April 2, 2013

What Does Your Bookstore Do For You?


I’m sad to announce that Between the Covers, my town’s last local independent bookstore, has announced it’s impending closure. After we lose BTC, we will still have several used bookstores, but the only bookstore to offer a large selection of new books will be Barnes & Noble.

As an author, my relationship with B&N has deteriorated over the past 3 years. When my first book was released by a small press, the manager of the children’s section ordered a few copies of my book for their shelves, but couldn’t give me the “local author” turn out, because shelf space in the middle grade section was too valuable. She suggested I get an article written about me in the local paper to drive traffic to their store. She wasn’t able to host a book signing either, but I didn’t mind because I had one scheduled at a local independent store (not Between the Covers). Since the release of my first book, the indie store that hosted my very successful signing has gone out of business, and B&N has stopped allowing my books on their very ‘valuable’ shelf space because my publishers dare to be print on demand (some with return options, mind you). So the only way a B&N customer can get my book is if they request it be brought in for them.

For my family and friends, that’s okay. If I’m not selling directly out of my stock, I’m having a conversation with them and can explain that the book is available from B&N, they just need to request it. Honestly, since they have to wait anyway, they usually end up getting it through Amazon to avoid the trip to the store. But I’m not having that conversation with the parents of the kids I meet through local school visits or with the grandparent who read my article in the local parenting magazine and likes my writing style and decides to look for my books the next time they visit B&N.

Being an author and getting the word out about your books is hard enough, but with our retail options shrinking – even in our own backyard, it is increasingly more difficult to support the storefronts. I’m sorry to see our last indie bookstore go, but I’m wondering what the bookstores do for us anymore? If all they can afford to do is sell bestsellers and not engage in the local talent pool, do we even need them?

I want to hear from consumers! What does your bookstore do for you, specifically? How have they enhanced your reading experience? Educate me on how to get the most out of my storefront experience! Or have you stopped using them altogether?

8 comments:

  1. We use B&N, but mostly just for my kids to sit and read while they're there. I'm sorry to say that we mostly do that or visit the library. I have ordered some books from B&N that I heard about in a story on NPR. There is still an indie by us holding on by a thread, Book Carnival, that specializes in mysteries and romantic suspense. They frequently have author nights.

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    1. I didn't see a lot of hosting at our indie. Some, but not a lot and I think that really engages the community when you have events. But you say your indie does it and they are just hanging on. Maybe because they specialize. Hmmm.

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  2. I hear you. Borders was our biggest store here, but it shut down with all the others. There are only a handful of indie stores and some used bookshops now.

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    1. I wonder if more and more consumer's rely on the internet for their information about books too, so the in store experience isn't as valuable as it used to be (?) I don't know.

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  3. If B&N can't accommodate it's authors with space and book signings, then I guess Amazon is the better deal for all involved. As far as book signings are concerned, I would think that signings could be done anywhere. I once went into the bank and asked if they would allow a book signing there and they said, "when your book comes out we will consider it." I went to a restaurant and an author was there with her book. If it's festive I would think a place of business would be thrilled to have you drawing attention to their place of business. As writers, authors and artists, I think we deserve more respect than the big book stores are giving. I personally like the comfort of my computer to order a book. Small book stores have charm, and a special comfort. I would love to see more of them open back up with a new twist that would be profitable,and let the big book stores become a thing of the past. Authors and illustrators deserve better than the treatment they get from the big stores who have no room or time for them.

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    1. I think eventually we will be left with only a small, small amount of small, snall bookstores. We have one record store in town that sells and trades used L.P.s. I can see bookstores eventually being relegated to that.

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  4. I'm very sorry to hear about Between the Covers. Golly, it just gets tougher all the time, doesn't it? Albuquerque B&N is not welcoming to local authors either, but most of us don't worry about it much since we do have two other indies - although the newest children's indie just celebrated its 3rd birthday over the weekend and it is barely hanging on.

    Hang in there, Kai!

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    1. I'm cheering for your children's indie. I wish I was independently wealthy so that I could open one. They are such amazing places and kids should have the opportunity to experience a children's bookstore!

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