I just got up after watching a short segment of the Today Show. Usually there’s not much of interest for me anymore on NBC mornings, but this morning, Matt Lauer, interviewing John Grisham about his newest book, a collection of short stories, turned from the standard book tour interview to a hard question. It dealt with a recent Court case involving writers who are fed up with the retail sales tactics of a few giants and box stores. In John Girsham’s case, his hard cover new book, with a list price of $24.00 is being sold at Walmart and Amazon, among others, for …$9.95.
Matt Lauer wanted to know what Grisham thought of the case, which uses the language "predatory sales tactics". Grisham admitted that it wouldn’t affect him much in the short term, but when he considered the long-term effects, the interview got interesting. Mr. Grisham, openly pronounced that for new or future writers, this practice will make it very hard to impossible for them to be published. There is nothing made when a book that costs the publisher a certain amount to produce is sold for way less than what its cost. To paraphrase, he indiacted that in his opinion, this kind of tactic will shake the industry to it’s knees, eventually. Even when the sales quantities are considerable, the margin has disappeared. The margin is what fuels publishing’s ability to test new authors work. It gives them the room to provide publishing homes for new voices, and without it, there will be little attention given to emerging writers.
It turns out, according to Mr. Grisham’s comments, that the business of selling books has a great deal more impact on whether your book will be published than many of us believed.
Massive discount tactics have already destroyed the once-great American Department Store Retail culture. There are no more merchants out there at all, just perpetual motion operations that desperately must keep the goods moving or perish — similar to the old notion of how sharks swim forward all the time to stay alive. It’s about time that a respected author turn some of his attention to some of the ills that are in the process of destroying publishing as we know it. He also spoke of the pending collapse of many publishers and established book sellers who wil be unable to compete with the box stores and online merchants. This is already happening in spades.
He closed, by saying, that his book, "is worth $24."
Readers should be willing to pay someone for their creative work, and if it means paying the author directly, that day may well come. That bodes well for Indie Authors who can produce a high-quality product at a reasonable price…and can hang in a bit longer, until the dust settles.