Episode 75 – Walmart, Tracking, and Judgey

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Question of the Week: Do you buy books at Walmart? How hard would you work to get your books on the shelves there?

Jim and Bryan brought the thunder in their landmark 75th episode! After the two talkers gave props to their latest Patreon supporters (Mark E. Cooper’s Merkiaari Wars Box Set, C. Steven Manley’s Awakened, Kate Curran’s She’s Out of His League, and Honoree Corder’s Prosperity for Writers), Bryan introduced his $1,000 Copywriting for Authors Giveaway. Enter and get his book description cheat sheet at http://authorcopy.com
This week’s tips included solutions for top writer excuses, how to create an indie collective, and why you should track your marketing efforts. News stories focused on the Wall Street Journal’s piece on ebook pricing, Facebook marketing, Kindle Scout, judging books by their covers, more zombie publishing memes, and Jamie McGuire’s Walmart shelf placement. This week’s Question of the Week: Do you buy books at Walmart? How hard would you work to get your books on the shelves there?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • How to enter Bryan’s $1,000 copywriting giveaway
  • Answers to the top excuses writers like to make
  • How to create an indie author collective
  • Why you should track your marketing efforts
  • How trad pub shot itself in the foot with pricing
  • Why Michael Alvear is wrong about Facebook
  • How one author succeeded with Kindle Scout
  • Why the Judgey guys should go further
  • What Konrath and Eisler think about the “devaluing” meme
  • Why Jamie McGuire’s Walmart placement matters
Question of the Week: Do you buy books at Walmart? How hard would you work to get your books on the shelves there?

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  • I don’t buy books at Walmart but think it’s a good place for a book to be seen. I was in a Walmart with my sister over the weekend and while waiting in line by the books, I pointed out a new novel by an author she collects. She didn’t buy it there but said she’d likely get it in the next few days. As for how hard I’d work to get books on shelves there, it likely isn’t the best use of my time at this point.

    • Bryan

      Always good to be seen by the general populous. Thanks, Crystal!

  • I don’t buy books from Walmart, but the way things are headed with the very few big brick and mortar stores (BAM and B&N), Walmart (and Target) might be the next place that authors will start looking at. And it’s certainly not a bad idea since there are way more people who shop at Walmart and Target than a bookstore, so the chances of visibility would be much higher.

  • Spider McGee

    Though Walmart does carry some genre titles (romance and Longarm westerns, if they still exist), I don’t think they’d be able to move the kind of stuff I make. Nor would I want them to…it seems that they handle only safe, middle-of-the-road products that they’re pretty sure will sell. I mean, they’re welcome to try…but, no returns, Walmart.

    Also, apropos of nothing, I don’t shop at Walmart. The Ninth Circle of Hell should not sell sweat pants.

    • Bryan

      But don’t you want to sell middle-of-the-road products in the Ninth Circle of Hell?

      • Spider McGee

        It’s an established fact that the biggest-selling book in Hell is 50 Shades of Gray. I want no part of that action.

  • Eddie Jakes

    I’d rather be broke than have one of my books in Walmart. I’m on team Target!!! Plus I have to disagree with Bryan about Fantastic 4, that movie was doomed from the start of its production. Check the blogs and read all about the developmental hell the director went through.

    • Bryan

      I know, I know. Trank was toast from the beginning. I still think 5 years ago it would’ve made $60 million.

      • Eddie Jakes

        The last one made $290 million with horrible reviews. I think dark knight just up’d the standard for these kinds of movies.

  • Jim,

    Your responses to the questions were cracking me up today. And I don’t think it makes a you a Debbie-Downer to convey opinions in a direct way. Not every message needs to be delivered with a side of candy.

    I would go take a picture of the books in Walmart for you, but then I’d have to go inside. So…

    Keep being you. Cheers.

    • Agreed. You and Bryan should duke it out more often :P. It’s nice to see well ,thought-out different perspectives without it coming to a yelling match.

      • Bryan

        Thanks guys :). A little healthy discourse is always a good thing.

    • Haha, funny! I’m going to have to go my local Wal-mart now to check it out, I guess.

  • And just when I was about to crack a joke about there being a book section in Wal-Mart. 😛 Did you know Kroger’s has a book section too? And no, I don’t think there is enough benefit in getting my book in there. Something tells me only the big name titles and authors do well there.

    • Bryan

      Kroger’s! Here in Illinois we have Jewel-Osco and they have a book section. Maybe I should inquire.

      • Huh??? You mean Kroger’s isn’t a national chain? And what is this “Jewel-Osco” you speak of? Sounds like witchcraft down here in the South 😛

        • Bryan

          Tis. Tis. And it’s Harris Teeter in North Carolina. There be dragons here.

          • Witches and dragons? I can’t handle this… I’m callin’ in sick.

  • Mahogany wood sucker.

    • Bryan

      Great heavy metal band name.

  • I tried Judgey and just have to ask – what is the point? If I’m judging the covers and they’re boring, have nothing to do with the title or are just plain bad, why would my star rating based on visual appeal be in any way relevant to the Goodread’s star rating based on content? This seems like a waste of time… Or am I missing something?

  • Bill Weiss

    I never buy anything from Walmart, and their so-called book department carries nothing but titles one step removed from a cut-price book warehouse.

    I would be embarrassed to tell anyone my book were on sale at Walmart, so I would not only not try to market it to them, I would not even allow them to carry it if they approaced me.

    • Bryan

      You don’t have to tell your fans where it’s on sale… 🙂

  • I used to buy books in Wal-Mart because I would totally buy books anywhere. However, I do agree with some of the comments saying that it’s probably really only big names that show up there. If the opportunity presented itself I would take it for sure, but I don’t think it’s something I can afford to put time into right now.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, I bet McGuire had some people helping her on that front.

  • I’ve bought books at Walmart. Lots of times. They usually have the top 5 of every major category. Hunger Games, top non-fiction, etc. Costco has always has a lot of people hovering around the stacks of books in our local store.

    As for getting onto Walmart? I’d do that in a heartbeat. What difference does it matter if you don’t make money? We give away books for free online as a marketing funnel! This is a no brainer to me. Just like permafree, It’s not about making money on that book, but on all of the other books in your backlist.

    • Bryan

      Free funnel, hooray!

  • Crissy Moss

    I do not buy ANYTHING at Walmart unless I can’t get it anywhere else. Their cheap products, and sub par treatment of their employees, along with the often dingy and dirty departments leads me to avoid that place like the plauge.

    I buy most of my books from amazon, and have started buying more expensive books (usually traditionally published) when they are on sale, at half priced books, or (if all else fails) borrowed from the library.

    However, there are millions of people who shop at Walmart at the time, and their brand new books are often discounted to 30% off the cover price, sometimes more, so I can see the appeal for those who do shop there. They usually have a selection of the most popular books out, along with a lot of religious books and bibles. (at least the last time I was there several years ago.)

    • Bryan

      Understood. I rarely go there either.

    • Spider McGee

      It’s different now, I’m sure…but in the early 2000s when I lived in St. Paul, MN, if you wanted to go to Walmart you had to drive over the state line into Hudson, Wisconsin. There simply wasn’t the option. They just didn’t want Walmart around. It didn’t hurt that the Twin Cities were also the headquarters of both Target and Best Buy.

  • Crissy Moss

    Also that “Fat Vampire” on the Judgey sight is not by Johnny B Tuant. It’s by Rex, a comedian. I haven’t looked to hard, but the ones I saw were all traditionally published.

    • Bryan

      Ah, weird. My mistake.

  • I’ve bought books at Wal-Mart before… been a while, though. But maybe I’m an outlier. I don’t “shop” at Wal-Mart (or anywhere, really). I go to a place, buy what I need, and leave. There’s not much time available for browsing the book section (regardless of how small it may be).

    Regarding the book cover thing with Judgey, if I can take a moment to shill myself a little, I coded a little tool that takes a slightly more analytical approach to evaluating the top book covers in various Amazon categories. Even wrote a little blog post about it here: http://monsterjavaguns.com/blog/junglebook-simple-kindle-ebook-cover-analysis/ . There’s some interesting things a designer (and an author) can learn from the process. Might be fun to built it into a web app.

    • Bryan

      That’s super cool, Jason. Thanks for sharing.

  • QOTW – Yes, if I’m there already. Most of their fiction books are romance, young adult, thrillers, and westerns. I’d love to have my fitness and nutrition books in there instead of the garbage that they have in there now, like that Food Babe bullshit.

    • Bryan

      Down with Food Babe!

  • Matthew Earl

    To answer the hours question. 63.5 hours according to iTunes. Times that by ‘X’ for total time put in however.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Matthew. Oof, I don’t want to think about how much time I’ve put in ;).

  • FYI… the large book section at the Walmart next to where I work…

    • I had no idea. Thanks for posting this.

    • Bryan

      Whoa, that’s a ton of books!

  • Yes, I have bought books at Walmart. Check out the price on Debbie Macomber’s book “Silver Linings” (orig. $26.00). The hardcover price at Walmart is $14.97, and at Amazon it’s $17.01. You can get some good deals at Walmart, especially since the e-book is $12.99. And, yes, I would like my books at Walmart, even if they are heavily discounted. Exposure is important. How hard would I work? Probably the same as I do every other kind of advertising. The picture is my local South Haven, Michigan Walmart.

    • Great pic!

    • Bryan

      Nice! Thanks for sharing the picture, Connie!

  • C.Steven Manley

    I don’t buy books or much else at Wal-Mart. Since their expectations for consideration of placement are so high, I think that putting a lot of effort into getting in there isn’t worth the time since you would already have to have enough print sales under your belt that the exposure would be more icing than cake. Also note: they only care about print sales.

    • Bryan

      For sure. Walmart.com would be an interesting e-retailer though… 🙂

  • Chris Syme

    The DBW piece on Facebook ads got a lot of traction this week because the author tried to pass his thoughts off as proven fact. His numbers were from one case study–tough to make a decision based on that. I was glad to see that DBW put a rebuttal piece up from Mark Dawson a couple days later.

    • Bryan

      We’ll be covering the rebuttal :).

  • Daniel Martone

    I don’t buy books at Walmart… but wouldn’t it be interesting to see Walmart, who is always trying to compete online with Amazon, throw their hat into the online self-publishing world? Maybe give the Zon some competition in the online world. They could even go a step beyond that and install Espresso Book Machines in every store, which would open up a whole new market.

    • Bryan

      What a cool idea. Thanks, Daniel.

  • Sariah Salisbury Wilson

    I called and left you guys a message. An author friend of mine who is a big fan of your show told me that you’d mentioned me in #75, and I have to tell you that a lot of the assumptions made were totally incorrect. I didn’t annoy, spam, or continually market to the same people over and over again. That would be a waste of time. That month was spent looking for and contacting new blogs – I didn’t hear back from most people, but I wanted this to work and I didn’t know how the process would turn out or what the threshold would be, so I did my best to find new people to vote.

    Now that I’ve met and talked to many other Kindle Scout winners – this is not a system that can be gamed. There are plenty of people who stay on the Hot & Trending list the entire month and don’t get offered a contract. Conversely, there are people who were on the H&T list maybe one or two days and still won a contract. This isn’t about your friends and family buying your book – this is about Amazon and their behemoth marketing machine doing all the work for you. Trust me, I don’t have a platform. I don’t have a mailing list with thousands of people on it. Most of the other authors in the Kindle Scout program don’t either. I think you’re missing the point – it is not a popularity contest. It’s a get your book in and let Amazon market it and make both of you a crapload of money (which they did).

    I also mentioned in those posts that when Montlake gave me a contract, they flat out told me they didn’t need me to do any marketing, because they had no issue with taking care of all of it. So the idea that people who garner a lot of votes are somehow more useful to Amazon because they will do more marketing is also incorrect. Trust me, Amazon doesn’t need authors to do anything on that score.

    I kind of wish you’d asked me before the assumption was made that I annoyed everyone and “pushed it like crazy.” I didn’t. I wouldn’t, because I totally hate when people do that to me. 🙂

    • Bryan

      Hey, Sariah. I’ll check the message. Thanks for contacting us.

      For what it’s worth, I chose your story because I thought that what you did was awesome and I was excited about it. I was impressed and I thought your efforts should be celebrated.

      Jim assumed the worst, and kind of went on a tangent about that. I think he’s just seen a lot of people game systems.

      It’s good to hear I was right and Jim was wrong. I count that as a point for me ;).

      Congratulations on your success!

      • Sariah Salisbury Wilson

        Thank you Bryan – and thanks for defending me. I was just surprised by you guys even talking about me, because honestly, I’m kind of a nobody.

        And you were definitely right – I hope you lord that over him for a long time. 🙂

        • Bryan

          Will do. I love lording ;).

          Keep doing what you’re doing. Won’t be “kind of a nobody” for long!

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting. We’re a news type show and you made news, so that’s why we covered it. But we’re not investigative journalists so we didn’t reach out to you for comment first. So yeah, I assumed a few things, and I’m glad to hear that I was wrong. I did note several times that I was assuming and that I doubted you were spamming. If it came off poorly as an attack it wasn’t meant to be that way.

      I think I’d love to have you on the show sometime to talk about your experience. I’d like to know more about how it works and so would our listeners.

      • Sariah Salisbury Wilson

        I would be happy to talk to you any time about the Kindle Scout program. You can drop me an email at sariahwilson @ hotmail.com

  • Amy Denim

    Hey Jim and Bryan, I’m a new to the show and have been binge-listening. Not sure why Jim was so cranky-pants today. Eat a Snickers, you’re not yourself when you’re hungry. I’ve got tons of good info out of most every show and love the round up of the news and tips style to the show. However, I have to say, I was a little disappointed about the supreme judgy-ness of buying and selling books at Wal-mart. Especially Jim’s comment that their section is filled with romance and Jeff Foxworthy books. So, what if it is? So what if they don’t sell War and Peace? Sounds like Mahogany Book syndrome to me.

    • Bryan

      Amy Denim for the win! Definitely one of my favorite comments ever. Thanks for posting and listening :).

    • I have a low opinion of Wal-Mart, that’s obvious. I definitely needed a Snickers.