Over at Locus, Cory Doctorow has a column in which he praises the expertise of the professional sales force:
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get an e-mail from someone who’s ready to reinvent publishing using the Internet, and the ideas are often good ones, but they lack a key element: a sales force. That is, a small army of motivated, personable, committed salespeople who are on a first-name basis with every single bookstore owner/buyer in the country, people who lay down a lot of shoe-leather as they slog from one shop to the next, clutching a case filled with advance reader copies, cover-flats, and catalogs. When I worked in bookstores, we had exceptional local reps, like Eric, the Bantam guy who knew that I was exactly the right clerk to give an advance copy of Snow Crash to if he wanted to ensure a big order and lots of hand-selling when the book came in (He also made sure that I got ARCs of every Kathe Koja and Ian McDonald novel — Eric, if you’re reading this, thanks!).
This matters. This is the kind of longitudinal, deep, expensive expertise that gets books onto shelves, into the minds of the clerks, onto the recommended tables at the front of the store. It’s labor-intensive and highly specialized, and without it, your book’s sales only come from people who’ve already heard of it (through word of mouth, advertising, a review, etc.) and who are either motivated enough to order it direct, or lucky enough to chance on a copy on a shelf at a store that ordered it based on reputation or sales literature alone, without any hand-holding or cajoling.
[…] This vision has captured the imagination of many of my fellow techno-utopians: a stake through the heart of the Big, Lumbering Entertainment Dinosaurs Who Put Short-Sighted Profits Ahead of Art. And there’s plenty of short-term thinking in the recent history of publishing and the rise of the mega-publishers. There are plenty of “little” publishers out there, dotted around the country, figuring out how to fill in the gaps that the big guys won’t stoop to conquer: short story collections, quirky titles, books of essays, art books, experimental titles, and anthologies. These are often fabulous books with somewhat respectable numbers, but they lag the majors in one key area: physical distribution.
[…] Here, then, is the major challenge and opportunity of networked, author-driven, revolutionary publishing for this century: how do you turn the Internet into a machine for introducing books to physical, real-world stores? How do you use the Internet to introduce books to online stores that don’t specialize in books, like ThinkGeek?
This is the big hurdle. I self published my first book and everything was done on the computer, from editing to layout to designing the cover. POD handled the manufacturing and distribution. I sold about 2 dozen copies just through word of mouth.But you see the hole in that pipe?
How do I sell more copies of my book? Conventions are great and all, but I can’t afford to fly my ass all over the country. Living on the West Coat, I can go to 3, maybe 4 of the regional cons a year but even that’s pushing it (I’d like to keep my day job since it’s the one paying the bills). I suppose I could hang out at Pioneer Square, handing out teaser chapters and selling copies form the trunk of my car. Sounds like a fun way to kill a weekend. There’s also sending out unsolicited advanced reader copies to websites and journals that may or may not review it. There’s still a lingering bias against self-publishing and POD and some of the bigger fish won’t bother looking at a book that doesn’t have some corporate logo on the spine.
What we self-publishers need is an Internet based method of duplicating what Eric the Bantam Guy used to do. Unfortunately, on the Internet, that’s called Spamming.
So, I encourage everyone to buy my book! It will make your penis bigger!