The End of Borders and What It Means for Authors

We all heard the news earlier this week: Border is shutting down all its stores. So how does that impact the average author? Here are some quotes, collected from various sources (with varying opinions), that should help to shine a light on things.

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“Borders was known as a retailer that took special care in selling paperbacks, and its promotion of certain titles could propel them to best-seller status.” Independent booksellers, counterintuitively, could also be harmed by Borders’ closing: In the Providence Journal, one independent bookseller feared that publishers, squeezed for cash, will be less able to extend discounts to indies.”

–Laura Hazard Owen, Former Editor of Publishing Trends

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The passing of Borders, and the likely passing of more bookstores in the future, is part of a technological evolution that allows writers like me to put content in front of people like you without adding all kinds of costs to the process for both of us.

The only reason we ever had bookstores in the first place is that it wasn’t possible for people to get books any other way. That is no longer true, and the result is a positive one for authors and readers. It’s obviously not so good for bookstore employees, but businesses that perform a function that’s no longer necessary don’t serve their customers – or the economy at large – by hanging around. Things evolve. They always do and they always will.

We simply don’t need Borders anymore. And most of us will be just fine – if not better off – without it.

–Author Dan Calabrese

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“Borders was particularly open to African-American writers. Many of my own signings were at Borders, as were signings of a lot of my authors,” she said. “We’re going to have to find alternative ways to market books.”

–Author Kristina Laferne Roberts, who uses the pseudonym Zane and also operates Stebor Books
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“One thing that is practically assured is publishers will be taking on fewer and fewer new writers, and more than likely will continue the recent trend of dropping mid-list authors. Basically, unless you are a major seller and/or have enough luck that your very first book is a major hit, the book publishers are not likely to be interested.”
— J. Harmon, Writer and Journalist
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Add to this the ailing economy, and the confluence of these events means that the third and fourth quarters are likely to be disastrous for traditional publishers and their authors. They rely heavily on chain bookstores as their main public showcases. But a huge portion of the shelf space for books in those stores will vanish, almost overnight — right in the middle of the economy’s non-recovery.”
–Author, editor and speaker Robert James Bidinotto
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“Aside from Barnes and Noble (BKS), which analysts predict would pick up 18% of the Borders market, most retail book chains carry a fraction of Borders’ titles. To put it in numbers, a robust independent bookstore might stock as many as 10,000 titles, while the average Walmart (WMT) typically carries 1,400 to 1,700 titles. By contrast, a Borders’ superstore has well over 100,000.

“Many of those tens of thousands of titles stocked by Borders are written by midlist authors, the writers who are most reliant on browsing book buyers. Not yet elevated into the the rarefied ranks of authors with instant name recognition, members of the midlist may have a single title in print, or dozens. While their books may be selling briskly to a solid core of devoted fans, most midlisters haven’t yet cracked a national bestseller list, which means their names aren’t sufficiently recognizable to generate a sale.

“For these authors, the bulk of their sales depend heavily on impulse purchases made in retail outlets. For this reason, authors frequently fret over whether or not their publishers have purchased “co-op,” or front-of-store placement for their titles. But the issue becomes moot if the bookstores themselves are no longer there.”

–Karen Dionne, internationally published author of the environmental thrillers Freezing Point and Boiling Point.

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What impact do YOU think the closing of Borders will have on authors like yourself? Share your thoughts!

2 Comments

  1. Today, the “average author,” is one whose work is published by an Independent press – and self-published authors. In both cases, Borders’ closing will have little to no impact. The best friend to the Independents and others is Amazon.com. Has been since its online portal first opened – until today. And probably will continue to be…

  2. Bookbuying will move increasingly online, for print as well as ebooks.

    Ebook buying will experience a surge over the next few months as many of Borders’ former customers check out out ebooks.

    Publishers will be hurting; soaking the multi-billion dollar loss from Borders, plus the upcoming planned return of hundreds of thousands of books from B&N superstores all over the country in September is going to be a one-two punch which does a lot of damage.

    Less books will be bought by publishers. Less copies will be printed of most books bought. This will drop average advances to authors.

    Oddly, Borders failing will help self publishers a great deal, because much of that customer base will move online, where SP books stand on the virtual shelves as equals, and many more people will move into ebooks, where SP books have roughly a third of the market. Coupled with the expected decreased purchases, print runs, and advances, I think we can expect many more midlist authors will continue the already steady shift toward self publishing.

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