Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Quick, when was California Bookstore Day?


Gosh, not sure how I missed this back in May. Honest, I didn’t hear a word about it: California Bookstore Day.

I’m not exactly sure what I was doing on May 3 — probably sorting my collection of hole-punch confetti (by color, if you’re curious) — but apparently this event was a rocking success up and down the Golden State. I’m sure thousands of copies of the Fifty Shades Trilogy Bundle were sold.

Like most writers, I’ve always loved bookstores. Independent bookstores, I mean. The mall-style chain store was always one of the more depressing places on earth to me, and that vibe evolved into the Barnes & Noble/Borders model we all came to love because: espresso! I always had the feeling I was a lab rat in a marketing test when I went in there. Sure, I spent a lot of money in those places, especially the Borders on Union Square in San Francisco, which made me feel urbane and worldly, though I do believe I bought more CDs than books over the years in that place. (Always used it as an excuse to eat at Scala’s Bistro, across the street at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. A killer farfalle con funghi there.)

But over time, I think a lot of independent bookstores have taken on a similar air. There’s a culture to them, and it’s one that’s not entirely bookish either. It’s a lifestyle thang — a collection of stuff that make us feel a certain way or lets us kill time in a setting that appeals to our egos somehow. Even so, what’s on the front table is usually the same stuff you’d see at B&N.

I wasn’t too pleased recently when I read that independent bookstores — or a large number of them, anyway — have been refusing to stock books produced through CreateSpace, the popular print-on-demand outfit that so many self-publishers rely on for paperbacks. (I’m about to use them for Occasional Soulmates, as a matter of fact.) Oh, right. I remember now! They’re owned by Amazon, so inherently evil and anti-bookstore.

I’ve said this many times, but the whole publishing and book-selling business is changing; we happen to be in the midst of a revolution. It seems to me, though, that the goal of everyone involved (maybe excluding Jeff Bezos) should be to get good writing into the hands of eager readers.

Boycotting CreateSpace books hurts authors, and, by extension, readers. Independent bookstores, celebrated so enthusiastically on California Bookstore Day, should rethink their strategy and welcome the work of independent authors.

4 comments on “Quick, when was California Bookstore Day?

  1. John W. Howell
    August 5, 2014

    California bookstores are an independent lot. They love to sell the traditional publishing house authors since there is no risk. You got a lot of books left over? Back they go. Also with the advent of Amazon I am not surprised they don’t sell CreatSpace stuff. It’s easy to exclude since none of the major publishers use it. I remember when independent stores try to boycott books sold in chains. Didn’t work.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 5, 2014

      It’s a pretty sticky wicket, when you start to include/exclude certain sources. On one hand, I can see why the huge supply of indie books isn’t tapped: not enough shelf space. But on the other, it seems like independent bookstores ought to support local talent, at the minimum, whether the books are printed by CreateSpace or China.

  2. sknicholls
    August 5, 2014

    I had some success locally..minor really, but here’s how it goes. A dozen stores agreed to purchase 2-4 copies each. This dozen stores was spread out over about twenty radial miles. Most sold my books. A few asked for more (at 2-4 books a pop). Some didn’t. I checked back with the others and even when they sold, some didn’t want to buy more. They want whats hot and new…even if they sold the old??? So it was a lot of time and a lot of gas money spent. Fun to know I reached a few more readers, but running your own distributorship is more work that even I think my book is worth. So I’ve basically quit.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 5, 2014

      That’s my take on supplying regional sellers too. Maybe they do you a favor buying one batch of books, but they’re really not interested. Some authors, in some places, though, seem to do well with local entities other than bookstores, especially if the book has a local flavor. (I’m thinking of Francis Guenette, off the top of my head.)

      I guess the idea is, get creative.

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This entry was posted on August 5, 2014 by in Publishing and tagged , , , , , , .
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