The Goopy Ghost at Thanksgiving
November 2017 by V. R. Duin

HOLIDAY BOOK JAM

Once the Browns had left the field,
Towing home their tasty yield,
A sad and lonely goopy ghost
Went in search of a friendly host.
(“The Goopy Ghost at Thanksgiving”)

It may be a good thing for some ghosts to disappear and not reappear, but the holiday book jam created by self-publishing houses' efforts to fill holiday book sales with print-on-demand books is not a good thing.

Independent writers who sell a few print-on-demand books per month through self-publishing houses are likely to find a holiday book jam interfering with holiday book sales. Self-publishing houses cannot keep up with the holiday demand for individual POD books printed one book at a time. This is not a priority for them. These printing houses make money from book packages: type formatting, composition and layout. Their job is to get books to the writer. Self-publishing houses do not make money printing individual POD books for sale on the open market. They do not anticipate self-published books will require much of this activity. Less than one percent of POD books from self-publishing houses achieve significant market engagement.

Selling books is not in self-publishing houses' job descriptions. Once a title is self-published, these houses become mere printers for the writers and their customers. Self-published writers must promote their own book sales from inventories on hold for this purpose, be these in-house, online or at retail locations. POD is incompatible with bulk holiday printing. An inability to fill holiday book sales with POD books that are printed one book at a time may create a holiday book jam for writers and for retailers, because self-publishing houses cannot or will not keep up with the demand for holiday book sales.

Independently published book titles, without a stellar history of sales, generally will not be shelved or warehoused by retailers. Shelf space is too valuable. Holiday book sales are critical to these businesses. The last thing retailers want is a holiday book jam. The slotting fee charged per item for entry to bricks-and-mortar retail shelves can range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost varies by region and market demand. Retailers also charge promotional, advertising and stocking fees. Payment rises for a highly visible position on shelves. A friendly merchant may provide free space, for a while, but is unlikely to promote or sell unknown print-on-demand books. If customers buy enough books, these titles from self-publishing houses may find a permanent home at a traditional publishing house.

Self-published, print-on-demand books often have greater sales potential online. This also is where most product and reader reviews are found. As retail moves online, products and services often find greater company beyond bricks and mortar. Chains may fill special orders for their customers with print-on-demand books from self-publishing houses. In the process, independent titles may be added to the online catalog listings of these stores. However, when a product is not supplied, the retailer may cancel the order and refund the purchaser's money. Customers are likely to cancel special orders that cannot be filled in time for a peak bookselling occasion. To keep sales in-house and prevent a holiday book jam of back orders, retailers may encourage the purchase of something available, usually a best seller that was printed and stocked in advance.

Holidays also may not be a good time for independent writers to launch new titles. Self-publishing houses are overwhelmed with anxious writers who want to release books in time for peak seasons. Printing and proofing errors are more likely to happen during the resulting holiday book jam. Holiday shopping is often planned and completed ahead of the occasion. Mainstream's bestselling authors may be on shopping lists, leaving no room for new print-on-demand books. Traditional publishing houses stock and distribute inventory to retailers in anticipation of a forecasted demand for popular titles. The Rise of the Machines: eBooks & POD has changed the retail business as well as the publishing industry.

Independent authors, with no history of purchases, cannot anticipate pending demand to avoid falling victim to the holiday book jam. During peak holiday seasons, self-published books are unlikely to be timely printed and supplied. It may be a good thing for some ghosts to disappear and not reappear, whether by command or on demand. However, this is not a good thing for holiday book sales of print-on-demand titles that are made unavailable by self-publishing houses during the holidays.

3 comments

  • Self-Publishing Houses admin says:

    Self-publishing houses focus on profitable packages for new writers rather than on the unprofitable fulfillment of individual titles.

  • Holiday Book Sales admin says:

    Holiday book sales of bulk orders for bestsellers with profitable sales volumes take priority over infrequent sellers.

    • Holiday Book Jamadmin says:

      During a holiday book jam, there is still hope: e-books may be available and scarcity may prompt readers to plan early purchases of books in print.