Rant Self-publishing

What I Have Learned About Book Industry Behind a Bookshop’s Counter

Yes, the title is a mouthful, but very accurate. I have been working in a local bookshop over six years now. During that time I have learned about customer behavior, buying patterns and general mood towards books. The shop is located on a crossroads and gets both local and out-of-town customers. So, the clientele varies daily.

Here are what sells, you know them already: Crime novels and Romance novels (no surprise there), fact books (popular science has its clientele, war history (who love it buy often and a lot) and self-help books go well (those who buy one buy the rest.) And you know the cover has to match the content and genre. So no bright-colors for a Crime novel if it isn’t a comical version of one (still iffy if it is too bright). You know all that. But what you might not know is brown covers don’t sell. I watch them stay for years in the shop, reducing their price annually and still they are forgotten and abandoned. The only genre where brown cover sells is books about Zen, but I think the word “Zen” is what does the selling. I think people associate brown with safe and boring.

What genres don’t sell are poetry and cookbooks. Online blogs have made it unnecessary to own cookbooks. Poetry not selling baffles me because we live in a hectic time and poetry fits right into that. I think poetry’s trouble is its reputation (for educated, incomprehensible and snooty.) Social media might change that.

Pricing of the book matters. If it is too high, people wait for it to lower and if it is too low, there is something wrong with the book. There must be! I’m not sure how does this ably to ebooks and Amazon. I know freebies go well and there is a massive group buying cheap indie books. In my country, if the book is under 6 dollars (4,90 euros) its sales slow down. The customer devalues the content. This doesn’t ably to campaigns and fact books. Cheaper the better. This has changed over the years, now people are more willing to take a risk with lower-priced books as they don’t have as much money to spend because bills, food, and housing comes first (and entertainment. There is no limit how much people will spend on multiple streaming services.)

Shelve-life of a book has shorted and a lot. Those books which are talked on media or has been nominated for a price sell. Even they quickly move to bargain shops at a reduced price. People seek the newest of new and older books of those authors they have read and liked. Then there are the classics. Those sell always. Maybe not as fast as the one which is talked about on media, but still they are a safe bet. This mind sound funny to some, but Harry Potter can be thought of as a classic (or so I hear from my customers.) Those who grew up reading them are buying them for their children, introducing them to the world of magic. I think that is wonderful. Also, anything made into a movie will sell, I think that goes without saying.

What about the customers then? They are dicks! I’m just kidding. (No I’m not… yes, I am. I have several funny stories stashed away for a rainy day.) There is a reader for every genre as you know, they vary from casual reader to those who read a book or two a week. You can’t judge a customer by their cover. Their reading habits and likes don’t always go hand in hand with their personal style. They have surprised me many times. I have learned not to judge (too much.) And I like any customer who reads and loves books. I don’t care what books they buy and read as long as they read.

People buy in groups and patterns. For example, if there is no one in the shop, they won’t come in. The same goes for ebooks. If no one has reviewed the book, then people think there must be something wrong with it. Customers come in to buy at the same time, I mean precise time of day. The yearly sell spikes for books are (which doesn’t surprise you) July and December. February is a dead month. Nothing sells then. I mean nothing. It is not only in my country it is worldwide. I wouldn’t put a book or anything else (maybe not implacable to movies and games) on the market at such time. I would make sure my book was published on a feeding frenzy time or just before to get a head start to increase its potentiality.

We think we make our decisions by our individual choices and likes, but I have seen at my work that isn’t the case. People are pack animals and we have a social mentality. I talked with my midwife friend about this (I’m not sure what is the proper term for her occupation anymore. I’m not using the word to offend anyone. I know my friend would use it, so I go with the midwife.) She says birth rates are tied to the weather and season. The lowest birth rate month is December and most birth happens during June and July.

That said, there are those influential few who has a sway over our buying patterns and another behaviour. Recommendations count and I see that happen daily at my work. People are more willing to listen to their friends and fellow customers before the seller. (Understandable, I wouldn’t buy anything from someone who looked like me.) This is due to risk aversion. We as human beings want to avoid risk with everything we do and buy (not the adrenaline junkies). It is the basic instinct advertisement taps into, to convince the product will make your life better, easier, or transformative.

That is all that springs to mind now. I might do another post about this later.

Thank you!

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