The Goopy Ghost at Thanksgiving displayed at 40% of viewport width
November 2018 by V. R. Duin


Once the Browns had left the field,
towing home their tasty yield,
a sad and lonely goopy ghost
went in search of a friendly host.
(The Goopy Ghost at Thanksgiving)

It may be a good thing for some ghosts to disappear and not reappear, but the holiday book jam created by the inability of self-publishing houses to fill holiday book sales with POD books is not beneficial to readers or writers.

Print-on-demand freewheeling is not compatible with sound business inventory management practices. Independent readers in search of unique POD books are unlikely to find them. They are intangible digital files.

Virtual POD is akin to the supernatural world. Ghosts have no mass. Items of virtual reality may not become physical. Advances and book sales are not guaranteed. There is no guarantee POD books will be printed.

Self-publishing companies get behind in production. Self-published books rarely are held in business inventory for sale and distribution. Purchasers have no patience for products that are not immediately available.

Some books become “ghosts” of themselves. In particular, independent publishing houses cannot keep up with the holiday demand for individual titles printed one volume at a time for individual purchasers.

Avant-garde readers may have to wait for delivery. Unique and innovative adaptations in the arts are buried beneath popular, established titles. New and struggling writers garner paltry sales without word-of-mouth reviews.

Few self-publishing companies make money peddling books. They make money from packages: type formatting, composition and layout. Their job is to prepare print-ready work with which the creator can deal.

It is expensive to hold an inventory of products for resale. Not many businesses are willing to accept the challenge of warehousing, marketing, advertising, promoting, wholesaling, retailing or shipping books.

Selling is a ghastly, not ghostly task. Never-before-seen titles by unfamiliar start-up originators require hard-hitting sales tactics. Readers shy away from pitches perceived as aggressive or desperate.

Self-publishing houses do not make money printing individual books for the open market. They do not anticipate much of this activity. Less than one percent of self-published books achieve significant market engagement.

People buy what is celebrated by others around them. Readers are not experimental, adventurous or forward-thinking with literature. Monopolies in mainstream keep unknown writers off book lists and out of physical stores.

Selling is not in self-publishing companies' job descriptions. Writers must promote their own sales from their own inventories. Readers may not take chances on unsold print stashes in remote garages or attics.

Traditional readership is a communal mentality. Sellers control the market with price-cutting and generations of market exposure. Sequels retain demand. A history of buying confidence results in less promotion.

Self-published writers struggle for traction. Self-published materials rarely have a physical retail presence. Retailers, including Amazon, use non-compete contracts to limit where productions are merchandised.

Inventory management is based on what moves. Titles must have a stellar history of sales. Otherwise, they will not be shelved or warehoused by retailers. Rebellious readers are unlikely to find these unique gems.

Shelf space is claustrophobic. Value accrues to products that are plentiful and known. Sales are critical to businesses. Retailers make money selling products, not storing them. They buy to meet demand.

The last thing retailers want is impenetrable jams. Slotting fees charged per item for bricks-and-mortar shelf space range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost is comfortable for top sellers.

Cost rises for better shelf positions. Stores charge promotion, advertising and stocking fees. The rapidly-shrinking number of stores puts a shorter supply of ideas on the market. Visibility matters to ghosts and writers.

Friendly merchants may provide temporary free space. Their loyalty is with large publishers. If customers buy sufficient print quantities, independent titles may find permanent homes with traditional publishers.

Online is a major marketplace. As retail moves online, products and services may find better opportunities outside bricks and mortar. Fast inventory flow allows online retailers to strike profitable bargains.

Chains may fill special orders for customers with independent books. Titles rarely are added to major online catalog listings. Sales often are deterred by no-return policies, bulk-order incompatibilities and slow printing.

Nothing is solid about Ghostly Feelings or unprinted books. People expect instant gratitude. Customers are likely to cancel special orders, printed one book at a time. Filling individual requests can take weeks.

POD orders rarely are filled in time for peak selling occasions. To keep sales in-house and prevent a holiday book jam of back orders, retailers encourage the purchase of best sellers printed and stocked in advance.

Holidays are a bad time for book launches. Self-publishing houses are overwhelmed with anxious writers. Everyone wants to release books in time for important selling seasons. Books often remain works-in-process.

The file may be ready for viewing, printing or electronic transmission. Beyond courtesy supplies for the writer, the process is incomplete. It takes longer to complete releases against the tide of competition.

The rush for holiday book sales can be scarier than a ghost. Printing and proofing errors are more likely to happen during seasons of holiday chaos. Few people slog through hasty, error-riddled text.

Mainstream's incumbent authors leave little room for ground-breaking amateurs on collective shopping lists. The emphasis is on popular titles. Few writers hang around long enough to achieve brand name status.

Traditional publishing houses anticipate demand. They print, stock and distribute in bulk to retailers. Product inventory is carefully managed to avoid frustrations with missing books or shelving errors.

Price-fixing further improves the competitiveness of reigning titles. A handful of publishers, distributors and book sellers work in concert to protect successful books and authors. This exerts a restraint on trade.

Surprising best sellers do surge to the forefront. Sales surge for mistaken purchases of books with titles and appearances of hot sellers. This intentional mimicry further disrupts the market for less popular titles.

It may be a good thing for some ghosts to disappear and not reappear, whether by command or on demand. notes the Rise of the Machines: eBooks & POD might help tech-savvy upstarts.

Change offers hope for survival of pioneering information. Recent trends are driven by e-commerce technologies, subscription services and format innovations. E-books stay in supply. Printed books may be a dying form.