I heard from an author friend yesterday who’d just returned from a publicity meeting with her publisher and agent. According to her, the primary reason for the meeting was to negotiate what marketing endeavors the publisher would pay for when her latest book was released next year.
Now she was smart from the get-go. Since she’s relatively new in the business, she brainstormed with a few of us old-farts who had a couple of releases under our belts, asking what she should push for during the meeting. We discussed things like arcs, signings, co-op placement, convention sponsorships, etc, and she went into the meeting, guns loaded.
But she was the one who got shot.
She was told that pre-order sales were down and most of that decrease was due to Walmart. Evidently, the suck-the-life-out-of-small-enterprise Goliath has a new book buyer, and that buyer has been instructed to restructure their book buying process. And for Walmart that usually means the buyer is not allowed to have operational brain cells. They’re only supposed to do what they’re told. And what the buyer was told was to only purchase standard count orders from the top of the New York Times Best-Sellers list. They are no longer allowed to choose 5 off-list titles from different genres, be it romance, mystery, thriller, horror, etc. So basically, even if the entire population of Chicago decided to picket their local Walmarts because they wanted Karin Tabke or Jennifer Apodaca or Deborah LeBlanc’s books on the shelves, all the buyer can do is shrug and say, “Sorry, no can do.”
Now although I believe in free enterprise and understand that Walmart has the right to do and buy whatever the hell they want, the change in their book ordering process is going to affect MANY mid-list and beginning authors. For example, let’s say last year Walmart, as a corporation, ordered 10,000 copies of your book, and 8000 copies were actually sold. Even though sales were strong, this year, because of the new policy, they order none of your books. What do you think the author’s going to face the next time he or she has to negotiate a new contract with their publisher? That’s right, they’re gonna get squashed. If fewer books are ordered for this new title, no matter the reason, said author is going to have a hell of a time negotiating higher advances or royalty percentages.
For writers, it’s tough enough that the reading pool is shrinking in America. This move by Walmart, in my opinion, will only worsen the problem. Not only will readers have fewer titles to choose from, some writers are going to wind up moving on to other things because they can’t make a living writing anymore. Fewer titles, fewer writers, fewer choices.
Makes ya wanna kick somethin’, don’t it?