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David Covin

Strategies

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I am interested in learning strategies that publishers, self-published and others, can use to make their books visible to a wide Black readership and that could provide ways of selling their books on line, in bookstores, and hand sales.  If such strategies can be developed and replicated, as well as show positive outcomes, I believe they will find many takers.  I simply don't know what, if any such strategies are currently in effect.

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Sorry for the delayed response @David Covin, though I hope anyone would feel free to chime in.  All three issues, Selling Books Online,  In Bookstores, and Hand Sales are really the same issue.

 

Independent booksellers have been selling books on the web almost as soon as it became possible--even before Amazon. Of course we have always run our own stores and have sold books any way they could be sold, from street corners to salons.

 

The real question is can we get more reades to buy more of their books from Black-owned independent online and Brick and Mortar stores instead of from Amazon?   Someone on Youtube (a "Booktuber") has kicked of an year long effort, for 2018, called the #blackout.  Basically the idea is to only read Black literature for a year and to buy those books from Black-owned stores (assuming the book is not borrowed from a friend or the library).

 

Maybe a proactive campaign to exclusively the read our literature and patronize our booksellers rather than boycotting Amazon is the way to approach this.  If we focus on what we need to do to satisfy the three points you raised an active boycott would be unnecessary because we'd be doing our own thing independent of Amazon.

 

@Mel Hopkins, this actually brings to mind the "follow the reader" idea, what do you think?

 

 


 

Just an FYI,. Dr. David Covin is an AALBC.com bestselling author who has written several books.  He has also published award winning authors with his publishing company, Blue NIle Press, and is the founder of the Sacramento Black Book Festival He is also one of the reasons AALBC.com has lasted 20 years.

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Hi Troy,

 

     Thank you for all the kudos.  I think what you suggested - doing our own thing - is what we should be doing - independent of what Amazon does or does not do.  I have long been a believer in Independent Black Institutions.  I think that is the strongest base for Black people in every sector of human achievement.  We have to do for self.  We can work with others, we can use their vehicles, even their support.  But we can rely only upon ourselves, and we must discover and implement the most effective means for doing precisely that.  We must begin with experimentation.  And as to the reason for aalbc.com's. twenty years.  Three syllables will do: Troy Johnson.

 

         Dave

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There has to be an active "remind the bloggers" part of this as well. Most info is found via search. I very rarely update CBP, but I will add info that is important and what happens is it gets indexed and searched. It shows up and is there for as long as the site is active. If someone writes me or tags me I will always add updates to CBP. I need a reminder because I'm off on my own war against Amazon right now in the sportswear biz, so I forget.

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For a wide variety of reasons, I've some to see the wisdom of your statement @David Covin. I guess the most significant reason is that we really have no choice.  The  time and effort required to launch a boycott against Amazon could be would be better used for our own businesses.

 

Thanks.

 

I'm going to quote you in the newsletter the email today.

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First,  this is a new topic so I didn't get notification.   @Troy is possible to get a general notification from this forum? 

 

Also I do like the idea of proactive campaign -because it trains us in a new behavior rather than trying to break a habit... 

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I agree Mel.

 

Let me look into the alerting feature--I missed seeing David's message myself.

 

I guess the next steps is figuring out how to address the issues David raised.  For example:

 

On 12/7/2017 at 5:16 PM, David Covin said:

...learning strategies that publishers, self-published and others, can use to make their books visible to a wide Black readership and that could provide ways of selling their books on line, in bookstores, and hand sales.

 

What are the real challenges of getting books into the hands of readers?

 

I think platforms like AALBC.com, Mahoganybooks.com and others are a start, but we need a way to scale from selling hundreds of books a month to millions of books a month.

 

Also, is it a given that Amazon doing a great job at addressing the issues @David Covin raised?  If so, what is Amazon being compared to?

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I think Amazon is doing a passing job.  I don't think they're doing a great job about anything except making money.  And that's easy to do when you have a monopoly.  The central problem concerning Amazon and the markets (and specifically Black book markets) it serves is that the markets never see what other providers can do.  Amazon's monopoly specifically blocks them.  Some readers such as book clubs and focused writers and publishers access other sources, but compared to the whole market (even for Black books), Amazon is the dominant actor.  The problem is how to get the average Black person who buys a book to be aware of other sources.

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@David Covin, I'm going to join in an #readingblackout effort I described earlier.  I'm still trying to understand who is involved and how I can help promote it.  But te idea of buying and reading Black for a year struck me.  Plus it is as you and Mel described a proactive campaign. With enough support we can made it such that any reader with internet access will HAVE to be aware of the effort. 

 

I'll begin to share information about that effort here as well as reacting out to the booksellers.

 

A few days ago I created a printable display of the Black-owned bookstore in my database, I'm encouraging people to the share information.  They can copy and paste it and they don't even have to attribute AALBC.com as the source--I just want the information to get out there.  I'll create a widget tomorrow which will allow anyone to share the list of Black-owned bookstore on their website as well.  

 

I'm planning to drop my Amazon links, striking the URL and linking to a page where I explain why the link was removed.  I can sell the books myself link to other booksellers.  I know I'm gonna take a hit, but I hope to lead buy example too.

 

If anyone has other ideas please post them here I'll aggregate what I have and share with my mailing list.  I like this approach 

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Troy,  you're a braver man than I am, Gunga Din.  For any books you might want to sell for Blue Nile, send me a list, and I'll send one or two each for whatever book (s) you  want, and when you need more, you can just tell me.

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@David Covin, I appreciate that, but when I sell books "directly" I take the orders and have them dropped shipped by Ingram.  I don't have the resources to manage sales like that, besides I don't like doing it (been there, done that).  I rather deal with a distributor. 

 

Now if Blue Nile would fulfill orders I send that would work for me.  For example, if you look at the buy links for Just Us Books or Black Classic Press the buy links go directly to the publishers and they fulfill the order.  Right now I just give readers the option to buy direct from publisher and authors.  Right now it is not setup to generate commission, but that would not be too difficult. 

 

Another alternative is Mahoganybooks.  They fulfilled the orders for our old Power List bestsellers.  I'm SURE the would stock a handful of Blue Nile titles.  I would then change the buy links for your titles to route to Mahoganybooks who would be happy to ship the order.  They also have a physical store and are setup to pay commissions too.  How does that sound.  Shall I arrange for this to be setup as an initial experiment?  

 

But two significant problem remain;

  1. Getting people to buy from someplace other than Amazon. Now if I remove the Amazon option, maybe some readers will use the publisher/MahoganyBooks links--especially if I explain why the Amazon links were removed.  Perhaps the #ReadBlackBooks (I gotta get the hash tag right) campaign will pick up and gain some traction. 
  2. Using one bookseller does not scale. Mahogany Books has limited resources too--this solution will not scale very well.

Other options would be using POD, Ingram, or spreading the books around to different business wiling to stock and ship orders.  I bet Desmond Reid (Dare Books) would be willing to help.  He has a large bookstore--it even has a loading dock.

 

I'll reach out to Mahogany and float some ideas by Desmond.

 

 

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 @Farai Caldwell and all members , Welcome!  

I've already noticed a change in my behavior when it comes to #ReadingBlack  I enjoy reading business, science , metaphysics etc  - and prior to this club I would wait for recommendations through feature articles that I read... Now I'm actually searching for the genre and determining if it is written by  African-Americans and/or for African-Americans.

 

So if any of our members have published books in the aforementioned genres  - please send me (melhopkins (at) theleadstory (dot) net ) an image of the book cover, a summary or book blurb/summary and preferably a  buy link I will add it to my website's bookstore and  my blog posts, if it's native to the subject.   Thank You!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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@Troy,  A pass-through commission mechanism sounds great!  (nontrivial setup notwithstanding)  At least conceptually, that would favor the ideal of an "ecosystem of shared work, responsibility, and rewards"  ...  while meeting the user demand for simplicity.

 

Any mention of Amazon must surely acknowledge their first distinction: extreme investment in tools and infrastructure to make the extreme convenience of their customer experience mindlessly/effortlessly feed their empire.  Seriously competing surely means carefully examining/costing those infrastructure-investment options, even if they aren't taken.  You know what a huge range of tools is possible; the "pass-through commission mechanism" seems a smart investment in that class.  Surely the broad class merits careful discussion among the potential benefactors/market-constructors.

 

All,

Can you summarize for an industry newbie ... Is the industry model of  Author=Writer+Publisher+InventoryManager  coming to fully dominate niche-market publishing?  ... and does that favor a division of labor with firms like AALBC doing the Marketing/CustomerAcquisition part in exchange for a pass-through commission?

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@Bill, Amazon has the global capital markets at their disposal.  They could acquire investors while not showing a profit for years.  Organizations like AALBC.com do not have that insurmountable advantage.

 

My best hope is that this platform and help create the "careful discussion among the potential benefactors/market-constructors," for it is in our self interest on so many levels.

 

Without the massive and ongoing infusion of cash, that Amazon enjoys, how do we compete? 

 

I believe we compete by providing a service readers desire that Amazon can not provide.  Some authors like @Mel Hopkins, simply do not make her books available for sale on Amazon.  I know others who do the same.  I appreciate and understand why many authors are not willing to embargo Amazon.  Alternatively, authors can directly sell signed copies or sell their books at a price lower than what Amazon offers.  These are two easy things authors and publishers can do to compete -- while earning more per book sold.

 

However, as you suggest, we'd still have to contend with Amazon's one-click ordering bolstered by the loyalty created with their Prime membership.  This is a tough nut to crack, while many readers are motivated by the spirit of #readingblack, most need more of an incentive.

 

Any ideas?

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@Bill  Welcome to #readingblack.com

 

Are you a reader,  Indie Publisher, author,-independent publisher?   Excuse me if you've answered this already. 

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@David Covin 

Thank you.   Troy gave you an excellent introduction! :)

I didn't think of asking this before attempting to answer @Bill 's question. 

But it helps to know who are the stakeholders and how the strategies will help.   

 

For those of us who are readers only - the strategies might not be helpful unless we construct them with readers in mind.   Thank you again for your response.    

 

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@Mel Hopkins, I'm a systems engineer, aspiring to increase community effectiveness through the kind of amazing engineering Troy's done at AALBC -- structuring from basic mechanisms instead of accepting Others' self-serving bundles.

 

@Troy, Yes, it's a very tough nut to crack ... not just reader conveniences, but "affiliate" incentives too. :angry:

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Hello! My name is A.J. Williams, an actor, director, and playwright new to the site and the thread! I am also an author who has released his first novel last year, and I have been doing signings and promoting my website on social media but I'm still looking for different ways to expand. Also weighing the benefits of Amazon against selling on my own!

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Hi,

 

   I think it all depends on how much time, effort, and money you're willing to put into promoting your book.  Amazon can sell books, but only if someone knows about it and is looking for it.  If you're going to do an effective job of promoting your book, you will outsell Amazon, unless you get on the best-seller lists, and if you do that, you really don't need Amazon.  The best kind of promoting is face-to-face, person-to-person, identifying specific markets and developing ways to reach them.  For Black authors, Black book clubs are probably the most important sites to reach.  Black librarians can also help.  If you're able to identify book stores, Black book clubs, and you are willing and able to go to them, hold readings, signings, and get the word out about your book, you are likely to do well.  Getting book reviews on sites where people can see them is also important.  Big publishers send their authors on the road, because that is the best way to reach people who will learn about the books and buy them.  Localized interviews are important - radio, television - anyway you can expose people to your book.  I don't think there's any silver bullet.  If there were, we'd all be selling so many books that we'd run out of paper to print them on.  In many ways the art of selling Black books is terra incognita, the unknown.  We're all trying to discover it, and if we can share information and support each other, we may find ways to do just that.

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Hi @A.J. Williams  Welcome!  One thing I have learned about Amazon is this : first and foremost it was a book cataloging system  in its first incarnation.  This means if your title has an ISBN  you may not have a say as to whether your book is sold through amazon.   

But Is your book digital or print?

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My novel is in print. I have been selling it at expos and through my website, and I've also been doing radio shows and signings locally. I've been getting great reviews, (people say they can't put it down) but I need more exposure. Was considering and agreement with Barnes and Noble as well as the Amazon thing, but sometimes I think I can do better on my own. Here is the cover of my book. 

FlameofRetribution_smcover.jpg

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@A.J. Williams  ask those who gave you great reviews to buy at wholesale a minimum of 5 copies  to  handsell at the retail price.  They make money and they also get the word out about your book.  

Amazon or barnes and noble don't know your book so how can they give it more exposure than those who have read it and believe in it? 

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Well in B&N's case they have a three month process in which they review your book, and if they want to carry it they will purchase from your distributors at a maximum of 50% of the sales price. Amazon's way is a little different - you pretty much set it up online for print on demand. But I would be making like ten percent of the sales price, but I may move more than I'm moving now on foot. Should I wait it out and keep grinding or diversify?

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34 minutes ago, A.J. Williams said:

Should I wait it out and keep grinding or diversify?

 

@A.J. Williams  Keep grinding and diversify....   Your book is intellectual property and you have to treat it that way.  What you're giving amazon is the right to copy your book and you pay them for the right.  I'm not a fan of that business model.   Unlike a traditional publishing company that pays you for the right to copy... you are paying amazon for the right to copy your book and sell it - and give you 10 percent.  WHY?   When you look at it from that perspective does it seem right?

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@Mel Hopkins I agree...I felt the same way. It's always good to get some other input. It can just be difficult trying to get traffic to your site or give people a reason to visit it. But I will continue grinding. My book is inspired by the Sean Bell shooting; a wife becomes a vigilante after police kill her husband on their wedding night. Hope you'll visit the site and get a copy!  http://www.class5incorporated.com  Glad to be a part of the discussion!

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It can just be difficult trying to get traffic to your site or give people a reason to visit it.

 

@A.J. Williams  glad to have you here!  Please share your bookselling strategies with us here too...you're an actor which means you have to sell yourself daily.  So you'd be surprised how many good marketing ideas you have that will sell your book. 

If you want traffic to your website - set up a blogger website and link it to your website ...  see if flamesofretribution.blogspot.com is available and set up a google group too for black women superheroes that link to your book and website. 

Also,  with your subject matter - you probably wanr to write (blog about) about vigilantism in mainstream media - there's currently a show called black lightening on the CW channel - and last night they had a scene where roland martin appears and says something like "why are black superheroes called vigilante and white superheroes called heroes and saviors.".. You can tap into the superheroine vibe with your character... you can start marketing your book as the black woman superhero - and write about her and otheron your blog - and share on social media too.  Just a thought...

 

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image.jpg

Not sure how this author, Minerva Stewart found me but I'm glad she did or I wouldn't have heard of her book, "My Awfully Wedded Husband". 

 I'm going to go out on a ledge here and suggest that she might have found my blog post through a search engine because in the post, I have the phrase "dark comedy". 

I didn't review a dark comedy - but still she found my post useful enough to leave a message.   I'll most likely pick up her book because I happen to like dark comedies...

Anyway, search engines can be another tactic to finding your book's audience. I'm not sure if there's software that will help you sort out your exact target but at least you'll find websites that may lead you to your market. 

Ms. Stewart found me - a black divorced woman who writes, is a media junkie who also enjoys dark comedies.  If she hadn't left a message on my blog I wouldn't have known she or her book existed - but now I'm a "fan".  Who knows, I could be easy mark - but it's worth a try to get directly to your audience. 

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Any indies here who print through LULU.com?

 

If you've signed up for their email distribution, you'll notice that LULU.com, the print on demand technology company, runs a sale on their print products practically every other day.  

 

At first, I thought because I was an author/publisher those discounts only applied to my account. 

 

Then, I caught a clue. I was receiving notification because ALL Lulu print products were on sale at Lulu's cost, not MINE!

 

It was a boon for us who printed through Lulu to also advertise the Lulu sale to the public while promoting our books.  

And we'd still get our full royalty!

 

In 2012, I created a QR code advertising the Lulu sale and, I posted it on my twitter account.  

The tweet looked like this:

 

qr-code.jpg

 

Yes, it was a tongue-in-cheek flirty ad-copy.  At the time folks were sliding up in DMs on the regular.

 

You can create any ad-copy to go with your QR code. You can also use it on your blog.  However, this is yet another way to sell your book without amazon dot com.  The bonus: your readers can get a discount too. 

 

I've since retired my book from online retailers so if you scan the code it will take you to lulu shop.   

 

Note: Here's a site I found on the web - https://www.the-qrcode-generator.com   I have a QR Reader iOS app by Tap media on my phone. There are also desktop readers available too.

 

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