I was talking to a friend about Indie Bookstores and realized I have complicated feelings about them.
On the one hand
I fully support fighting Amazon at every possible turn. They’re bad for everyone, especially book stores. Please, if you haven’t read ‘How To Resist Amazon and Why,’ it’s worth your time. It’ll help you understand just how bad Amazon is.
We get books for my niece and nephew from our local bookstore all the time. We can walk to it, the owner is awesome and supports the community in myriad ways.
Indie bookstores are awesome. Ours is also a bar, and I’ve written parts of many of my books at the bar, sipping BookBar Red. But I don’t buy books there, because I read ebooks, which is a weird issue.
Indie bookstores inform the literary conversation, and no two are the same.
On the other hand…
Indie bookstores are really not that big a friend to indie authors. This is, of course, a generalization. Some are exceedingly supportive of indie authors, and many fall somewhere between awesome and horrible.
Sure they can order your book from Ingram Spark if a customer asks, most will, but some won’t even do that. Many, including mine, don’t offer it by default. I was standing at the info desk, picking up a pre-order we placed for Nicole. A kid came up and asked for something. “Nope, we don’t have that in stock.” Zero effort to offer to order it. From their website, you absolutely can place and order and they’ll do it, but in-person, nope.
Consignment isn’t support.
The store near me, and most, I’m guessing, offer consignment. You bring in the copies, and they’ll carry them for X months, take a cut of what they sell, give you back what they don’t, plus a check.
That certainly doesn’t suck (the getting a check part). Your book is shelved like any other book. Which is, you know, ok, but why not have an indie author shelf? Or a table with rotating indies? Or a local authors section that is always stocked? Why not give these indie authored books on consignment a little nudge? The store still gets money afterall.
It’s cool to be in a store, but I want to send people to find my work on display, not sticking spine out like the hundreds of other books that sit on the shelves until they’re sent back.
Traditional Publishing Trappings.
Indie bookstores are still glued to the traditional publishing world. My local one makes a big deal every Tuesday about what’s been released by the big publishing houses. Social media posts full of the week’s releases. Every. Single. Week. Most of those books won’t sell much, will eventually get sent back. Not once I have I seen them hype an indie author’s work.
They make a big deal about whatever every other bookseller is making a big deal about. If Oprah is talking about it, or a President is mad about it, they’ll have dedicated tables and shelves for it. I’ve yet to see them tout an indie author release. Sometimes they’ll mention (after the fact) an author holding an event for their book.
Communication and Reach.
Indie bookstores, get emails and details from publishers, probably all the time. They get press stuff, author tours, etc., from in-house promoters and promoters that work for agents, etc. All of which are the trappings of traditional publishing.
None of which most indie authors participate in or have access to. I mean, I’ve released 15 books and only once had them on the shelves at BookBar and never at Tattered Cover. I also don’t have a publicist, and while it was likely visible to both stores via Ingram Spark (not sure if they update or anything. They sell ads in a magazine which, just light the money on fire).
I’d bet that any given week, the books that were in their new release insta post two or three months ago, are being boxed to return. Those books all get space with little to no effort from the author. They all got some love online from the bookstore.
I’m not saying they need to track down indie authors, not at all. I mean, shit, there are thousands of us. I’m sure there are a hundred in my part of town.
I do think they need to be WAY more welcoming and make it clear that they want to support indies. My local one has a single “Print this consignment form” link. There’s a wall of “Indie authors,” but no idea how that’s curated.
I get the struggle. Shelf space is limited, do you give it to an indie? Or to someone rep’ed by the big 4 publishers? Except that so many books from the big 4 are debut authors with no more, or often less, pull than your average indie that hustles their ass off.
Sure, a lot of customers come in looking for the latest John Grisham, Oprah bookclub book, etc. But just as many would likely browse a shelf of local or indie authors to see what’s out there that they can only discover at this store.
It really is, and I get that. Do I spend time and energy that could be writing, chasing down book stores? They’re busy, but so am I. Should they be figuring out where indie authors are and reaching out? That’d be awesome but isn’t realistic. As I said, they’re busy. I don’t know the solution, but know that right now, there’s not much incentive to support an indie bookstore, as an indie author.