So, we are resharing our first posts during our anniversary celebration. Honestly, I’d forgotten mine. Had no idea what I’d written. When I looked up my first post, to say I was surprised is an understatement. I wrote about Borders closing. Way back in July 2011, nearly two years ago. Has Borders really been closed that long? After reading this, what do you think, if any, impact Borders closing had over the last two years?

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BordersWhere were you when you got the word Borders was closing?

I was at work, checking my email at lunchtime when I saw the Yahoo notice. I remember thinking, how sad, then my thoughts immediately went to our wonderful Borders Beaverton romance bookseller. After that, I began to think about what this meant for the traditional publishing industry already feeling the pinch.

I did a search online and found a few articles from national newspapers and their quick take on Borders closing. The NY Times reported publishers saying that with Borders gone, “they would plan for smaller print runs and shipments” and that “employees at major publishing houses worried about layoffs because many companies staff members who work only with Borders.”  The Times also speculates that the closing could particularly hurt paperback sales because of Borders’ reputation for taking special care in selling paperbacks.

Then came the speculation about what this meant for independent bookstores and how, in an ironic twist, independent bookstores could actually stand to benefit from the closings.  But not everyone agrees. In fact, in a Washington Post  article, a publicity director from Grand Central Publishing notes how they are selective about what independents they work with.  Wonder what criteria they use to determine what independent to support?

Throughout the online posts, some commenters’, while bemoaning the closing, were quick to offer less sympathy for the chain that forced many independent stores to close. One commenter said, “I saw this coming after Borders forced an independent store across the street out of business. The hunter becomes the hunted.” Whether or not you agree, there is no denying that a lot of independents were unable to survive the chains. Will we begin to see the birth of more independents? Or, with the advent of digital books, will the ones that survived become the courted?

I think, if I was New York published right now, I’d be worried. It’s difficult enough for a new/unknown author to claim space on a shelf unless you are backed by your publisher. With the close of Borders, is there room for anyone but the bestsellers?

Surprisingly enough, at least to me, when I did the search, I didn’t find that sort of discussion going on. Now, I’m not a member of Romance Writers of America’s (RWA) published author network (PAN) so there could be all kinds of chattering going on the PAN loop and I wouldn’t know; however, I would have expected there to be more discussion elsewhere. Yet, it’s been relatively silent. Even the loops have been pretty quiet except for the reminiscing about the loss of a favorite bookstore. Why is that?

I have a theory. For most of us, I believe it’s because we romance authors have seen this coming and have been, in a lot of ways, on the forefront years ago with our forays into epublishing. Like the pioneers of our past, these authors and publishers have blazed the path for the rest of us. The same thing is happening with self-publishing.

This is why when I think about a big chain like Borders closing, I’m comforted by the fact that this isn’t a time to be scared. It’s a time to embrace all that is available. I suspect even the pure New York published who would have never consider any other route except traditional publishing are working on business plans that encompass all the avenues to being published.

What do you think? If you are traditionally published author, are you worried? If not, why? For all, does this cause you to rethink the quest for the agent or traditional publishing model? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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One statement caught my eye: I suspect even the pure New York published who would never consider any other route except traditional publishing are working on business plans that encompass all the avenues to being published.

What do you think? Bet you can list at least five who have not only embraced other avenues but have left New York behind. Fascinating. 🙂

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Posted on June 13, 2013, in General and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. It’s hard to believe it was only two years ago that Borders closed. It seems so much longer ago in angst time. 🙂 I believe that all businesses have to find a way to embrace change, and identify systems to identify changes in demographics, consumer buying, and technology. This has been good business practice for centuries. It is when a business decides it is too big, too powerful, or too rich to have to follow that rule that it has problems.

    Unfortunately, IMO, the problem began in the early 1990’s when the publishing industry went to a blockbuster mentality. For the past 20 years, big publishing has relied on 100 to 200 books to outsell the other 300,000 combined. Then, with the rise of big box stores, publishers loved only having to send their sales people to 10 places instead of hundreds to get their product in the door. They negotiated with the Borders National Buyer, The B&N National Buyer, The Walden Books National Buyer. Add to that the archaic system of allowing booksellers to return unsold product (which began in the 1950’s after WWII to get pulp fiction in the door but just hung on).

    All this together had everyone betting on less and less stability, while continuing to carry inventory with no marketing or backing from anywhere. I don’t think ebooks killed bookstores. I think big box stores were already suffering from a terminal illness. Ebooks simply took advantage of an already diseased system. As for small bookstores, they were killed by big box stores long ago. Those who survived, survived on being a combination of used books and new books, competing with low prices and having a very small footprint.(Powells is the outlier in this scenario)

    Moving forward, I think there is a huge opportunity for independent booksellers to rise again because they know their customers. Also, with indie booksellers being able to partner with Kobo for a part of the ebook market and being able to offer any book within 3-5 days, without having to carry inventory, they can capitalize on that I-know-the-unique-you reader vibe.

    Businesses cycle. Change happens. If authors embrace the diversity of choices, learn about them and stay open to trying them, I think they will do well. It is when you close doors and windows that you limit options. It is when one says “I will never self-publish” or “I will never sign a traditional contract” that you limit yourself. One thing I’ve learned in nearly 60 years is that anytime I saw “I will never…” you can bet that I turn around and do that exact thing a few years later. 🙂

    For me, I’m all about making an income from the books I like to write. Right now the fastest way for me to do that is Indie. But I’m not shutting any traditional doors. The right money, the right contract, for the right book could speak to me. I just don’t see it happening at this moment in time. Right now it seems the way to NY is by an indie book doing well. But who knows what the future will bring?

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  2. It’s been a long two years.

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  3. Boy does that bring back memories 🙂

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