The New York Times article on James Patterson (James Patterson, Inc.), was instructive regarding how publishers, and thus bookstores, cater to the big-time authors. A couple of paragraphs told about how the big publishers now put most of their marketing efforts behind their best selling authors, much more so now than the past. The result is that best-selling authors sell even more books, but the mid-list authors get very little marketing dollars. Publisher pay thousands of dollars to reserve top-placement sections of bookstores for their best-selling authors. Thus, the best-selling authors keep selling more copies while the rest of us may initially get into a bookstore, but will soon be sent back to publisher if we fail to sell, never to return.
Thus, even if the smaller authors get into the bookstores, if there isn't a strong marketing campaign (either by the author or the publisher), then people won't come to the bookstore looking for the book, and it will get returned.
I'm a small-time author, and am glad that my books are offered through Baker & Taylor and Ingram, but the bulk of my sales come through Amazon. And yes, in a sense, Amazon is just passive, but isn't that the current revolution in marketing - from "interruption marketing" to "I'll help you find me marketing"?
By optimizing my Amazon pages, posting articles on popular sites and blogs, getting reviews on popular sites and newspapers, and by having all these linked back to my Amazon page, I get regular sales. And I get 35% of each sale on Amazon - much, much better than the percentage of my sales to bookstores through the big wholesalers.
So for me it's both/and, but Amazon is becoming the bigger and bigger player for me.
J. Steve Miller
President, Legacy Educational Resources
Author of Enjoy Your Money! How to Make It, Save It, Invest It and Give It
"The money book for people who hate money books."