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4 Steps To Help Book Publishers Sell More Books

December 14, 2018

(image via wikimedia)

The book business is struggling a little bit.  That’s no secret.

Streaming services like Netflix cut into the average person’s discretionary time so much that book publishers met in London a few weeks ago to figure out how to “make books as compelling as Netflix.”  A Brazilian publisher wrote a blog post  pleading for people to buy books as gifts for Christmas.  Barnes & Noble (yeah, B&N is a seller and not a publisher, but still…) in the United States seems to be teetering on and off toward bankruptcy.

With all of this going on, how can publishers sell more books?  It isn’t as difficult as it sounds.  I’m just a blogger (with a job that has nothing to do with writing), and even I have figured this out.

Below are four simple suggestions about how to improve book sales.  There would be no begging involved.  There would be no dumbing down of books to compete against Netflix.  I’m not even asking publishers to make the books better (though that would be a start).  I’m not asking for James Patterson to write only one novel a year.  I’m not asking for Stephen King to stop doing perverted stuff to his fictional child characters.  None of that would be reasonable to book publishers.

But the suggestions below?

  1.  Make books cheaper.

This seems simple.  When I was a kid, reading seemed like an entertainment bargain.  Books cost about the same as a movie ticket and took more time to enjoy.  Now streaming services like Netflix cost about $10 a month, and that’s less than the average paperback.  If you have limited disposable income, what are you going to use $10 for?  A month of Netflix or one paperback book?

Even paperbacks of public domain literature cost too much.  When a flimsy paperback version of Lord of the Flies or Catcher in the Rye costs almost $20 each, you know publishers are price-gouging kids who are burdened with school reading lists.  That doesn’t exactly encourage kids to read.

2.      Hire attractive actors/actresses to promote books.

Writers are meant to be read and not seen/heard.  Authors are usually horrible book promoters.  Whenever I hear an author talk about his/her book, it almost always makes me less likely to read that author’s book.  I don’t blame the author.  The author can write the clever line, but the author can rarely deliver it.

Book publishers should hide the authors and hire attractive (but unknown) actors/actresses to pretend to be the authors and then do photo shoots and book signings.  Maybe the attractive actor/actress won’t be smart enough to be convincing, but actors/actresses can memorize witty lines, improvise a little bit, be outgoing, and look good simultaneously.  Nobody has to know the actors/actresses aren’t the real authors.  That’s why the authors stay hidden.

If I wrote a famous book, I wouldn’t mind an actor taking my place at book signings.  Book signings are awkward anyway.

  1.   Focus on old books.

To be honest, most new books suck and don’t make that much of a profit anyway.  Publishers can take old bestsellers that are actually proven winners and promote them as previous great reads.  And make them relatively affordable.  Consumers will read old books, especially if they’re cheap.

These old books don’t even have to be former bestsellers.  An old obscure book can be promoted as being “ahead of its time.”  Or maybe it was the opposite of ahead of its time.  Maybe an old book was so wrong that it’s relevant today.  Old nonfiction (such as old disproven science or political stuff) can be studied again and maybe even mocked.

For example, I ran across a famous book from the 1980’s that claimed the Soviet Union would outlast the United States as a world power.  Haha!  Rereading that classic was more fun than reading anything political today.

4.  Get rid of public libraries.

How can book publishers significantly increase sales when local governments keep undercutting the industry with free books?  Yeah, you have to return the book after you read it, but that’s not a big deal because most people read each book only one time anyway.

Libraries might be a great asset to the community, but they have to be hurting book sales.  I don’t have any idea how much they hurt book sales, but it’s probably a significant number (I have no proof to back that up).  If publishers shut down because of poor sales, then libraries can’t get new books.

Libraries… what a bunch of government parasites.  Buy your own books, cheapskates.

*****

But enough about me!  What suggestions would you have for book publishers?  Which of the above suggestions do you think would work?  Which suggestions do you think would backfire horribly?

5 Comments
  1. Make reading hip again.

    Which is not as hard as one might think. Keep in mind that vinyl records made a comeback and craft beer and craft whiskey are all the rage. People want locally produced food and artisan cooking. So, there still is hope for books.

    Merge book stores with coffee and cafe culture.

    If Barnes and Nobles can sell coffee and cakes, not a bad idea by the way, why can’t Starbucks and Caribou sell books? Not just any old books, but quality books. What if publishers teamed up to create book stands – but not just the same old stand in every coffee shop. One coffee shop could specialize in Sci-fi, another in historical romance, another in classics. Perhaps, they could rotate the stands.

    • I’ve been to a coffee house that has a used book store section. It’s considered a cool place, and the coffee is good, but the book selection is really limited.

      I think the place relies on book donations, so the book idea hasn’t reached its potential yet.

  2. “Book publishers should hide the authors and hire attractive (but unknown) actors/actresses to pretend to be the authors and then do photo shoots and book signings.”

    Great idea! Maybe this universe’s version of the actor who, somewhere else, was/will be hired to pretend to be the captain of the Roald Amundsen could pretend to be either me or my identical twin, whichever the situation calls for… Yes, this appeals to my sense of irony. 🙂

    • I’d like to go to my own book signing as a customer, though. That way, I could stay for a few minutes, say hello to the actor pretending to be me, get my autograph, and then leave.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. 4 Steps To Help Book Publishers Sell More Books — Dysfunctional Literacy – Goddamn Media

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