Saturday, November 15, 2014

Are There Rivalries In Book Publishing?

I went to see the New York Knicks play against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center last week.  The NBA contest matched up the two New York teams, a growing rivalry that has thus far seen neither team advance far.  But the two teams battle for their division lead and the pride of New York.

Sports has many great rivalries, both at the college and pro level.  There is Army-Navy in college football, Yankees-Red Sox in baseball, Celtics-Lakers in basketball, Patriots-Jets in football.  So many sports build up a rivalry based on region or location, past performance, or hype between individual athletes.  But book publishing doesn’t have such rivalries, does it?

Well, there’s Amazon vs. The Big Five
There’s The Big Five vs. Self-Published Authors
Amazon vs. B&N
Amazon & B&N vs. Indie Stores
Publishers vs. Authors
Publisher vs. Publisher
Author vs. Author

But these rivalries don’t necessarily spur sales or resonate with book-buying readers.  Certain bestselling or celebrity authors will compete with themselves to get their fans to buy, but really there’s no direct competition between Rowling’s next book and Grisham’s newest tale.  There may be a theoretical limit as to how many books one can buy, read or give as gifts, but few see a direct correlation between the buying of one specific book and not buying some other specific book.

But publishing needs a rivalry or a competition to spur it on.  These books compete to get on the bestseller charts but it’s not a direct battle where one can be on the offensive and defensive.  Is there a way to create that atmosphere?

Maybe we need more of a public battle, where one author challenges another author directly, where they each compete against the other to win a certain number of sales in a certain amount of time.

In movies, some win the box office wars before a movie even debuts on screen.  How?  Their studio gets a commitment from a certain number of theater screens to carry the movie opening week.  By doing that, a certain number of films monopolize the screens and in essence, put themselves into position to rank in the top 5 or 10.  So for movies, there is a direct competition, one that begins before the movies play against one another.

In music, bands compete to book concert locations.  The number and size of venues will impact their ticket sales and album sales.  They also compete for radio airtime.

But books can launch when they want.  There’s enough shelf space in stores – and of course online – to offer many new books for sale simultaneously.  There’s competition for limited book review space in key publications, but even with the media there’s flexibility.

On television, shows air head-to-head in designated time slots and compete for viewers.  If you watch a show on ABC at 8:30 pm Tuesday you can’t watch something else at that time.  Game on!

But books seem to compete in a vast universe of books and other content-based entertainment, but there are no great rivalries.  No Cowboys-Steelers, no Giants-Dodgers, no Rangers-Bruins.  We need some competitive controversy to brew with books.  Hachette v. Amazon doesn’t excite us.  Can’t one author challenge another to a fight?

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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