Is Publishing Dead? Wubbit’s Founder Says No
CINCINNATI—Jan. 17, 2011—Over the course of just a few years, the $40-billion industry has hit hard times. Most fingers point to the birth of e-books and e-readers as the source of the industry’s woes, but Blaine Loomer says the real culprit is the antiquated business model used by most of the nation’s publishers.
“Many authors gave up on making money on their books a long time ago,” says Loomer, creator of Wubbit.com and an author himself. “They use their books to promote their businesses and to obtain speaking engagements, not as a moneymaking tool. When the checks are being handed out, they’re at the bottom of the totem pole.”
Loomer believes the publishing industry would be better served by advocating for authors—after all, these are the men and women who drive their business. What’s more, he believes it’s possible for them to do so while getting back in the black—without cutting jobs or sending them overseas.
His solution? Wubbit.com: the first e-commerce platform of its kind to connect customers, authors and bookstores all in one place.
Loomer says he came up with the idea when, after 20 years in the commercial software business, he decided to change gears and write a book.
“I quickly ran into a sales and distribution model in the publishing industry unlike anything I had ever seen in all my years in business,” says Loomer. “What I discovered was a convoluted system designed to benefit a few large companies and squeeze every penny out of consumers, authors, and small bookstores. Instead of living with the current system, I gathered some software heads together to see if we could change it, and Wubbit.com was born.”
But to understand exactly how a new business model will benefit the industry, it’s important to first understand exactly where its problems exist. Below Loomer provides a blow-by-blow description of the factors threatening to sink this industry:
PUBLISHING PROBLEM 1:
Authors assume all the risk and reap virtually none of the rewards. The authors, those individuals who drive the publishing industry, suffer even greater losses than the publishing industry itself. Because of the current cost/reward structure, the authors are the last to get paid. And after the distributors and retailers get their cuts, there is little to nothing left over for them.
Consider this example from an author who recently contacted Loomer with her story. It’s one that rings true throughout the industry: Her book had a price of $14.95, a print-on-demand print cost of $10.75 (which reflects a 100 percent markup), and a retail commission of 55 percent of the book’s price or $8.22. Unbelievably, the author was losing $4.02 every time she sold a book—and that’s without shipping or publishing costs factored in. (Online publishing with print-on-demand usually costs between $1,500-2,500.)
“Authors must put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the book writing process,” says Loomer. “It is time consuming and tedious, and they do it knowing they may never be fully compensated for the time they’ve put into their books. A business model where the primary contributor gets gypped every time is not a good business model. It is time for the publishing industry to acknowledge that.”
PUBLISHING PROBLEM 2:
Retailers make the big bucks. The current business model is great for business…if you’re the retailer making a 55 percent commission (or selling at a 110 percent markup depending on how you look at it) and not bearing any of the cost to bring the book to market. In the current business model, the retailers hold the power. By selling through Wubbit, authors’ and publishers’ sales commissions are reduced by 20 percent, sending those dollars straight to their bottom line.
PUBLISHING PROBLEM 3:
Current print-on-demand models gouge the customer. The solution to saving the publishing industry is a simple one: cost control. One area that is rife with cost-cutting opportunities is printing. Many smaller publishers have begun using print-on-demand to avoid having huge print runs of books that aren’t selling. Print-on-demand allows them to have much smaller print runs and print only books that they know they can sell, but smaller print runs mean increased printing costs per book.
“Wubbit has partnered with printers right here in the states to create a print-on-demand structure that costs less but still allows for print runs as low as 50 copies,” explains Loomer. “In fact, for the author mentioned earlier who was losing $4.02 on every sold copy of her book, the Wubbit structure could have helped her spend 50 percent less on printing. These reduced costs lead to big savings for publishers and authors.
“To keep costs low, Wubbit streamlines the print process,” he continues. “If an author or publisher is selling on our site, we already have a relationship with them. By leveraging multiple print runs and providing our printing partner a single source of contact, we can help them reduce costs and provide lower prices than an individual author would normally see.”
PUBLISHING PROBLEM 4:
Independent bookstores are left out of the equation. When the time comes to decide on book distribution, most publishers opt to focus on big-name retailers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon (Yes, the same companies demanding a high sales commission!), rather than those small businesses that make the book business great. Every day independent bookstores are forced to close their doors because they’ve been squeezed out of most publishers’ marketing plans for their books.
Wubbit allows publishers and authors to create mutually beneficial relationships with independent bookstore owners, explains Loomer. Bookstores can order products from Wubbit.com in just minutes. If the product is on the site, bookstores know they can get access to that title and purchase it at a wholesale discount without spending valuable resources tracking down a customer request. This saves them time and increases their revenue.
“The Wubbit online bookstore also includes a feature that gives customers the option of buying the title they selected from their local independent store,” says Loomer. “With one click, Wubbit will locate an independent store with their book choice already in stock. Wubbit has made this happen by creating relationships with bookstores throughout the country.”
PUBLISHING PROBLEM 5:
Ineffective technology weighs down the process. The vast majority of websites are focused on retail sales and are supplied by the same old distribution structure as the one used in pre-Internet days. Wubbit, on the other hand, leverages the Internet to reduce distribution costs and move the product directly from the manufacturer to the retailer or the end consumer. Bypassing distributors, wholesalers, and book dealers allows publishers to be able to sell at a more competitive price and maintain higher margins. Loomer describes this as a “win, win, win”—authors and publishers make money, bookstores make money, and the consumer gets a competitive price.
“Wubbit’s technology helps to minimize touch points and movement of the product before it is shipped to the end user,” says Loomer. “What’s more, we feel the book industry is only the tip of the iceberg. The Wubbit.com platform can help dozens of other industries cut costs and minimize touch points through the distribution process. In fact, we have already been contacted by other companies outside the publishing world, and we will be making our software platform available to them—further proof that the Wubbit system really works!”
“Our goal at Wubbit is to connect customers, authors and bookstores,” says Loomer. “By basing our business model on this goal, Wubbit also puts the power currently held by retailers and distributors back into the hands of the publishers. The growing popularity of e-books and e-readers is already shaking up the publishing industry. There is absolutely no reason why it can’t use that spirit of change to rethink its business model, re-energize itself, and restore itself to its past prosperity. With Wubbit, anything can happen!”
Source: Company press release.