on this edge, but ever since Christmas, sales have risen. There are a few reasons for this, but the one that I subscribe to is the power of connection. Independent stores are parts of the community to which a person identifies. This is true of any hole-in-the-wall, any mom-and-pop, any of the little niche restaurants you would hang a “shop local,” sign on the door. And the economy is rough for them.
But they are vital to local economies all the same, and the spots that give a geographical connection and ownership grant identity in an information-washed world. For some reasons, and in some situations, we seek them out. We seek them out for their authenticity, for their connection, and for the knowledge of the staff.
And then there is Amazon
Amazon still represents half of all book-sales, print and electronic. Why? People are still shopping deals and print prices have risen while incomes have dropped leaving the gap between wage and book-price far narrower than has been seen for a long time. But e-books and Amazon provide a way around that: discounted prices that are disproportionate to the cost of the product. E-books, independently produced, require considerably less overhead and as such can have a lower price point than a traditionally published book.
This trend is in the process of changing publication, sales, and marketing. Which I will be exploring on my blog, Writing Worlds: dreamooresworlds.blogspot.com. Meanwhile, take a look at the bookstore blog, which I use to promote our big events avidreadertower.blogspot.com.
(The opinions expressed are my own and should not be taken as a representation of the views, attitudes, or business practices at Avid Reader Tower or its staff. - DM)
You can also find Drea on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/drea.moore?fref=ts
Or the Avid Reader at Tower on: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Avid-Reader-at-Tower/453065048092089