Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Apple's iBookstore distinguishes itself by merchandising indie titles

As a self published indie author I've come to accept that I will never be given any merchandising love in retail stores either online or brick-and-mortar. By merchandising I mean front page and category level display and promotion on websites or being shelved in a physical store. I will always be buried where only those restricted to bed rest will have enough browsing time to actually find me. I will not be stocked by  bookstores except for the charitable indulgences of the occasional local outlet.

But maybe that is changing. Apple sells ebooks through iTunes in its iBookstore, and it has started a Breakout Books promotional section that highlights popular indie titles, many of which are distributed by Smashwords, a distributor I also use. This is actually big news. Except for the rare appearance on Amazon of Jeff Bezos lauding some big hit self publisher, online and physical bookstores always stick to merchandising the same titles by large publishers. If you surf through online and physical venues, you'll find the same titles splashed across the shelves. This merchandising space  is paid for by big companies promoting its new products. That is all very normal and expected, but it also creates a box-store and chain restaurant type homogeneity.

Perhaps Apple by beginning to do some indie author merchandising is seeking to differentiate itself from its competitors. It will also gain goodwill from thousands of indie authors who appreciate the recognition of their value. Amazon has gained big loyalty from many authors by allowing self publishers into the game. This results in many authors promoting their books with links to Amazon, sometimes exclusively. I suspect Apple wants to get into this link-love action.

Merchandising titles from sources outside giant corporate "persons" also offers readers more diversity, especially at the front page gateway level. Yes, large publishing companies produce books that become popular, but not everybody reads them. Big publishers reject all kinds of manuscripts that have gone on to enjoy success in the indie market.

I can dream of someday getting featured in the Breakout emerging authors section at Apple. I've always sold ebooks there and the readers in the iTunes marketplace give me some of my best reviews. For now, I'm happy to see a mainstream marketplace recognizing the contribution indie authors make to the entertainment marketplace. 

Read more about this subject at:

The New York Times
The Smashwords blog