Our channel has always struggled with how to prove and quantify our marketshare to publishers (financial AND cultural) when not all of our purchases are direct, and when not all of our sales are visible to them, and even then, when we are a small-ish slice of the pie. SO, how do we quantify and re-value our marketshare to better prioritize the indie channel in publishers’ eyes, investment, priorities and resources

Host:  Rebecca Fitting, Greenlight / BrocheAroe Fabian, Sourcebooks/River Dog Book Co.

Participants:

Anne Dimock, Author/Fundraising

Ruth Liebmann, PRH

Jeff Deutsch, Seminary Coop

Billie Bloebaum, 3rd Street Books

Brittany Caine

Camden Avery, Booksmith

Daniel O’Brien

Elise, San Fran

Emil C., River’s End

Emily Warfield, Bluestockings

Hele C. Stories Like Me

IBID

Jamie Fiocco, Flyleaf

Jasmin Brooks, Bookery Manchester

Jason Boog, Fable

Jean Forstner, Kepler’s Literary Foundation

Jhoanna, Belmont Books

Jim Bean Anthology POS

Jim Carretta ICG

Kathy Brozek

Lanora Jennigs, Princeton & Yale University, Sales Rep

Latanya Devaughn, Bronx Bound Book

Lauren Gallagher

Lawrence Dorfman, Apollo Publishers

Lynn Deglin

Michele Caprario

Pam French, Binc Foundation

Ron Charles, Washington Post

Sarah Bagby

Timothy Daudelin, Pendragon Books

Notes

How do we better quantify/leverage our data?

Challenge: online sales can be the amount of an entire B&M store, but if they’re not run through POS, not reporting, not “counted” by publishers (because not reflected in reports, Edelweiss, etc.)

Tech should be included in convo – how can we consistently share data to each other’s advantage, how can we incorporate hard and soft tech?

Q: How much data does the publisher need?

What are consistent methods of providing data?

Jeff Deutsch: Tangentially related: I think it’s very concerning that our one and only democratically run trade organization, the ABA, is also the largest provider of e-commerce sites for independent bookstores. It weakens their ability to serve in either capacity.

ABA thinking about this/concerned, but can we imagine a future where that is not the case? As part of the technology convo.

Crux of issue: How the independent channel is reflected to publishers as a whole vs how individual stores report

Need an aggregate to put these things together, so individual stores report up to channel and channel reports up to publishers, in addition to individually

Feedback for publishers, Billie Bloebaum:

One thing I’ve noticed over the course of the last 18 months plus is that publishers are great about offering virtual pre-publication events, but a lot of them–especially for genre fiction–are not geared to booksellers, but to bloggers, reviewers, and “influencers” who have different things that they need to get out of such events than booksellers. I’ve also noticed a similar pattern with physical ARCs–that they’re going to those same people before going to indie booksellers. I’m not saying in any way that those people do not serve an important role in the publishing/bookselling ecosystem, but that their impact is usually short-term and fades within a short window after publication, while an indie bookseller who reads and loves a book can handsell it for years and keep sales going long past its first, frontlist peak.

Jeff’s wish – can’t we all just get along? Stop fighting each other, start working together more, as we’re all on the same side.

Data – struggling to quantify value, qualifying it is not for those on this call but how can we push that forward for those who don’t see it already. What is the data that is being sought by publishers when deciding what influencers are being prioritized; how are we measuring the capture of attention and conversation?

One answer to Jeff’s question: publishers are looking for that big on sale week ROI, so working with an influencer to create posts pushing toward one location for purchase working together with paid advertising and web crawlers = big bang for buck

Helen C.: How can we shift influencers to push to indies instead of Amazon?

Jhoanna: we ask 🙂 To Praveen’s earlier point about asking for what we need

Camden: Maybe it’s not a question of figuring out how to jam the non-quantifiables through the rationalizations, but how to exist more fully in a cultural space that somehow can make sustainability financially possible? How do we quantify the non-quantifiables

How do we get publishers to look at our channel with the same lens, what is the publisher’s understanding of what’s even being reported?

There is already a measure that’s being used for things that might not drive quantifiable numbers but that can drive reputation. Indie bookstores might fall into the category of driving reputation. How is that measured?

A: Some things are not measurable; they’re articles of faith

Suggestion from Helen: What about – the Indies creating their own “ influencer” persona – that is collective in our wisdom and allows us to do – certain projects – like the “ News and a book”

How do we make sure that the Bookshop.org sales are attributed to the indie channel? Different across publishers! How do we make sure publishers know that anything that goes through Bookshop should be indie sales. And not Ingram sales, either. Ingram is different from Bookshop.org (which should be considered the same as indies)

Jeff Deutsch: Thought experiment: If all independent bookstores went out of business at the end of the year, what material effect would it have on book sales in 2022?

Follow-up Q (Ron Charles): What percentage of the total annual book sales are made at indie bookstores?
Guesses: 7-12% at most

Jamie: Series of relationships – reader to book to indie bookstores to sales reps to publishers – sales repos are pollinators, super relationship builders. If indie bookstores went away, a lot of those relationships would dissolve as well.

Lanora – her job is to quantify the unquantifiable, her publishers are committed to supporting relationships with independent bookstores because those relationships speak to the longevity of how they’ve supported the overall mission, which is important to them, even if the sales are a small percentage overall. Sales aren’t only through the store, it impacts the whole region, the market area. In a way, the bookstores are influencers in and of themselves, and some publishers recognize that

Q (Ruth): Where would people who now discover books at indies discover books?

Indies are cultural, indiesl influence far beyond our cash register reports, cultural also includes literacy/lifetime literacy – would books still get “discovered”/”championed” if indies went away? Would midlist/debut authors succeed?

Jason Boog: For influencers who adopt a bookstore, what would it need to look like for it to be truly helpful, beyond a stamp of approval.

EX: Jhoanna: Emma Roberts bookclub (Belletrist) adopt a bookstore for each month; has to be bookstore-specific, and should be discussed between bookstore/influencer for expectations on both sides

Q (Jamie): Do indies have a visibility problem in the general public? Inferiority/superiority complex?
Rebecca: Or a perception adjustment. Target is a general store; bookstores are a speciality store. Is this a consumer behavior issue, not an indie bookstore issue

Jhoanna: There are communities that haven’t seen bookstores in a long time. Can someone do a commercial to say, hey, don’t forget about independent bookstores to do your holiday shopping this year? TV, online, etc.

Jamie: People need a third place – that’s what bookstores, barber shops, coffee shops have been – has the pandemic heightened the need for those places? Is there an opportunity here for us to tout our cultural value there?

Michele C. response: Re: Target type/big box vs butcher, baker, candle shop comparison: Yes, there is a perception (often reality) that the purchase costs less anywhere but at the book store. Some of my regular event attendees would come out to meet authors, then  wait to purchase when they got home… but their confirmation of desire- their perceived need- was confirmed at the shop!😉 So, yes, education, seems, still a need.

Jean: people come to indies for the strength of the booksellers; when we talk about building a community around an independent bookstore, it is the staff, their knowledge of books, the relationships they build with customers; one of the key differentiators of indie bookstores

Lauren G.: Education is a big issue; we undervalue what a small amount of education someone can do to transform someone from an Amazon user to understanding what bookstores spend on books on their shelves vs Amazon.

BIllie: I’m going to get on my very worn-out soapbox for a minute. Romance is the largest selling genre and indies, as a whole, are not capturing that audience. There are too many stores that are still not embracing the genre or its readers and those readers read across genres, they read voraciously, and they are LOYAL. This is the whole reason that Bookstore Romance Day was created. If we can, as a community, connect on a real level with the Romance community, it could make a huge difference. (Same for science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.)

Emily W., Bluestockings: We’re primarily a community space that is funded by selling books; we try to center things like harm reduction programming, community programming, etc. It’s been helpful learning more about the business aspect because we’re trying to increase sales, membership program, fundraising (as a for-profit worker cooperative)

Common threads:

  1. Communication is a challenge between pubs/bookstores, bookstores/customers – critical info is not going both ways for each group

Suggestion (Kathy): Put everything together all in one place as a living document of things that are working to communicate that to publishers

Q (Lanora): Is there another way that publishers can try to help you with that intangible thing you’re doing to help communities to sell our books

A: The bookseller that sits in my office says: Automatic extended dating on backlist (titles over one year old), keeps the store shelves full and the warehouses empty.

Elise: It might feel like Ingram is a monolith and that resources aren’t going to the bookstores, but one of her team’s biggest jobs within Ingram is maintaining a rep force that works within indies and fighting for budget to replace a retiring rep; a common problem among publishers; Ingram reps don’t often get credit for things happening with Bookshop; they do try to remind publishers within distribution about who indies are, what they stand for, and why indie publishers need to work closely with indie bookstores; indie pubs are often the farm teams within publishing, too.

Suggestion: can we think of comms around indie bookstore marketing as a political campaign? Public good, educating why people should pay attention, getting younger people to understand, etc.

Coming out of the pandemic: how do you preserve the things you want to do/the places you want to go in your community?

(Jhoanna) How are we connecting with folx outside of the bookstore and educating the general public about what an indie bookstore is and why it’s important to support them? Popups at farmer’s markets, local schools/colleges, like-minded community organizations

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: