Dear Indie Bookstores,
How are you? I am fine. Okay, well, really, I’m not so fine because I have quite the dilemma. You see, I read/listen to all the discussions rife with anger and confusion and angst and worry and more anger about Amazon and B&N.com, and other online and e-book sales (but in particular, Amazon), and the Indie Bookseller, and frankly, it makes me most uncomfortable, for here I am in these past months touting up online retailers, and yes, most lately, most particularly, Amazon Kindle, despite where my heart may lie with The Community.
And why, you may ask? Why would I do that? Why?, when Brick and Mortar stores need our support—especially the little Indies who are hanging on by their eye-teeth and who are the backbone of a community and who need, require, our loyalty and support. Yes, yes, I understand this, very much so. And let me tell you, Indies, I surely did tout you to the winds and talk you up most energetically—before I was published and then right after my first book, Tender Graces, was published. TG was even nominated for a SIBA award, and I thought, “Oh, wonderful! The Indies are with me! We shall work together!”
So sincerely did I urge readers to the Indie bookstore. So sincerely did I put names of Indies on my website. So sincerely did I write posts on my blog urging readers to buy my books at the Indies. I purposefully did not mention Amazon; I rarely mentioned B&N.com; and even more rarely did I mentioned e-books.
Yet, what happened over and over was this scenario:
Reader: “I went to such and so bookstore and asked for your book and they said they don’t have it.”
Me: “Oh! Well, I am sure they will order it for you.”
Reader, “I didn’t think about asking that. I’ll do that next time I’m in there.”
And then I wondered—did they? Or did they forget me? Or did they end up purchasing it elsewhere—online. What happened “later.”
Or, even worse, this scenario:
Reader: “I went to such and so bookstore and they didn’t have your book so I asked if they would order it and they said they couldn’t order it. Where can I get it?”
Me: “Wait, what do you mean they couldn’t order it? It’s available in all the places books are usually ordered from, just as with any other book. BelleBooks is a small press, but they’ve been around for 12 years or so. Hmm, I don’t understand . . .”
Reader: “They said they couldn’t. I guess I’ll order it online.”
Oh, dear Indies, these are true scenarios that happened more than once, more than twice. And for every reader who contacted me, I have to assume there are more of them out there who experienced the same things—I do not like to have to explain to readers why they can’t find my books in Indie bookstores, or why an Indie bookstore wouldn’t take the time to order a book for a reader, for it makes my heart feel funny.
Now, yes, there is this wonderful scenario and my heart is filled with gratitude:
Reader: “So and such bookstore didn’t have your book, so I asked them to order it and they did.”
Me: “Thank you, and thank the bookstore for me, too!”
And the very best scenario yet,
Reader: “I went to such and so bookstore and there your book was on the shelf, so I bought a copy.”
Me: “How wonderful! . . . etc etc etc.”
Alas, the last scenario hasn’t happened as much as I’d love for it to, for we all know how much we love to make those impulsive purchases, and how much we can forget about something and someone when out of sight out of mind, yes?
I do understand how this is Business, but do you not see that I have to think this way as well? This is a career for me, my job, my life, my love, and yes, I must make a living, too. We both, dear Indie, have a love of books and words, which is why we are in this business, right? However, we both must also look at the business side of things. If you do not sell books, your bookstore will not survive. If I do not sell books, then my publishers will not keep publishing my books—and, as well, I want to be able to support myself, just as you do. I simply cannot stand living off my husband’s earnings; I am an independent woman who needs to support herself. Further, I can’t imagine if I couldn’t have my books published; all my work for naught? Oh no! Indies, I am as passionate and frightened and worried and sincere and hopeful as you are about this business, just from the other end of it.
So, when Amazon creates a buzz about my books, I am “forced” to talk it up. My biggest sales have come from Amazon sales, and e-book sales—not because I “advertised” for readers to go to Amazon and B&N.com and other online retailers, but because that is where my readers most often find my books in print and in e-book, and then it grows from there. And once that begins to happen, I then talk about those promotions or those mentions or where I am becoming a “best seller,” as I have been on Amazon Kindle. Oh, but I know it comes at a price that is at your expense; however, I am also aware that I am but a blip on the radar of so many books and authors, and I am but a tiny woman/author.
So, I ask you, dear Indie Bookseller, what am I to do? How do I remedy the dilemma of your asking us to Support the Indies with the reality that you do not know who I am and or you do know who I am but I’m so small, so very small. How am I to step back and look at this? How do I resolve this conflict of the heart versus the business side?
I suppose I always thought that Indie Booksellers and Small Press Publishers were “in this thing together,” and would work to support each other, to help each other to grow, and to find ways to survive together, when really, it seems that may not be so at all? Or perhaps I am too close to the forest to notice all the new growth.
If you have a solution to my dilemma, then I am so very happy to hear it. For I’d love to work with you, to know we are together in this thing called survival and love of books and words.
I am your servant, if you so desire, and all the best to you,