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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Larchmont Losses Offer: Lessons To Publishers



Although I live in New Rochelle, New York, I tend to shop and hang in nearby Larchmont.  The cozy little town is about 30 minutes outside NYC—close enough to commute but far enough to feel you can escape the jungle.  The area is safe, clean, and lined with trees.  The residents are in the nation’s top 8-10%, by wealth.  But what it is not rich in is smart commercial landlords. Book publishing can learn a few lessons from them over what not to do. 

Since the onset of the Great Recession, Larchmont has lost more small business than any of the nearby Westchester towns, or so it appears to the naked eye.  Even with a recession as bad as this one—or especially because of it—I would expect landlords to be more humble and find tenants within a reasonable time period.  Some spaces have remained empty for over four years.

My guess is that the first few empty stores were about landlord greed.  They were holding out for big bucks that never materialized.  Lesson one: don’t assume the marketplace is bigger than it really is.

The next thing that happened is fewer shoppers came to town because fewer shopping options were available to them.  This created a domino effect on the existing stores, leaving them to struggle to find foot traffic.  Lesson two: Your business or ability to sell a book can be impacted by how many retail options are available out there.

I would guess one out of every three or four store fronts in a five-block radius are empty in Larchmont.  Verizon went out last week.  The Globe, a restaurant that had been around a long time, went out last month.  In the past four years only a few stores found new tenant and one of those  is a place that should go under soon.  They sell pizzas that you order at the store but cook at home.  Lesson three: Not every business is useful or services a marketplace void.  Make sure your book has a readership base.

I keep expecting the town’s elders—a mayor or city council or some rich developer—to step in and remedy the fact the town is losing its commercial base, but no hero has stepped to the plate.  Lesson four:  Don’t expect a savior to help your book.  The big corporate or organizational buy of your book is rare and even when it happens you still need to take other steps to be viable.

Even though Larchmont is struggling, I see surrounding towns thriving.  Mamaroneck established a restaurant row that is awesome.  White Plains has tons of night spots. Port Chester has restaurants and shopping.  New Rochelle hasn’t expanded its commercial offerings but it hasn’t contracted, either.  Larchmont is going backwards.  Lesson five:  Your competition will divide up a limited supply of customers.  Your book needs to be better, different or more attractive than competing titles.     

The Great Recession has taken a lasting toll on our nation’s economy and impacts the book publishing world as well.  Larchmont may have mismanaged itself beyond the effects of the economic slowdown but it’s obvious that if a rich town struggles that the country as a whole is still in trouble.  It means authors and publishers have to work extra hard, extra longer, extra smarter—and to be prepared to sell books at Kmart-pricing levels.

Hopefully things will improve soon, but until then, remember not to make the mistakes of the Larchmont landlords or you may just find your book for sale in an empty store. 


What Advice Would You Give A Struggling Writer?

Andrea Steffens:  
First I nee to know exactly what the struggle is.  With the work itself: read read read, write write write...start a creativity group where you read to three other people or talk about your who give feedback if you want or just listening if you don’t want...and they get the same benefit.  It has worked wonders for many people. If it is about publishing...there are so many options today, it boggles my mind.  Research like crazy.

For more information, please see:  www.ashlar.org


Stephen Brayton: 
I’ve desired to be a published author for many years. Every person I meet, whether in critique groups, at writers’ conferences, through social networks, or with the individual publishers to which I’ve been contracted have taught me something about the business. Every little bit helps. I’ve met some wonderful friends and contacts. In the critique groups I’ve seen some serious writers, hopeful writers and writer wannabes. Just as in every type of group, there are those who are very supportive and those one can do without. Lol. But every person teaches, whether how to improve writing, or what to stay away from doing.

At the conferences you not only meet well known authors, but agents and publishers. They are contacts for possible future use. Plus, you are associating with writers all looking for answers. I’ve gotten down underneath the surface of social networking, but know there is still a lot more to be done. Again, every little bit helps. With my publishers I’ve learned that authors should do their homework and learn as much as possible before getting involved with any publisher. Learn as much about the business as possible. The publishing world is unique, but with many aspects of a lot of other businesses. So far, it’s been a fun ride.


Amy Munnell :
Apr 25
Here are my tips for writers:

1) If you want to be a professional writer, never work for free.  You can work cheap if it is a new area or medium for you, but get paid.

2) Seek advice and critiques, but find your own way. 

3) Be a writer first.  You can't fix what isn't there.  Write first then revise/edit.

4) When submitting, do your research, follow the guidelines and present yourself professionally.

Amy Munnell has been a freelance writer for nearly 25 years.  Her work has appeared in various publications including the Chocolate for a Woman's Soul series, Saying Goodbye, From the Heart: Vol.2 - More Stories of Love and FriendshipPoints North, ByLine, Athens Magazine and Georgia Magazine.  She is a member of the Southeastern Writers Association (http://southeasternwriters.org/), serving as Publications Editor, Vice-President, and now Co-President.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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