WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Bookstores. Oy.

Yelling

I’ve been putting together a list of indie bookstores I’d like to approach as purveyors of Town Father, with the idea that I’d send them a copy along with my pitch and hope that they’d agree to stock a few copies.

But here’s what I’ve learned after a little research. If you’ve heard of the bookstore (say The Tattered Cover, Powell’s, or Books Inc.), odds are they are biased against you out of the gate if you’re a self-publisher. Or, more precisely, if you publish via Amazon (and its subsidiary CreateSpace). One store’s honcho has this to say:

Does it matter to you if a book is done through CreateSpace?
It does. We don’t provide shelf space or events for books published under any Amazon imprint—including CreateSpace. We don’t appreciate their business model because we don’t think their model ultimately benefits us and the community.

In other words, They’re mad at Amazon and they’re going to take it out on the indie author. This same rep advises authors to use Ingram Spark (another print-on-demand outfit, run by one of the largest book distributors in the world), which eliminates all the nasty. For the bookseller, that is.

Never mind that just about every indie author I know uses CreateSpace. Never mind that — for the writer — Amazon’s system is the most convenient and the most effective. And never mind that it isn’t the indie author causing trouble for the bookstores; it’s the book-delivery system itself. Yes, Amazon, but also ebooks, have changed the game, and booksellers have had a hell of a time keeping up. Publishers too. They’re stuck in the 1950s.

Another bookstore I love has a consignment program for local authors only, but the program has a caveat that’s almost impossible to avoid. “Don’t mention competing book sellers — brick and mortar or online — inside the covers of the book.” Meaning, if you have an “other books by” section at the back, you can’t cite the Amazon links for them. Too late for me. Both my paperbacks tell readers where they can buy the books.

Duh. Everybody does it, so almost nobody qualifies for consignment there. It almost feels like the store wants to find ways to exclude writers, not embrace them.

I’m pretty peeved at indie bookstores right about now, and I’m not sure it will pay off to waste copies of Town Father on hopeless reach-outs. I get the feeling, too, that if I contact them in advance, the consignment buyers will reject me instantly on hearing “CreateSpace.”

Just another element to all this that makes it seem ridiculously futile.

That said, if you’re in good with your local bookstore, ask ‘em if they’d consider selling a very nice man’s very nice book.

Town Father 3D copy

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30 comments on “Bookstores. Oy.

  1. John W. Howell
    November 24, 2015

    Learned this the first time. I didn’t change a think except the imprint so we’ll see. (I don’t expect good results)

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 24, 2015

      They don’t like Amazon’s business model? We don’t like their business model!

      • John W. Howell
        November 24, 2015

        My imprint is as a result of buying ISBNs and registering as a publisher. We’ll see what happens.

  2. islandeditions
    November 24, 2015

    I’ve avoided ranting about this problem in public before because. well. you know … don’t bite the hand that feeds you. But it’s at a point where, after three years in print publication I can say I have never been “fed” by one single indie bookstore (not even the one on Bequia that I constantly have to remind to restock my novel that’s set on this island, fer cryin’ out loud!!). So I’m going public here (and on Facebook) with my complaints. Thanks for raising the issue, Kevin. Quite frankly, if it had not been for listing my books with Amazon and selling books myself directly to readers (or, more the case, “giving” books directly to readers) I would never have had the success I’ve enjoyed with my own publications. Grrrr!

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 24, 2015

      I hesitated to write about this because of the sentimental feelings people have about bookstores, but honest to God — what a bunch of cry babies! They’re not going to topple Amazon by boycotting indie authors.

  3. pinklightsabre
    November 24, 2015

    I’m sorry to hear this. I don’t have any experience in this realm or allegiance to book stores or chains, or whatever. In some ways, it’s like a good cup of coffee: I’ll go where I know I can get one. Or if I want to buy a book, it’s about the book and not the store. I will normally get off my ass and go drive somewhere and shop rather than “one click shop” because I like brick and mortar. But indies can have their own issues, their own level of BS. (I started a rant here I since deleted comparing Starbucks to indies, as I have a POV on that having spent half my life in that realm, but it’s off-topic for you as a writer, trying to operate within their system.) It must be rather dispiriting. For not knowing what to say about it though it seems I’ve said enough. Amazon sure has their shit together with the TV ads here in the UK. And they will just continue sucking it all in like a black hole.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 24, 2015

      Interesting, the Starbucks angle, because in many ways Starbucks is the Amazon of coffee. Big, powerful, and popular. I guess the bottom line is that indies of any stripe have to find ways to float in rough seas, but I maintain — cuz I happen to be a writer — that the indie bookstores are taking it out on the wrong people.

  4. wheremyfeetare
    November 24, 2015

    I had no idea what goes into publishing and selling a book through an indie bookstores. There’s a really good one about 1/2 hour from me…now I need to know what their policy is. I’m going to find out!

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 24, 2015

      Let me know what you find out!

      I’m hoping to plead with a few local stores, since my book is set in this area. You’d think they’d see the benefit of helping the homies!

  5. Adrienne Morris
    November 24, 2015

    Oh, yes. I ranted about this a while back–what hypocrisy!!! I love the booksellers who go on and on about supporting local businesses. Hahahaha. Also love the hipster, better than thou attitude of the owners who make their living selling the same corporate fiction the big evil guys sell. Yeah, you really are independent.

    http://middlemaybooks.com/2014/01/13/independent-bookstores/

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 24, 2015

      Yeah, there’s a shitload of hypocrisy on hand. Frankly, I haven’t come across an indie store that’s particularly special; they’re all cut from the same cloth and the all carry the same books as a Barnes & Noble.

      You make a great point in your post about farmer’s markets. Indie bookstores are definitely unclear on the concept.

  6. Claire
    November 24, 2015

    I didn’t know this either – how frustrating! Not only unfair to penalise authors for their beef with Amazon – but also short sighted of them. Urgh!

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 24, 2015

      Especially when Amazon is the go-to publishing platform! If someone came up with something that’s just as useful, maybe there’d be a little competition…

      • Claire
        November 24, 2015

        Exactly! Indie bookstores should offer/support a viable alternative to Createspace if they don’t want to lose out on a massive market of content…

  7. kingmidget
    November 24, 2015

    I’ve had a very similar reaction to indie book stores recently. It seems odd that they don’t support local indie authors more — aren’t we both kind of cut from the same cloth?

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 24, 2015

      Seems like they think of local indie authors as an irritant. They’re happy to support a local author who’s published the traditional way, but that just means the Big 5 are telling us what we get to read.

      • kingmidget
        November 24, 2015

        Which is very comparable to their fight against Amazon.

  8. sknicholls
    November 24, 2015

    When I published my book, after copious amounts of research and phone calls, I went to twelve local independent book stores. They all professed to support local authors, but none of them would take books on consignment (or offer space for a book signing..my local library did a book signing once). Only one agreed to buy more than two books and they bought four. Mind you, these twelve bookstores covered a four county area with the worst possible traffic imaginable between them, so it took days (and gas) to get them all delivered. An enormous effort to try to sell a couple dozen books. Six weeks later, I called them all to see if they needed me to restock. Most told me that they had sold the books, but not one was interested in buying more as they have to keep their merchandise “fresh”, and have limited space. I really felt let down.

    Don’t think I’ll ever put myself through that again.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 24, 2015

      Yes, I recall you telling that story on the blog, and I guess I didn’t want to believe it would be universal.

      Joke’s on them, though. I don’t think I’ve bought a book at an indie in several years!

  9. Carrie Rubin
    November 25, 2015

    I’m trying to set up some signings at independent bookstores now too. I have one in my local area scheduled, but I’m still waiting to hear back from others I’ve contacted. Twice. I didn’t realize the animosity toward Create Space by indie bookstores. My publisher does use Ingram in addition to Create Space, so that hopefully will help, but I think it’s getting more difficult all around to get signings, even compared to just three years ago when my first book came out. I suppose there are a lot of local authors now all trying to get a signing. There are only so many they can accommodate.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 25, 2015

      I’m curious whether you contacted stores by email, phone, or in-charming-person. I haven’t written to any yet for fear I’ll just be told no thanks.

      I think you’re right, though. They might be inundated by local self-published authors going, “I’m ready for my book signing now.”

      • Carrie Rubin
        November 25, 2015

        I sent emails, but I just called two today to make sure I had the right contact email. For one I didn’t, so I got the correct one and sent a new email. The other I had right so I think I’ll give them a call. Never comfortable for an introvert.

      • Kevin Brennan
        November 25, 2015

        Yes, us introverts always want to stay behind the curtain! What bugs me is that emails are so easy to ignore, so you have to be prepared to follow-up. Ugh.

      • Carrie Rubin
        November 25, 2015

        Yep. I’m trying to explore some alternatives to book signings, like art fairs and such, where authors could set up a table and sell books. So that’s next on the agenda. But this all takes tremendous time, doesn’t it? Time that could be spent on our current WIP. How nice it would be to have someone who took care of it all for us!

      • Kevin Brennan
        November 25, 2015

        Hey, maybe we need to be matched up with extroverts who can do our bidding for us!

      • Carrie Rubin
        November 25, 2015

        My sister’s an extrovert. I should hire her.

  10. 1WriteWay
    November 29, 2015

    This is very disappointing. Kind of like cutting their noses to spite their face, don’t you think? So what if you used Amazon/Createspace to self-publish? If your novels sell through them, then they’ll make money which is what they want to do, right? It may also be the quality of the books they are particularly concerned with. Let’s admit it, we’ve seen some pretty awful writing out there, but then I’ve seen awful writing from traditionally published writers so … .

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 30, 2015

      Totally agree. Even on consignment, they’d make a few bucks, so what’s wrong with that?

      I’m afraid they actually think they’re hurting Amazon with this policy. What? It’s like using a pea shooter against Trump’s ego! Not gonna work.

      But you’re also right about quality. I’d appreciate it if they just said, “We can’t possibly vet every self-published book pitched to us, and they do need vetting, baby.”

      Ugh.

      • 1WriteWay
        December 1, 2015

        Oh, what a great line: “It’s like using a pea shooter against Trump’s ego!”

      • Kevin Brennan
        December 1, 2015

        😎

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This entry was posted on November 24, 2015 by in Publishing and tagged , , , .
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