Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Chin up! Forward focus! I’ve got your back!






At our last Omega Writers National conference in October, I invited the marketing manager from Koorong Books to come to meet some of the established Australasian authors, and to conduct a session based on a whole heap of questions that I had sourced from various authors around about. To boil it down, the main theme of what we as authors were asking is: What on earth is going on with the Christian market!?#@?!

No, we didn’t really swear, but if tension could have been measured, and swearing was appropriate in a Christian context, you could well have heard some colourful language. 

Frustrations are high amongst Australasian Christian Writers. Very few are doing well. Nobody is doing really well (and yes, I know I’ve used an adverb). Given that the Australasian Christian market used to support a title to the tune of at least 3,000 copies, some considerably more, today’s gauge of doing well is to the tune of 300 copies. Generally, a modest order of fifteen for online sales from the warehouse seems to be a starting point, and if they don’t move out in the first two weeks, the book is not considered worth re-ordering. (This reflects the performance of fiction, from my own selling experience).

Most of us are well aware that the eBook phenomenon has seriously affected the bookselling industry. Some of us have converted to reading eBooks (hiding my face in shame, but it’s so convenient and cheap). Personally, I’ve had two publishers and one well-established printer go out of business in the last ten years. All three companies were more than 30 years in the industry, and while I saw each one try to convert to digital, and try innovations, like the Titanic, they just couldn’t change course quick enough. 

Having been 20 years in the market, I have experienced the hay day, and watched confused as it changed, and now sit powerless and frustrated as I see the Christian bookselling landscape reduced. Where once there were five major Christian bookselling chains, plus numerous solid independent Christian bookselling shops in major towns, and even more small volunteer-run church bookshops around the country, there is now only one major Christian bookselling chain, and the independent shops are either closing or struggling. The small volunteer-run shops are dwindling as their aging volunteer base is no longer able to serve.  And none of them are taking the risks on Australian, small and independently produced titles like they were able to 20 years ago.

So when the young man from Koorong bravely set his foot on Omega Writers’ territory, I was well aware that I might need to fend off an angry mob. Really, I wanted to be part of the angry mob, and demand attention and answers, but I invited the poor fellow, and felt sorry for him. To his credit, he was the one who was willing to open the lines of communication, and come to meet us and hear our stories. He presented a very informative session that addressed most of the questions we asked.

 The fiction market particularly has dropped dramatically. Koorong, the last Christian book chain standing, are struggling to get foot traffic in store. Even their online eBooks struggle to compete against the likes of the fire-breathing, monopolising giant, Amazon.


I, like many in that room, wanted to shake him and make him understand that our books can’t sell if they’re not on the shelf. From his research, and what the state of the market is, it appears they might not sell, even if they were on the shelf. 

Of course I want to take this as a major offense—that my writing has been rejected. I’m sure I’m not alone.  But that is a fruitless and ridiculous hole to fall into.

So, what’s to be done?

If there is anything that we as Australasian Christian writers can do, it’s support each other. If we want a physical, bricks and mortar Christian Bookshop presence in Australia, then we are going to have to support them. At least order the paper back from them as opposed to major international discount sellers. Our intrepid friend from Koorong marketing watches the clicks. He’s a digital man. If you’re clicking on Australasian authors just to read the blurbs, leaving reviews, and best of all, ordering their books, it gives him confidence to venture out a little more next time. We have to do it, folks. If we don’t get each other’s backs, then we won’t have a Christian market in Australia.

So my encouragement to you, today, as president of Omega Christian Writers is: use the Koorong website regularly, read the reviews, read the blurbs, and when you have a mind to buy, consider them first.
Or if you have a small independent Christian Book shop in your town, make sure you pop in there and try to use their services.

Onward and upward, friends! Chin up!


Author Meredith Resce, is the president of Omega Christian Writers Australasia.



5 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this Meredith. I was so glad to have the chance to hear the Koorong marketing man speak as it really helped me understand Koorong’s reasoning for why they make some of the decisions they do. My takeaway was also the importance of supporting local, and encouraging people to click on their online site and leave reviews etc
    I know my local Christian bookshop ordered copies of my first book through Koorong, which is why they were more willing to support the next. Encouraging friends and family to get on to Koorong’s site and ordering is key.

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  2. Thanks Carolyn. We have to keep encouraging our friends and other readers to do the same.

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  3. Hi Meredith, Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the meeting at conference with the wider writing community. I’m cross-posting my comment on ACW & CWD because you’ve raised a really important topic.

    What I found interesting and pondered after the meeting with Koorong at conference is how an individual author’s goal for selling their book is different to a retailer’s goal of selling the stock that meets the needs of their customer base.

    Authors can tend to focus on the supply side of book selling. For example, they may think ‘if only I could get my books on the physical shelf in the book store, I’ll sell X number of copies... etc.’

    Retailers have limited shelf space and they’re more likely to be thinking ‘what stock do I need on the shelf and in the warehouse to meet the needs of our existing customer base and attract new customers to visit our store.’

    Stock that sits on the book shelf in-store (or in a box in the store room or in the distribution warehouse) and doesn’t move and sell within a reasonable time period is costing the retailer money. It’s the opportunity cost - they’re losing sales they could have made by having an alternative product on the shelf or in the warehouse.

    Instead of being concerned about supply, authors are wise to look at how they can create demand for their books - which will result in customers walking into a book store with the intention of buying their book.

    Retailers will move quickly to find a supply solution to fulfil the demand for products. For example, where I live we’re in the middle of what feels like a never ending heatwave. My husband arrived home from work with a box of Icy Poles for the kids that he’d bought at the small grocery store at our local shops. The staff had told him they’d sold a few hundred boxes of Icy Poles in one day and they’d had to arrange for more stock to come in during the afternoon to keep the freezer filled with Icy Poles to meet the unexpected demand from their customers.

    Our challenge as writers (and as readers who don’t want their local book store to close) is to talk about the books we’ve enjoyed reading, recommend books that other readers may enjoy - with a goal of creating a demand for books in the stores.

    Connecting with readers in-person and online and encouraging them to buy books in-store if that’s an option for them, or to support local retailers by buying from their online stores, is a step in the right direction.

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    1. Narelle this is one instance where a street team would be really helpful as they help to promote books for authors and create buzz in many ways. One is by leaving reviews but its also talking about the books online and in other places. I am going to be talking about what its like being on a street team in a few weeks. We had an author write a guest blog here on street teams and how her team helps her also. It maybe something authors can consider so to get their name out there and create more demand.

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    2. Hi Jenny, you’re absolutely right. Street teams that consist of avid readers who love the author’s books can be an invaluable resource for creating buzz, especially for new releases.

      Here’s the link to Darlene Franklin’s guest blog post on street teams.

      https://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com.au/2017/05/street-teams-by-darlene-franklin.html?m=1

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