No matter how you approach it, Jamie McGuire’s new deal with WalMart is groundbreaking. Jamie left her sweetheart Atria deal to go indie—for happiness/control reasons, I hear—and parlayed the success of a (traditionally published) novel into a trilogy that has resulted in landing one of her indie books on WalMart’s shelves in select stores.
A CreateSpace print book with a CreateSpace ISBN, no less. CreateSpace, an Amazon-owned company that does not allow returns. Amazon, the mortal enemy of brick-and-mortar book sales.
This is a first-of-its-kind deal for an indie. It’s huge. HUGE. If your hesitation about going indie was print book distribution, that wall just tumbled at least part of the way done especially when you consider that most traditionally published authors don’t get in WalMart, or even in B&N, and if they do, their shelf placement doesn’t drive sales.
Yet WalMart’s website flatly states that a) it won’t work with “self published” authors and b) it only works through a third party book merchandiser.
In the comments to Jamie’s blog announcing the deal, Jane Friedman (http://janefriedman.com, publishing mastermind) asked her about these issues: will WalMart require her to allow returns? who bears the cost of those returns? did she have agent assistance? did she work through WalMart’s point of distribution third party, Anderson Merchandisers. So far, Jamie hasn’t answered her, and from what I can tell, no one has spilled the beans on the deal anywhere else, yet. (Please indicate in the comments if you’ve learned more) I’d also ask what her margin is on these books. Frankly, though, shelf placement is about promotion, so if I were her and the return issue wasn’t going to bankrupt me (next paragraph), I’d go in for next to nothing in margin.
So on the one hand, this deal is groundbreaking. On the other, it could be quite costly to Jamie, if WalMart requires returns that she bears the cost of, unless they negotiated reasonable numbers of books ordered so as to not out-order demand.
Because that’s been the problem in the past for indie authors. I had my novels in B&Ns, Hastings, and indie stores around the country. My Nielsen numbers rocked. But the bookstores over-ordered so hideously (after we begged them to be conservative–why would they not–I bore the cost of their over-ordering, not them) that ultimately the returns made it a wash, and when combined with the effort it took to manage the process, we decided it wasn’t worth it to me. I used Lightning Source/Ingram since many B&Ns refused to order my books even after repeat customer requests, when they were with CreateSpace, which is a) Amazon and b) POD non-returnable. Many would order them from CS, though; it was store-dependent. Some still wouldn’t order even through LS, because the books were still POD, albeit returnable. B&N stores: nation-states at their worst. Maybe that’s why they’re announcing declines again this quarter. But I digress.
Did the ground just shift here with Jamie’s deal? Yes. The impossible became possible. We still don’t know how much, though, so we can’t opine of whether the possible is probable, profitable, or prudent for most of us to pursue.
Only time will tell, because Jamie’s not. Yet.
Congratulations, Jamie McGuire. And from one indie to another, THANK YOU. I can’t wait to see what you and other groundbreakers do next.
To learn more about options to get your indie books in print and in stores, check out my book, What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?
For a great read on Jamie’s deal and the implications, check out Hugh Howey’s Creating Space: The Wayfinder.
Next week’s planned post: Kindle Unlimited.
Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes overly long e-mails, award-winning and best-selling mysteries, and hilarious nonfiction, chairs the board of the Houston Writers Guild, and dabbles in employment practices resources investigations from time to time. She is passionate about great writing, smart authorpreneurship, and her two household hunks, husband Eric and one-eyed Boston terrier Petey. She blogs on writing, publishing and promotion at Skip the Jack and on her beleaguered family, and much-too-personal life at Road to Joy. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound (if she gets a good running start). Check out her USA Best Book Award winning novel, Going for Kona, her permafree mystery (and series lead), Saving Grace, her writing/publishing/promotion Bible, What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?, her newest mystery, Earth to Emily (Emily #2).