A White Space in the Book Market

At a company meeting I heard an executive talking about the need to “got after every white space in the market”. After mocking this turn of phrase, I later thought of one such white space – in the book market. There has been a wave of independent authors, buoyed by the technological trends in smartphones and e-readers. At the same time there has been a decline in the business of supersized bookstores. The chains are not doing well, and smaller independent bookstores have an opportunity to stake out new territories, and may find some success if they are well-situated and innovative enough. One such junction might be the marketing of independently published books. Many of these are breaking through the e-bestseller lists, so they are proven to be desirable commodities. How to get these books into bookstores is a different matter.

On the one hand, there have been independent distributors in the past, companies that aggregated small press books and had some salesforce and warehousing to funnel these through to independent bookstores. Such distributors found it difficult enough to survive, especially during the rise of the superstores, but right now there may be an opportunity to build on that model with independently published books as well as small presses. It may be only viable, in the beginning, for very localized success, in such markets as New , the Boston Area, Northern California, etc … but some enterprising entrepeneur could take it on. They could work with Smashwords, perhaps, to identify and contact those bestselling – and other worthy – independent writers, and with Lulu, even with Amazon’s CreateSpace to find their way in (bookstores apparently loathe CreateSpace so this part might not fly). It would take some legwork and effort, but they could possibly convince the independent bookstores to set aside a special section for local, independent authors. The problem here is profitability (and tangled issues like returns and many individual relationships)

Another idea combines the advantages of bookstores and web publishing. One of the great things about bookstores is browsing. One of the great things about online offerings is free excerpts. Why not put them together? Print-on-demand machines could produce pamphlet-like versions of books – front and back covers and the first 5-10 pages. Bookstores could display this in racks the way that maps are displayed, or like travel brochures in hotels and rental agencies. The cost up front is low (indie authors may need to contribute a small amount to that, to help defray the cost and also perhaps serve a barrier to entry that would serve to thin the herd, so to speak).

This is the kind of thing that independent bookstores can excel at, and it could work to bridge the gulf between e-publishing and p-publishing, There is no inherent contradiction. Many people prefer paperbacks to e-readers. The same books can find their way to everyone. It would take a group effort – on both sides. Independent bookseller organizations could be working together with independent self-publishers for mutual benefit


One thought on “A White Space in the Book Market

  1. Interesting and great idea. Funny or sad, how the chains destroyed many of the mom and pops, especially in main stream towns, and now they are going down. Hooray! This is really an outstanding idea, what better way to re-engerize the independents, than with independent books! Love this, it is a brilliant idea.


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