When writers get rejected by a publishing house, a number of reasons are given – bad writing, no market, publisher has already covered the topic, too expensive, etc. Sometimes, there’s no reason at all. What the public at large can agree on is that the value of a book has decreased, and many are quick to blame Amazon for the fact that publishers have to be very selective about what they invest in. In fact, independent bookstores, Barnes and Noble, Target and Wal-Mart refuse to stock Amazon titles or sell the kindle, while publishers just can’t afford to shut the giant out. But, dig a little bit deeper and there’s a harder truth to swallow about why business is so tough.
To understand the growing canyon of a problem in the publishing industry, we have to review the life of a bestseller. This is how it goes:
- Publishers print bestsellers in bulk to supply copies for merchandising walls at bookstores.
- When a book passes its prime in the spotlight, the bookstore takes down the wall, and has to return the many copies that are left over.
- If it is a mass-market paperback, the front cover gets torn off, the book gets ripped in two and thrown in the garbage, and then all the covers are bundled together and sent back to the publisher.
- The publisher issues the bookstore a full refund for the unsold books.
This modus operandi is as old as the bookstore-publisher relationship and is about as useful as moving one pile of rocks from one side of the yard to the other. Imagine if any other types of retailers put their brand new merchandise on a steep sale, placed it right at the front of the store, took away all incentive for people to go in and look around, and then hoped to make a (big) profit.
What many publishers don’t talk enough about is that they have the resources, and in some cases, the foresight, to win. As in, they can take the content creation, distribution and sales process over. And bookstores probably could as well. Distributors becoming producers is nothing new. In 2005, Amazon acquired CreateSpace before self-publishing had hit the mainstream. Today, Amazon not only produces its own content, but it holds annual competitions to endear itself to writers and future content creators.
The bestseller is a prime example of a redundant, sad loop in an industry that puts a lot of resources into very few things. Many first-time (or small-time) writers have trouble finding their place when publishers are so focussed on forcing their B2B sales model to work. It’s hard to get published not because of the proliferation of e-books, online shopping, or Amazon. The real reason – apart from writing – is often the fact that the ecosystem the publishing and book sales community lives in is just too difficult for many new names to thrive in.