By Gamal Hennessy
Many artists and writers dream of seeing their titles on the shelves of their local bookstore. Part of my motivation for writing novels came from daydreams of walking into Borders and seeing my book on the shelf near Hemingway and Hammet. But reality has a way of interfering with dreams. It didn’t take long for me to realize my book wouldn’t get into stores unless I had a publishing deal. Then I found out publishing deals could take years to get, if I ever got one at all. So I put my Borders dreams aside and focused on outlets like Amazon and Kobo. But now the market could be shifting. A company called Blurb is offering a service to give independent publishers access to online and offline stores starting this week.
Blurb is a book platform designed to allow independent authors distribute their work. Ingram is a worldwide distributor of books and other reading materials and one of the larger companies of its type. The two companies have announced a partnership to open up Ingram’s distribution to Blurb authors. Details and full pricing aren’t apparent yet, but this new deal gives creators the chance to get their books into almost 40,000 locations.
So what’s the catch?
I don’t know if there is a catch or a downside to this deal for independent authors. I haven’t used it yet for my own work and I don’t know if the pricing or business model makes sense for everyone who has a book to sell. Having said that, there are at least four things to keep in mind about brick and mortar sales in the 21st Century.
- The number of physical bookstores is shrinking on an annual basis. Remember my dream of seeing my books in Borders? There is no more Borders. Waldenbooks is gone too. Barnes and Noble is contracting as well.
- The amount of shelf space in each book store remains limited and will probably continue to be dominated by mainstream publishers and titles on the best seller list. Just because your book can get on the shelf of any store doesn’t mean it will be on the shelf.
- The amount of time any one book stays on a shelf could also be limited. Even mainstream books are not available forever. As the shelves open up to a huge influx of new product from this deal, potential offline shelf space might experience even faster turnover.
- The bulk of revenue will probably continue to come from online sales of either e-book, audiobook or paperback versions.
I’m not suggesting artists and writers should give up their dreams of seeing their books on the shelf of their favorite bookstore. I’m planning to pursue the Blurb deal with my own books. I am saying the benefit of this deal might be more mental and emotional than financial. As long as you keep the potential limitations in mind, expanded distribution can be an independent creators best friend.