5 Old Bookselling Rules which No Longer Apply

…and, from the emerging author’s perspective, are they a Woo-Hoo, or a Boo Hoo?

1.   Back Catalogues Sell Slowly, Or Not At All

Ye Olde Book ShoppeBack in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, when a reader stumbled across a new author, their latest book was often the only one available. If the author were really successful, the bookshop might stock some of their back catalogue. If they were only marginally successful, well, good luck to them.

Nowadays, every book published in e-format is available ALWAYS AND FOREVER, unless of course it’s taken down deliberately. So we’ve just found a new author and we like the cut of their jib, we can buy their entire back catalogue immediately.

Verdict: Woo Hoo!

2.    All New Books Cost the Same

They most certainly don’t any longer. Here we hold up the shining example of phenomenal self-publishing success Amanda Hocking, whose sales master stroke was to sell E-Book 1 of a series as a loss leader – generally either for 99c, or completely free – and then, with the reader firmly hooked on the story, she charged accordingly for the still-reasonably priced Books 2 and 3 (generally 2.99). She may not have been the first one to do this, but it’s a genius idea, and it ended up getting her a number of nice millions and a traditional publishing deal, thank you very much.

The question of where to pitch the price of your book is a whole other post. Suffice to say, have a look online, and you’ll see books priced any which way but where they are in the shops.

Verdict: Woo Hoo! Because every new opportunity for sales is one we didn’t have before.

Author Back Catalogues 3.   Authors Should Publish One Book a Year

In the 1980s and 1990s, new books came out infrequently. Unless you wore a lot of pink, went by the name of Dame Barbara Cartland and dictated your books at the rate of six per hour, you usually only published one book per year.

E-Publishing is no environment for slow releases, however. Word of mouth goes around fast, and dies fast; in order to capitalise, authors have to move quickly.

This is particularly pertinent if you’re writing books in a series, but as I mentioned before, in the e-publishing world readers show a preference for multiple purchases, in that if they find something they like, they want more of the same right now this very minute, please and thank you. Therefore it would suggest that if your book is selling well – as in, trending well, being talked about and undergoing some sort of sales push – you should make some other stuff available pretty much immediately, if you have it. Because in six months, this book will have run out of steam and they’ll have forgotten you already.

Verdict: Boo Hoo, unless you have another 2 novels gathering dust on your hard drive…

 4.   Publishers Know Best

Do I even need to go into this one? Surely the past 5 years have taught us that the people who know best are the readers. Only readers know what they want; only now do they have the power, and they have created unexpected success stories in their hundreds. Emerging authors have to listen and react accordingly. Of course there is sales and marketing involved. But once readers speak – either through their wallets or their reviews – that’s all she wrote, really.

Verdict: Woo Hoo! Now the only slush pile is the one on your front doorstep after a tidy snowfall!

 Yay! It's Finished!5.   Everyone has One Book Inside Them

We’re not going to be snide, here, and start banging on about quality, or fair weather/recession writers, or celebrity bandwagons, or whatever we’re having ourselves along with our cup of JealousTea following yet another rejection letter.

Because what the e-publishing and self-publishing revolution of the past 10 years has taught us is that everyone might have 5, 10 or 30 books inside them, not just the one. There are simply more opportunities for us to find out. And I, for one, find that overwhelmingly splendid.

Verdict: Woo Hoo! AND WOO HOO AGAIN!

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