Lulu Blog | (Not) Getting Your Book on a Retail Shelf…and the Big ‘E’ RA-RA

Lulu Blog » (Not) Getting Your Book on a Retail Shelf

This is always the kind of blog post put out by self-publishing services that irks me. The below piece is from today’s Lulu blog.

“I believe that one of the biggest mistakes in any marketing endeavor is not defining a clear goal. It’s easy to get caught up in a clever idea while losing sight of what you wish to accomplish. As authors, we are all trying to market our books. The way in which you promote your work will depend greatly on what you’re trying to achieve. I have read a number of blog posts by self-published authors describing ways to get one’s book on retail shelves. Most of these articles, however, don’t answer that fundamental question … why? Why bother trying to get your title on a retail shelf?”

Clearly Gavin from Lulu is reading the wrong blog posts from self-published authors. Probably, many of them are using services like Lulu, and they are also wondering why their books don’t appear on bookstore shelves. What Gavin doesn’t tell us is that at least eight out of ten books sold (approximately) sell directly from high street bookstores, and not as the hype will have you believe, from online retailers. Fewer books still, sell directly from the online bookstores or services like Lulu, Outskirts Press, Infinity, Xlibris, AuthorHouse and CreateSpace. Even large commercial publishing houses offering online purchases represents a single presentage figure of their overall book sales. The marketplaces where the bulk of online book sales are generated comes from recognised sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Smashwords, Kobo and Apple’s iBookstore. Certainly, small and independent presses can maximize online direct sales through heavy and dedicated marketing to their own community, but this remains a captured and engaged audience.
What is worth considering is the sales outlook for the author new to self-publishing. Unless the author has built up a networked following based mainly online, then the likelihood is the author is going to be faced with the same protests and frustrations from family and friends claiming – “I tried to buy your book in the store but it wasn’t there and the sales guy said he hadn’t heard of it or just couldn’t stock it because of rules from head office!”  Aunt Maple and Uncle Ben, your best friend from accounts at work who loves reading, and your next door neighbour still buy their books over the counter and that is where they will expect to find your book when it is published.
My own belief is that the e-publisher only model of business is only sustainable in certain genres of the US market, and globally, for the next two to three years remains in genre specific (romance and Sci-Fi) and the niche markets of readership. I’ve seen too many new e-publisher start-ups hit the rocks early on, and I don’t believe sustainability will happen unless that imprint or new e-publishing kid on the block is propped up by a larger print publishing house. Right now, the model that is best geared to work is a publisher operating in both print, electronic and audio mediums, and prepared to be flexible book release by book release. It was one of the fundamental reasons that swayed me to sign with my own publisher, Book Republic, earlier this year.
I don’t disagree with some of the points made by Gavin in the Lulu posting, and he is right to quote Joel Friedlander (even though Joel’s comments are taken slightly out of context re fiction/nonfiction sales), but again, like so many other ra-ra self-publishing, ra-ra ebook articles, such viewpoints continue to be espoused from a small island located off the coast of the mainland of the publishing industry, and often cite authors with a firm grounding in traditional publishing.    
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