Monday, February 29, 2016

What Does The Ending Of Samhain Tell Us?

As many of you have heard, Samhain Publishing is calling it quits. Christina Brashear has done a great job with the company and I know a lot of people did really well with them. But when you read the letter they sent out to their authors, it becomes clear that the issue is not with the company but with the system.

Samhain was one of the best when it came to digital sales so if they are struggling, what does this tell
us. According to their letter they stated "the recent sales numbers are not providing any hope for recovery and none of our efforts have been successful. For the last two years we have tried many and varied types of campaigns to promote your titles and have had no success in reaching the new customers we need to thrive. Each month that goes by our sales continue to shrink..." The simple truth is that when readers don't buy books, no one makes money.

This company was aggressive when it came to promotion. Their authors were some of the best when it came to getting their titles out there to readers, and yet, they struggled to get those new readers. It is a later comment that really brings to light the issue this company had, as well as far too many authors out there. Samhain noted "We’ve tried to renegotiate terms with Amazon in order to buy better placement within their site and perhaps regain some of the lost traction from the early days but have been met with silence. Other retail sites are trying, but the sales have never risen to the level of Amazon and are declining as well." At first glance, it would seem the problem is with Amazon, but that is not the case. The issue is partially with "placement" but in a larger part "the lack of readers."

I have written about this in the past but finding new authors, or for that matter, any book has become a challenge with the demise of the brick and mortar stores. To find a book, we can't simply browse but we have to actually turn on that computer and type in the name of the book and the author we want. If you are a new author, or you have a new book out there, people will have no way of finding you. When they are talking about placement in the Amazon line, they are trying anyway to get their titles essentially out there on that table you used to see with "New Releases" at the book store.

But I do personally believe, and this is really disturbing for someone who is also in education, but we have a population of people who simply do not read. All of these tablets that were once the central element of the digital publishing market are now being used for binge watching of House of Cards, Outlander the TV Series and Breaking Bad. We have a population that would rather "wait for the movie" than read the actual novel.

It can be easy to start throwing stones and claiming mismanagement or screaming that Amazon is the problem, but the real point is twofold: A) readers are not buying books: and B) digital marketing is not efficient enough to make those sales work.

I hate to see when a company collapses. I personally want to wish all of those at Samhain the best of luck with new ventures. For the authors, I want to also wish you all of the best. This might be a small bump in the road, but this business will go on and you will land on your feet!

1 comment:

  1. As someone who has been published by epublishers with paper book lines like Samhain, I've watched these small publishers come and go. However, some have withstood the ups and downs.

    From what I've heard from my small publishers, the market has been wobbling drastically as more and more readers and trendsetters have moved away from the small publishers and toward self-published books.

    The self-pubbed and the traditional publishers get all the press, reviews, and attention, and the small presses nothing.

    Poor Samhain has been waving its arms and screaming at the top of its lungs with ads in prime locations like RTBookReview, but no one is paying attention because the trends have moved elsewhere as well as the newer, better writers who now don't bother with the small press and go straight to self-publishing.

    The downward trend of the royalties paid to the publishers then to the authors hasn't helped. The days of 50% royalties for both publisher and author are long over, and the expenses have only risen. Something had to give, and it's sad that it is the publishers.