The Goopy Ghost at Thanksgiving
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 self-publishing houses' inability to fill holiday book sales with POD books is not a good thing for readers or writers.

Independent readers in search of unique print-on-demand books through self-publishing houses are likely to find a holiday book jam interfering with holiday book purchases. Self-published books rarely are held in business inventory for sale and distribution. Print-on-demand freewheeling is not compatible with sound business inventory management practices. Readers will not wait for books that are not immediately available for purchase. Some books become “ghosts” of themselves. In particular, self-publishing houses cannot keep up with the holiday demand for individual POD books printed one book at a time. This is not a priority for them. Avant-garde readers, in search of unique and innovative ideas in the arts, may have to dig to find these hidden authors. They also may have to wait to receive the desired title. Unless the title is popular, POD books are printed upon order. They are not held in stock. It would be helpful to new and struggling writers if readers would help to promote holiday book sales by word-of-mouth and written reviews.

Self-publishing houses make money from book packages: type formatting, composition and layout. Their job is to get books to the writer. They are not at all concerned about holiday book sales or the holiday book jam. They do not operate as retailers. They do not want to warehouse, market, advertise, promote or sell books. It is expensive to hold an inventory of books for resale. New and unknown titles by new and unknown writers require aggressive sales tactics. Selling books is a ghastly, not ghostly task for printers. Self-publishing houses do not make money printing individual POD books for sale on the open market. They do not anticipate self-published books will require much of this activity. Less than one percent of POD books from self-publishing houses achieve significant market engagement. Readers are not particularly experimental, adventurous or forward-thinking with respect to the arts and literature. They buy what is celebrated by others around them. Unknown writers are rarely on book lists.

Selling books is not in self-publishing houses' job descriptions. Once a title is self-published, these houses become mere printers for the writers and their customers. Monopolies are established in the collective mentality. Long-running sellers are able to control the market with price-cutting, empire-building practices. Many generations of readers have a history of exposure and familiarity with these books. Sequels are generated to retain demand. Readers must possess great spirit to find original books. Self-published writers struggle to gain traction with new titles. They must promote their own book sales from inventories on hold for this purpose, be these in-house, online or at retail locations. Readers may not take a chance on a writer's pile of unsold books. The inability of printers to fill holiday book sales with POD books also creates a holiday book jam for readers and for retailers. Self-publishing houses cannot or will not keep up with the demand for holiday book sales by printing, packing and shipping one book at a time.

Independently published POD books, without a stellar history of sales, generally will not be shelved or warehoused by retailers. Inventory management is based on what sells. Rebellious readers in search of something new are unlikely to find it in retail stock at any physical location. Retailers, including Amazon, use non-compete contracts to limit where writers may sell their productions. Shelf space is claustrophobic. Attention creates value in books that are plentiful and known. Holiday book sales are critical to these businesses. Retailers make money selling books, not storing them. These businesses depend upon outside printers and publishers to timely supply the needed inventory to meet demand. The last thing retailers want is a holiday book jam. The slotting fee charged per item for entry to bricks-and-mortar retail shelves can range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cost varies by region and market demand. This cost is comfortable for the impenetrable top sellers.

Retailers also charge promotional, advertising and stocking fees. Payment rises for a highly visible position on shelves. Readers are unlikely to find books from new writers in the rapidly-shrinking number of bricks-and-mortar stores. As the number of outlets for creative productions shrink, fewer ideas reach the market. New writers cannot afford to pay for shelf space. Retailers will not take a chance on new titles. Visibility matters to ghosts, readers, writers and book sellers. A friendly merchant may provide free space, for a while, but is unlikely to promote or sell unknown POD books. If customers buy enough books, these titles from self-publishing houses may find a permanent home at a traditional publishing house. Ghosts also try to settle into a permanent, physical home. Holiday book sales benefit when a spirited individual writer finds connections that are willing to pioneer with a new and unusual creative work. Few retailers are will to participate a holiday book jam of unsold books.

Readers, who will take a chance on self-published POD books, have a greater potential of finding these books online. This also is where most product and reader reviews are found. As retail moves online, products and services often find greater company beyond bricks and mortar. Due to inventory flow, online retailers often strike better bargains. Advances and book sales are not guaranteed in this market. The virtual world is unlike the supernatural world. Ghosts have no mass. Virtual reality can become physical. There may be a delay for fulfillment. Online retailers take orders, then fill them from outside suppliers. Chains also may fill special orders for their customers with print-on-demand books from self-publishing houses. In the process, independent titles may be added to the online catalog listings of these stores. However, rarely are these books promoted during holiday book sales. Readers must be trailblazers to find books that are unorthodox.

The difficulty for readers transcends the complications of discovery. Readers may have to plan in advance of their buying need. When a product is not supplied, the retailer may cancel the order and refund the purchaser's money. This is particularly true for holiday book sales. POD is incompatible with bulk holiday printing. As with ghosts, there is nothing tangible about an unprinted book. Customers are likely to cancel special orders, printed one book at a time at self-publishing houses. Filling these book orders can take weeks. POD book orders rarely can be filled in time for a peak book selling occasion. To keep sales in-house and prevent a holiday book jam of back orders, retailers may encourage the purchase of something available, usually a best seller that was printed and stocked in advance.

Holidays also may not be a good time for independent writers to launch new POD books. Self-publishing houses are overwhelmed with anxious writers who want to release books in time for peak seasons. These books are works-in-process. The file format is ready for viewing, printing or electronic transmission. The book is incomplete until it is printed. The holiday book sales rush can be scarier than a ghost. Readership may be best when release is postponed. Printing and proofing errors are more likely to happen during the resulting holiday book jam. Holiday shopping is often planned and completed ahead of the occasion. Mainstream's bestselling authors may be on shopping lists, leaving no room for new, print-on-demand books. The emphasis on popular books may interfere with sales of unknown titles.

Traditional publishing houses print books in bulk, then stock and distribute this inventory to retailers in anticipation of an expected demand for popular titles. Inventory is carefully managed to avoid the frustrations of missing books or errors in the shelving of popular titles. Price-fixing practices limit competition for these titles. A holiday book jam is avoided for books that are sure to sell. Influencers make holiday book sales. Accommodations are made, because publishers profit even more than the writers. The Rise of the Machines: eBooks & POD has changed the retail business as well as the publishing industry. Readers are challenged to move outside the block of influence. This is difficult, because a handful of publishers, distributors and book sellers work in concert to protect books that have proven successful.

Readers often find books that reached the market first. Independent authors, with no history of purchases, cannot anticipate pending demand. They fall victim to the holiday book jam. During peak holiday seasons, self-published POD books are unlikely to be timely printed and supplied. This exerts a restraint on trade. Surprising best sellers also surge to the forefront, further disrupting 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. However, this is not a good thing for holiday book sales of print-on-demand titles that are made unavailable by self-publishing houses during the holidays. Inventory must be available at the time of purchase. Readers are discouraged from finding new and unusual books during peak selling seasons, because they are not in stock. Retailers will not go to the expense of purchasing books that may not sell. Retail trends are increasingly driven by e-commerce technologies, subscription services and online innovations. Fortunately, e-books cannot go out of supply. This provides some hope for the survival of new literary ideas.

POD Books Create Huge Jams

  • POD books Goopy says:

    Self-publishing houses focus on profitable packages for new writers rather than on the unprofitable fulfillment of individual POD books.

  • Holiday Book Sales Goopy says:

    Holiday book sales of bulk orders for bestsellers with profitable sales volumes take priority over infrequent sellers.

    • Holiday Book JamGoopy says:

      During a holiday book jam, there is still hope: e-books may be available and scarcity may prompt readers to plan early purchases of books in print.