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' inability to fill holiday book sales with POD books is not a good thing for readers or writers.
Print-on-demand freewheeling is not compatible with sound business inventory management practices. Independent readers in search of unique POD books may not find them. Self-publishing houses are likely to create a holiday book jam in these books. This interferes with holiday book purchases. Self-published books rarely are held in business inventory for sale and distribution. Readers will not wait for books that are not immediately available for purchase.
Some books become “ghosts” of themselves. In particular, independent publishing houses cannot keep up with the holiday demand for individual books printed one book at a time. This is not a priority for them. Avant-garde readers, in search of unique and innovative ideas in the arts, may have to dig to find these hidden authors. They also may have to wait to receive the desired title. Unless the title is popular, POD books are printed upon order. They are not held in stock. It would be helpful to new and struggling writers if readers would help to promote new writer's book sales by word-of-mouth and written reviews.
Self-publishing houses do not make money selling books. These independent publishing houses make money from book packages: type formatting, composition and layout. Their job is to get books to the writer. They are not at all concerned about holiday book sales. They do not operate as retailers. They do not want to warehouse, market, advertise, promote, sell or ship books. It is expensive to hold an inventory of books for resale. New and unknown titles by new and unknown writers require aggressive sales tactics. Few businesses accept this challenge. Selling is left to the writers. The pitches often are perceived as aggressive and desperate.
Selling books is a ghastly, not ghostly task for printers. 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 self-published books from self-publishing houses achieve significant market engagement. Readers are not particularly experimental, adventurous or forward-thinking with respect to the arts and literature. People buy what is celebrated by others around them. Unknown writers are rarely on book lists. Few readers find their books. Potential readers may shy away from aggressive sales tactics.
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. Monopolies already are established in mainstream publishing. Traditional book readership is a collective mentality. Long-running sellers are able to control the market with price-cutting, empire-building practices. Many generations of readers have a history of exposure and familiarity with these books. Sequels are added to retain buyer demand for these brands. No selling is required. There is a history of buying confidence.
Readers must possess great spirit to find original books. Self-published writers struggle to gain traction with new titles. They must promote their own book sales from inventories on hold for this purpose. These can be in-house, online or at retail locations. The location may be in the writer's own garage or attic. Readers may not take a chance on a writer's pile of unsold books. The inability of printers to fill holiday book sales with POD books hurts readers, writers and retailers. Self-publishing houses cannot or will not keep up with the holiday demand by printing, packing and shipping one book at a time.
Inventory management is based on what sells. Independently published POD books must have a stellar history of sales. Otherwise, they will not be shelved or warehoused by retailers. Rebellious readers in search of something new are unlikely to find it in retail stock. Self-published books rarely have a physical retail location. These books largely have to be printed and shipped upon special order. The writer may keep some copies on hand for private sale. Retailers, including Amazon, use non-compete contracts to limit where writers may sell their productions.
Shelf space is claustrophobic. Attention creates value in books that are plentiful and known. Holiday book sales are critical to these businesses. Retailers make money selling books, not storing them. These businesses depend upon outside printers and publishers to timely supply the needed inventory to meet demand. 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. This cost is comfortable for the impenetrable top sellers.
Cost rises for a better position on shelves. Retailers also charge promotional, advertising and stocking fees. Readers are unlikely to find books from new writers in the rapidly-shrinking number of bricks-and-mortar stores. As the number of outlets for creative productions shrink, fewer ideas reach the market. New writers cannot afford to pay for shelf space. Retailers will not take a chance on new titles. The circle is vicious. The outcome often is no sales for invisible writers. Writers, who actively hunt down readers, often get shot down.
Visibility matters to ghosts, readers, writers and books. A friendly merchant may provide free space, for a while. That merchant is unlikely to promote or sell self-published books. Their loyalty lies with large publishers. If customers buy enough books, titles from self-publishing houses may find a permanent home at a traditional publishing house. Ghosts also try to settle into a permanent, physical home. Holiday book sales benefit when a spirited individual writer finds connections that are willing to pioneer with a new and unusual creative work. Few retailers are willing to participate in a holiday book jam of unsold books.
Online books need to be printed to sell. Few readers take a chance on self-published POD books. These special people have a greater potential of finding these books online. This also is where most product and reader reviews are found. Fewer purchasers are writing reviews. As retail moves online, products and services often find greater company beyond bricks and mortar. Retailers will not go to the expense of purchasing books that may not sell. Due to inventory flow, online retailers often strike better bargains. Advances and book sales are not guaranteed in this market. There also is no guarantee the books will be printed for customer purchase.
The virtual world is unlike the supernatural world. Ghosts have no mass. Virtual reality can become physical. However, there may be a delay for fulfillment. Online retailers take orders, then fill them from outside suppliers. Chains also may fill special orders for their customers with print-on-demand books from independent publishing houses. In the process, independent titles may be added to the online catalog listings of these stores. However, rarely are these books promoted during holiday book sales. Readers must be trailblazers to find these unorthodox books. They also may come with no-return policies.
The difficulty for readers does not stop with discovery. Printing may be complicated and slow. Readers may have to plan in advance of their buying need. When a product is not supplied, the retailer may cancel the order and refund the purchaser's money. This is particularly true for holiday book sales. POD is incompatible with bulk printing at any time of the year. Traditional books are available and waiting for purchasers throughout the year. POD printers cannot or will not compete with reader-market readiness. Their market is writers, not readers.
There is nothing solid about ghosts or unprinted books. Customers are likely to cancel special orders, printed one book at a time at independent publishing houses. Filling these book orders can take weeks. POD book orders rarely can be filled in time for a peak book selling 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. It is hard to touch ghosts and read unprinted books.
Holidays are a bad time for independent POD book launches. Self-publishing houses are overwhelmed with anxious writers. Everyone wants to release books in time for important selling seasons. These books often remain works-in-process. The file format is ready for viewing, printing or electronic transmission. The book is incomplete until it is printed. It takes longer to compete this process during the holidays. There is more competition. Beyond courtesy supplies for the writers, many of these books are not printed.
The rush for holiday book sales can be scarier than a ghost. Readership may be best when release is postponed. Printing and proofing errors are more likely to happen during this season of chaos. 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. The emphasis on popular books may interfere with sales of unknown titles. It takes time to build a brand name. Few writers hang around long enough to achieve status.
Traditional publishing houses anticipate demand. They can print books in bulk, then stock and distribute this inventory to retailers. Mainstream prints books in keeping with the expected demand for popular titles. Inventory is carefully managed to avoid the frustrations of missing books or errors in the shelving of popular titles. Price-fixing practices further reduce competition for these titles. Independent authors, with no history of purchases, cannot anticipate pending demand. They may quickly learn how tough books are to sell. High-pressure, unsolicited pitches may have fallen out of favor. Writers continue to use them on social media.
A holiday book jam is avoided for books that are sure to sell. Influencers make holiday book sales. Accommodations are made for these stars. Publishers profit even more than these celebrated writers. The Rise of the Machines: eBooks & POD has changed the retail business as well as the publishing industry. Readers are challenged to move outside the block of influence. This is difficult, because a handful of publishers, distributors and book sellers work in concert to protect books that have proven successful.
Readers buy popular books that reach the market. Inventory must be available at the time of purchase. Readers are discouraged from finding new and unusual books during peak selling seasons, because they are not in stock. They fall victim to the holiday book jam. During peak holiday seasons, self-published POD books are unlikely to be timely printed and supplied. This exerts a restraint on trade. Surprising best sellers also surge to the forefront, further disrupting the market for less popular and unprinted POD titles. Often, these sales stem from mistaken purchases of a book with the same title and appearance as a hot-seller. The mistake is on the part of the purchasers. The mimicry is intentional.
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. Changes in the retail industry may help new writers. Retail trends are increasingly driven by e-commerce technologies, subscription services and online innovations. Fortunately, e-books cannot go out of supply. This provides some hope for the survival of new literary ideas. Printed books may be a dying breed.