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March 27, 2018 by Mike Shatzkin Originally appeared on The Shatzkin Files blog

Publishing and digital change consultant Bill Rosenblatt — always worth paying attention to — pointed his contacts last week to a podcast from NPR celebrating the current renaissance of independent bookstores. The history reported as part of what was really the celebration of very recent events is useful to ponder, even if it was sometimes a bit confused about the timing of mall stores and superstores and their impact on indies. But its memory wasn’t long enough to recall a critical development that is essential to understanding book retailing over the past half-century and what makes it possible to be a successful retailer of books today. And it elides the fact that indie bookstores have risen before, several decades ago.

The story the NPR report didn’t tell contains the kernal of a totally underappreciated fact of the book business. The first serious harnessing of the power of modern computing to improve the book supply ecosystem was by Ingram in the early 1970s. Ingram’s innovations over the past two decades, in what could be called the Amazon era, are critical elements of the modern book business infrastructure. Lightning’s print-on-demand capability and “third party fulfillment”, by which Ingram can turn any entity with a web address into an Internet bookseller, are the industry’s counterbalance to Amazon’s growth.

But the podcast, which focused on the recent rise of independent bookstores, would have benefited from an acknowledgment of the innovation by which Ingram dramatically changed book retailing nearly 50 years ago.

The central challenge of book retailing has always been to use the store’s limited shelf space and inventory investment dollars to have the best possible selection of books in the store. Before Ingram’s seminal innovation, publishers and retailers had a many-to-many supply chain with hundreds of publishers selling to thousands of stores. Wholesaling — stocking a warehouse that could provide books from many publishers — faced the same challenge. Wholesalers in those days were predominantly “local” — many of them had added a few trade books to their magazine and mass-market paperback selections.

But magazines and paperbacks were “forced out” — stocking decisions were made by the wholesaler not the customer — and then, after a while, just the covers of the magazines or paperbacks needed to be returned for credit. Inventory management wasn’t really an issue for the magazines and mass-market paperbacks. Trade books were really a different business.

The trade books were worth more to the wholesaler, unit for unit. When a title took off, the wholesaler could order a big shipment from the publisher and it got orders for the book quickly from local accounts. That’s where the money in book wholesaling was in those days, pumping the bestsellers, not “backing up” a store’s need for an additional copy here or there across the range of possible titles.

The fact that wholesalers stocked very few titles didn’t stop stores from trying to order what they needed from them. The net result was unsatisfactory for everybody. Wholesalers couldn’t fill most of the orders they got. Stores found resupply of anything except bestsellers from the local wholesaler to be time-consuming and inefficient. And the net result was that it was very hard to for most stores to match inventory to demand.

And that was a big part of the reason that independent bookstores had trouble competing with the mall store chains as they built out. They couldn’t compete with a better or more responsive selection of books because the supply chain inefficiencies, which included the fact that there were hardly any in-store stock tracking mechanisms in those days before personal computers, made that an insuperable challenge.

And then Ingram changed everything.

Harry Hoffman, who had been at tech company Bell & Howell before he came on board to run Ingram Book Company, clearly had a more tech-oriented management style than most book businesses did at that time. He built an efficient internal computer system to track Ingram’s inventory holdings and sales. This included an Ingram-generated “SKU” number (these were the days before every book reliably carried its own unique ISBN number) which they also used internally to “code” orders. But the big challenge to profitable wholesaling — the requirement to process more orders from customers that they could not fill than orders that they could fill — was not solved by that internal efficiency.

One day Hoffman entertained a former Bell & Howell colleague who showed him their new microfiche reader technology. The microfiche enabled the delivery of data on a piece of film that could be read by a projecting reader. Enormous amounts of data could be put delivered quickly and inexpensively by microfiche, if only the recipient had the “reader” machine to look at it. Hoffman and his team quickly grasped the potential benefits if a store placed its orders to Ingram with advance knowledge of what was in stock and what was not.

They hit on a formula. If the stores would pay the “rental” cost of having the reader (about $10 a month), then Ingram would deliver its complete inventory record to the stores weekly, including both the titles being stocked and the Ingram inventory as of when the microfiche was cut. The benefit to the store was that there was a high likelihood that their order would be filled (except for some titles whose stock had been depleted during the week.) That made Ingram their wholesaler of choice.

And to Ingram, the benefits were even greater than the increased volume of business. They no longer were processing reams of orders they couldn’t fill. And, as a bonus, they were able to put their internal SKU numbers into the microfiche as well, which meant the stores were able to do Ingram’s “order coding” when they created their orders. That cut costs for Ingram and increased the speed of fulfillment.

(This aspect of things seemed small to most people, but not to me. In the summer of 1966, I had a job working for Random House. What I did was “code orders”. I got the orders from the stores and looked up the internal Random House code in a directory. That’s what every filler-of-book-orders, including every publisher and every wholesaler, had to do when they got hard-copy orders from their accounts. It was tedious and expensive work that Ingram eliminated for themselves!)

It was this innovation by Ingram that actually spawned the first big uptick in the number of large and successful independent bookstores. Before Ingram’s microfiche, Baker & Taylor was the only “national” wholesaler, but their bailiwick was libraries, not bookstores. Libraries would wait for the books and, indeed, B&T did not stock big quantities of bestsellers to fulfill bookstore demand. But after Ingram showed the way, B&T scrambled to catch up. Before long, they’d imitated Ingram’s microfiche, although somewhat less successfully because their core internal systems weren’t as good.

For the next twenty years, until the mid-1990s, successful book retailing increasingly depended on delivering “selection”: larger and larger title counts in the stores. Big selections were the signal to the consumer that they would find what they wanted. With increasingly sophisticated communication with Ingram and B&T, stores could get most high-demand books in a day or two if they weren’t in stock. The mall stores and smaller independents suffered because their smaller selections were less of a magnet to the book shopper.

Then Amazon changed everything again, becoming the first store that carried every book and would tell you exactly how long it would take for you to get it. Of course, they did that leaning primarily on Ingram’s inventory and reliable service to deliver. But that’s another story.

Today’s indies rely on wholesalers, primarily Ingram, without a second thought. You won’t find a bookstore today that doesn’t order from wholesalers daily and depend on them for most of its stock. Whatever stocking or community or events strategy any book retailer employs, it is made possible by the ready availability of whatever books are needed to be delivered within hours.

So what we are celebrating today is actually The Rise Of Independent Bookstores Redux. The first time indies grew in importance, starting more than four decades ago, the foundations were size and selection. This time the main pillars are community and creation. But both times there was one company without which the thriving community of indies could not have happened. And that company is Ingram.

Ingram has been a consulting client on and off for years and I’m still engaged with them. This particular tale has been worth telling before, most recently a bit over two years ago., once almost a decade ago in the early days of this blog and once more than two decades ago in a speech I gave when Amazon was barely a year old!

by Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief for Perspective Publishing May 2, 2018

The newly announced Prime Book Box for kids from Amazon was announced on Tuesday (May 1) with images of children’s books from Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and other publishers in age groups of up to 2 years old, 3 to 5 years, 6 to 8 years, and 9 to 12 years. It’s not only interesting to see those Big Five houses working in a subscription program from Amazon, but also to note that for all its digital emphasis in so many parts of its operation, this new program is towing the line of print for kids. The children’s sector, long the leading edge in many markets, has been the slowest to migrate to digital formats as parents and children have preferred to hang onto their print titles.

Subscribers to the new Amazon Prime program get new deliveries at frequencies of one, two, or three months, and each of those shipments contains two hardcover books or four board books at up to 35 percent off list price, according to promotional copy.

The program says it uses consumer reviews as well as its Amazon Book Editors to curate the titles. And Amazon Publishing—the traditional house, not the self-publishing platform—is no stranger to the children’s market, having an imprint of its own for kids, Two Lions, as well as Skyscape for teens and young adults.

Currently listed as being available by invitation only for Prime members in the United States, the program builds in quite a bit of discretion for parents, allowing them to stop and restart the subscription as needed, and to “make changes to this box” up to a certain point on each iteration, before it ships. A standard box offers four alternate titles.

Shipping fees are included in the program, and an FAQ about the program is https://www.amazon.com/b?node=17344731011

The Association of American Publishers StatShot program cites 29.7-percent growth over 2016 in downloaded audiobook revenue, despite overall flat performance in publisher revenue in 2017.

by Porter Anderson for Perspective Publishing May 10, 2018 Edition

Audiobook Revenue Has Nearly Tripled in Five Years

In its release on May 9 of 2017 data from the StatShot tracking program, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) is reporting that overall revenue for American publishers was flat at US$14.7 billion in 2017—a rise of $57.5 million, or 0.4 percent, from 2016.

These numbers include sales for all tracked categories:

  • Trade, including fiction, non-fiction, and religious
  • PreK-12 instructional materials
  • Higher education course materials
  • Professional publishing, and university presses

Several categories that had declined in 2016 rebounded in 2017, including adult books, university press books, and professional books.

An increase of $96 million (1.3 percent) is being cited in trade consumer books, bringing that sector to $7.6 billion in 2017. That change is seen as being centered in adult books where there was a 3-percent uptick in revenue. The adult books category accounts, the AAP says, for more than 65 percent of revenue for trade books.

The figures represented in StatShot are described as representing “publishers’ net revenue for the US.” More than 1,5000 publishers reportedly submit their data directly to the AAP. In the summer, the AAP will produce its StatShot annual report, “which includes reporting from additional publishers and data about unit sales and channels,” as an enhanced look at the top lines today.

In terms of trends, the US publishers’ association cites three key observations, starting with a fifth year of audio growth:

  • In growth percentage, downloaded audio dominated with 29.7-percent growth compared to 2016. This is the fifth year of double-digit growth for this format, revenue nearly tripling to what it was in 2012
  • Ebook sales were seen to decline for a third year by 4.7 percent. That’s a much lower rate of decline than has been seen in past years—in 2015 and 2016, the AAP saw double-digit declines for ebooks. And one exception was the reportage from religious presses, which saw a revenue increase in ebooks.
  • Higher education publishers’ revenue is reported to have been flat in 2017 (an increase of only 0.2 percent. This did, however, follow a decline in the previous year.
  • Adult books showed an increase over 2016 of $148.1 million

 

2017 StatShot Chart: Association of American Publishers

The AAP’s Marisa Bluestone provides several interesting points of observation around educational, professional, and scholarly publishing:

  • The basically flat performance in educational course materials in 2017 (as opposed to previous downturns) was “primarily due to a reduction in returns,” which were seen to be running at a substantial 20.6 percent less than in 2016.
  • PreK-12 instructional materials declined by 3.6 percent in 2017, as compared to 2016. Revenue for PreK-6 books declined by 12.1 percent, while revenue for 6-12 books increased by 10.2 percent, with growth coming from adoption states.
  • After two years of declines, growth was seen in 2017 in both university presses (up 5.3 percent) and professional books (up 8.4 percent), and that includes business, medical, law, scientific and technical books.

2017 StatShot Chart: Association of American Publishers

As always, the AAP clarifies that publisher net revenue is tracked monthly by the association and includes sales data from more than 1,200 publishers. AAP also tracks revenue annually with its StatShot annual report, which includes reporting from additional publishers and data about unit sales and channels.

 

Does Giving Away Free Books Build Your Audience?

Published by Rick Lite on October 1, 2017

When most authors think about giving away free books, they do so in hopes of increasing their following and reviews. This topic has become an interesting debate within the book community, especially for indie authors. While some authors have experienced success with this strategy, others have suggested it’s a waste of time.

Without long-term research performed on the benefits, authors should be open to trying any strategy that will help them promote and sell their book. Having said this, there is a time and place for using this strategy and hopefully, this article can help you decide if giving away free books is a strategy you want to try.

 

Here are 6 reasons why authors should be giving away free books

Galley Copies- During the writing process giving away galley copies to reviewers or editors is a common practice.

Book Reviews- one of the first steps in any book marketing campaign should be getting reviews. This process should start while the author is still writing the book and will continue well after the book is released. Using Kindle’s KDP program, for example, allows authors to give away free eBooks. A properly run giveaway will generate activity, give you a reason to communicate with your growing list of followers and should lead to book reviews.

Getting help with marketing- If authors hire anyone to help them with book marketing they should insist on having them read the book. It’s also a good idea for them to understand what the message is, why the book was written and the author’s goals.

Distributors or Resellers- when you are trying to create a relationship with resellers or distributors most will want a copy of the book along with a sell sheet and sales history. Your Genre- If you are releasing a book in a popular genre, you might want to try giving away free books to see if you can build a following, get reviews and spread the word. The more crowded a genre is, the more you will need to stand out.

Your family- getting the emotional support of your family is helpful and goes a long way. Authors should be proud of what they have created and share this journey with those that love them.

 

Here are 5 reasons why authors should not be giving away free books

• Most people love the idea of getting something for free. Giving away free books does not translate into expanding your audience and getting book reviews. In fact, a high percentage of free books don’t even get read.

• Giveaway programs usually cost money and take time and resources to set up properly. With any promotional opportunity, the author needs to generate a ‘buzz’ with their followers and target audience to get the proper response.

• While Goodreads and Amazon are popular platforms to promote books, both offer giveaways that require the author to mail a free, physical copy of the book. This can be costly and might not result in achieving the goals you set up.

• Giving away free books hurts the industry and dilutes the goal of being an author. Imagine if every author gave away their books for free.

• Having your book priced for free can lower the intrinsic value of the book. For example, if you have a self-help book that helps children control anger and manage stress, keeping the price of the book in line with other popular/strong selling titles makes this book seem more attractive than the one that is for free.

• When marketing a book, the author should be willing to try anything to help them achieve their goals. Giving away free books is just one of many marketing tools authors have at their disposal, however, taking full advantage of these tools is the key to a successful campaign.

If you decide to take advantage of a free giveaway, you should start with a low-cost one, experience what is involved with running a successful campaign and learn how it works. Talk to other authors, read about how to run a successful promotion and go for it! Rick Lite of Stress Free Book Marketing, stands at the forefront of the ever-changing book industry. He is a seasoned book marketing professional with over 13 years of experience in the industry. Rick’s expertise comes from tirelessly working on new and innovative ways to market his own books and CDs with his company and parent company, Stress Free Kids. Embracing the core values of integrity, innovation, and growth, Rick works closely with authors to create custom, robust book marketing programs. His easy-going manner provides “stress-free” support and comfort to authors going through the book marketing process for the first time. Rick is quick to share his knowledge and “insider tips” for a successful marketing campaign that will lead to increased exposure, awareness and most importantly, sales.

 

Ryan Holmes, CONTRIBUTOR Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Entrepreneurs - First appeared in Forbes Magazine Jan 2, 2018

Just how dominant a business tool was social media in 2017? Despite being involved in an investigation by Congress, Facebook reported its highest earnings ever in Q3, up nearly 50% from a year ago. Its mobile ads are so popular that the platform is actually starting to run out of space for them, even though they’re charging more than ever. Meanwhile, the network eclipsed the 2-billion-user mark, now counting nearly one-third of the planet among its user base.

Behind these numbers is a growing realization among businesses that social media is the single most effective way to reach audiences, with teens (i.e. tomorrow’s consumers) now spending up to nine hours a day on social platforms. An insatiable appetite for video among users, paired with better technology for making, posting and targeting social updates, sees companies now spending more money on social and digital ads than on TV advertising. These trends show little sign of slowing up in 2018. Here’s a glimpse into five key factors that will impact how businesses use social media in the year ahead:

Goodbye free reach on social media (for real). For years, companies’ organic reach on Facebook (the percentage of their followers who see company updates that aren’t “boosted” with ad money) has been dwindling, dipping as low as 2%. Now it seems Facebook may finally kill organic reach on the News Feed entirely. This fall, the network rolled out a new “Explore Feed,” a kind of second-class stream just for company updates. Testing has already begun in some countries to banish all company social posts from the all important (and increasingly crowded) News Feed over to Explore.

Unless, of course, you pony up. These latest developments are a final, firm reminder that Facebook is now a paid platform for companies, little different in this respect from traditional pay-to-play advertising channels like TV, radio, print or billboards. To reach an audience via the News Feed—any audience, at all—it’s going to cost you. Considering that 51% of companies currently struggle with lack of a social media ads budget, this may prove a harsh wake-up call in 2018. One silver lining: Facebook has pioneered some of the most precise ad targeting tools ever. (Wanna pitch to twenty-something soccer fans living in Phoenix who work in retail and like dogs? No problem.) So, at the least, ad money promises to be well spent.

Make more videos (but don’t worry about going viral). It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that video is the future, not just of social media but of the Internet in general. By 2018, Cisco forecasts that 82% of all consumer Internet traffic will be video. Live and recorded video and video ads increasingly dominate our feeds across Facebook and Snapchat and are surging on Instagram, Twitter and even LinkedIn. Nearly half of businesses are already implementing social videos, with another 26% planning to implement in 2018.

Just one problem. In the race to earn video views and clicks, too many companies are missing the bigger picture. Ultimately, who’s watching your videos—and what they do after they watch—is far more important than how many people are watching. Going “viral” doesn’t mean much, after all, if you’re not reaching actual customers who want to buy something. One antidote to fixating on video vanity metrics in 2018: analytics tools that track conversions and highlight how video actually leads to the acquisition and retention of customers.

Those funny QR codes make a comeback (with a social media twist). This fall, Apple snuck an unexpected update into its newly released iOS 11: a native QR code reader. (You might remember QR codes—essentially, fancy barcodes that do things like open websites when scanned—from the ‘00s, when they were supposed to be the next big thing.) Now, all you have to do is point your iPhone camera at a code, and it’s automatically activated. Codes can be used to log into wifi networks (no more typing out passwords), make a purchase with PayPal and even send pre-populated Tweets and texts.

On a separate front, major networks like Snapchat, Facebook and even Spotify are increasingly pushing their own proprietary code technology onto users. Scan a Facebook Messenger Code, for instance, and a handy bot or customer service agent automatically pops up on your phone. Considering that QR codes are still one of the easiest ways to bridge the real world and the online one, don’t be surprised if you start seeing them everywhere in 2018—especially now that 700 million iPhone users have a scanner in their pockets.

Here comes the era of “millisecond marketing” (ready or not). Lots of basic social media tasks—from scheduling the optimal time to post something to finding catchy content to share—have already been automated. But in 2018, expect to see AI and related tools play an ever more important behind-the-scenes role in sharing messages. Case in point—emerging technology that enables testing hundreds of social media ad variations, simultaneously. Rather than having to “guess” which images and text will get the most clicks, users can automate campaigns so that the best-performing posts are instantly boosted to the biggest audience.

This is part of a larger transformation that’s seeing the cycle for creating, distributing and optimizing social media radically compressed. Inside the latest AI-powered tools, ever more complex algorithms are calling the shots and removing the guesswork about what marketing materials will lead to what results—and they’re doing so nearly in real time. For better or worse, what once took creative teams days (or weeks), is now being accomplished in a matter of milliseconds. In 2018, these tools should enable companies to reach bigger audiences with better targeted and more personalized messages than ever before—fulfilling the dream of truly “scalable” social media, provided you can keep up.

Business software clouds boost their social media game (finally). Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn for $26 billion set off a quiet arms race among big software sellers to integrate and upgrade social media features. Microsoft has already pushed ahead with integrating LinkedIn’s massive professional listings into Outlook and Dynamics 365, meaning businesses can instantly tap into social data about prospects and customers to personalize emails and messages.

Not to be outdone, Adobe, Salesforce, IBM and Oracle have all embarked on a flurry of purchases and integrations to improve their marketing clouds with social media features. Underlying these improvements is a dawning understanding that social media provides businesses with a rich, real-time source of customer information—exactly the kind of data needed to power AI engines, like Salesforce’s Einstein, that lie at the heart of these clouds. In 2018, business users stand to be the big beneficiary of this software arms race, as marketing platforms find better ways to weave social media data and social media tools into their offerings.

The easiest prediction of all for 2018: change. Fueled by intense competition between networks to capture advertising dollars, social media tools and tactics will continue to evolve at a breakneck pace in the year ahead. Expect plenty of new features, new ad tools and brand new ways to watch video. For companies already fatigued by the onslaught of new technology and strategies, relief, unfortunately, is nowhere in sight. But for those that can keep up, social media may promise bigger audiences and more return on investment than ever.

Ryan Holmes is Founder and CEO of Hootsuite.

by W. Terry Whalin Originally published on Suite T April 23, 0218

Writing is a solitary profession. Alone we sit at our keyboard and write words—maybe for a magazine or a book or a website. So why would you even want to support other writers?

Bestselling author, Zig Ziglar said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” As you support other writers, your life will be richer, and you will see remarkable and often unexpected results. I’ve been working with writers for many years.

In this article, I want to give you four simple ways to support other writers. While I personally practice these ways, I encourage you to pick one or two which you can do on a regular basis.

1. Write reviews of any book you read or hear. Depending on the book, it is often hard to get book reviews. It’s why I’ve written over 850 reviews on Amazon. Any book that I read or hear the audiobook, I take a few minutes and write a few sentences of review. As a writer, I’m always reading books and when I finish the book, it doesn’t take much time to write the review, but other writers will appreciate your support.

2. As you read the blog posts from others, make a short yet relevant comment. Sometimes with blogging, you wonder if anyone is reading and your relevant comment will encourage the writer. The key concept is to make a “relevant” comment and tie it to the content of the blog post. I often get unrelated comments for my blog which are never posted and deleted as SPAM.

3. Use Social media retweets. When you read a solid blog post, magazine article, Facebook post or tweet, pass it onto others. Often there a simple button to facilitate this effort but you will help other writers when you pass on this information.

4. Introduce writers to each other. In the writing world, who you know is often as important as what you know. A simple email introducing a writer to someone else can help that person make the right connection. It could change the direction of their writing life.

As writers, we need each other. Our writing may be in isolation but taking these actions can be a difference maker in the life of other writers.