Book sales are hard to figure out.
On the one hand, we’ve seen a slow dip in sales for the past few years. On the other hand, independent bookstores reported a 10% spike in sales for the last holiday season. Then again, one study found that 85% of children readers aged 2-13 are using tablets and other e-readers to read their books.
Personally, I think bookstores are going to stick around for a long time.
But let’s try out a thought experiment, given that everyone is so worried about their health.
If there were no bookstores and only e-readers, what, exactly, would publishers do for authors?
Nothing that authors can’t do themselves
Without the physical printing of books, the placement of said books, and the careful displays made to promote those books, publishers will be doing everything in their power to market books online.
That has already started, because everyone knows that growing awareness online is how you sell books. The thing is, do publishers have the knowledge and experience to actually market books online?
No, they don’t. Because no one really does.
If publishers could recruit the finest digital marketers there were, that might be a different story… but as it stands, authors and publishers more or less know the same amount of “things” that can work for online marketing.
Validation and Assistance
The two things that publishers can help authors with – even without bookstores – is simply by putting their name on a book to validate the author’s work. There’s still an uneasy attitude about eBooks, and publishers are still considered to be gatekeepers of quality.
The other bonus is that publishers can help authors actually do the daily drudgery of online marketing – the tweeting, the blogging, the all-around online presencing. Of course, if authors had time, they could do it themselves and keep all of their royalties.
If and when bookstores disappear, publishers will have to become digital marketing powerhouses to dissuade every author from self-publishing instead. Right now, from stories I’ve heard from authors, some book marketing teams from big publishing houses know less about online promotions than the authors themselves. Much less.
That’s probably going to be a problem at some point.