Tag Archives: independent bookstores

Not Seen in Bookstores by Noah Baird

I recently read an article on the plight of the independent bookstore. The point of this particular article, similar to other articles I’ve read, was independent bookstores were having difficulty competing with Amazon.com. Our local bookstores are turning into Amazon showrooms. People (I’m not referring to them as ‘customers’ on purpose) are going into bookstores, browsing books, and then buying the books off of Amazon at a lower price.

I have to admit I am guilty of this also. However, I usually make a point to buy a book in the store; partly because I feel guilty, but mostly because I won’t get the book from Amazon for another week and Daddy needs his fix.

As a first time author, a counterpoint to the fall of the independent bookstore is it is often difficult for new writers to get their book on the shelves of an independent bookstore. The explanation I’m given usually covers one of the following reasons:

  • There is not enough shelf space for every new author. Translation: “We are only going to carry books we think are going to sell.” Which means they are going to carry the same books Barnes and Noble sells, but don’t have a Starbucks.
  • New authors don’t have a large enough fan base to warrant carrying the book or hosting an author event. This is a b.s. excuse. People pick up books from authors they’ve never heard of. Most people don’t care if it’s the writer’s first book or fifteenth; if the book looks interesting, then they will buy it. Secondly, I realize a very small percentage of a bookstore’s customers are writers. But there is a larger percentage of customers who want to be writers. People who are interested in writing will go and listen to writers, regardless of genre or popularity.
  • They won’t carry books from a particular publishing company because of return policies. I don’t know enough about return policies between booksellers and publishers to write anything intelligent. However, it seems like the bookseller knows which publishers have return policies they like. Usually, if your book wasn’t published by one of them, then you are out of luck. In my experience, they won’t investigate what your publisher’s return policy is; they just deal with the one they know about. I am not a publisher nor a bookstore owner, but this seems like a navigable obstacle. Both parties are in the business of selling books. It seems logical that a compromise could be made to aid in that goal.
  • Sometimes they are willing to take the books on consignment in return for a larger percentage of the purchase price. Translation: “I want you to write the book, get it published, haul it over to my store, and give me a larger portion of your royalties for your work.” This is always my favorite.

I have to admit, I was surprised by the responses I was getting from my local, independent bookstores. I wasn’t deluded enough to think they were waiting for me, but I assumed there was more of a symbiotic relationship between the stores and the writers. In hindsight, I was under the impression bookstores liked writers. And I think most of them do, but they are more interested in making a profit than establishing relationships with local writers.

I realized my impression that independent bookstores were kindred spirits to independent writers and musicians was wrong. I’ve been to countless indy music stores, and they were full of music by artists you’ve never heard on the radio. This is an interesting parallel; discovering an indy musician not heard on the radio, or before they became big (aka – sold out) is considered a testament to your taste. The same is not true for indy or small press writers. If a writer is not carried by one of the big publishers, then you aren’t truly vetted, and therefor aren’t worth reading. Regardless of the fact that there are countless books by independent writers which are excellent, as well as some really crap books published by the large presses. The reality of it is, some independent bookstores have become arbitrary gatekeepers; Saint Peters of Nightstands. My issue with this attitude is our work isn’t measured for quality, but weighed for the popularity of the writer and the size of the publisher.

The irony of this attitude is studies indicate the reason potential customers pick up a book is the cover. Most people decide if they are interested in a book within 10 seconds of picking up the book. Within those 10 seconds, a customer decides to make a purchase based on two pieces of information: the cover and the synopsis. Reviews and blurbs are also influential, but really confirm the customer’s impulse to buy the book. The price of the book is a distant 4th. The author’s name does influence the decision if the author is well-known; a Stephen King fan will pick up a new Stephen King book. Otherwise, an author’s popularity or the publishing company are not considered. Interestingly, when asked after making a purchase, a customer often does not know the name of the author of the book they just purchased. It isn’t until they have read the book that they commit the author to memory. Yet bookstores behaving like high school girls ordaining popularity based on factors transparent to the customer remains pervasive.

I think this the wrong attitude for bookstores to have. Several years ago, I went to Florida for a business trip. My flight had a long delay in Philadelphia, so I finished the book I brought with me faster than I anticipated. After I checked into my hotel, I wandered out to grab a bite to eat and pick up a new book. The hotel was in a funky beach town with several shops across the street. As I cruised around enjoying the sights, I noticed one street had two little bookstores. One bookstore was hosting an event for a local writer I’d never heard of. I went into the bookstore hosting the author event only because it had something more interesting going on than the other store. I bought three books- two by the author the event was being held for.

I was going to buy a book that day. I bought more books than I planned (which isn’t unusual), but I bought them from the store that had something going on that day. All things being equal, one of those stores was going to make a profit that day. The store with the author event got it. I would like to reiterate I had not heard of the author before that day. He was local author with a regional following. Since then, I have bought every book that writer has published to date, several from a small bookstore that will order books for me. A sale, is a sale, is a sale. A win for the writer translated to a win for the bookstore. That win transferred to another bookstore who made sales on books it didn’t carry.

I’m a bibliophile: I love books, I love bookstores, and I love writers. As a reader, I am concerned with what is happening to local bookstores. As a writer, I’ve embraced Amazon. I may be just a number at Amazon, but at least I’m acknowledged there. And for a first time author, that gives me a fighting chance.

By the way, the author in Florida was Tim Dorsey. If you’ve never heard of Tim Dorsey; mix Carl Hiaassen with the TV show Dexter and give it a bunch of Red Bulls and vodka.

Noah Baird is the author of Donations to Clarity, which often is not found in an independent bookstore.

Donations to Clarity

Donations to Clarity

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Do You Hear What I Hear? by J J Dare

We all want someone to listen to us when we have something to say. No matter if the subject matter is banal, benign, or boorish, there is a foot-stomping part of us that wants to be heard and acknowledged.

In addition to the auditory audience, cyberspace allows us to reach unlimited listeners. Social networking sites and blogs are our pulpits. The internet is a mega megaphone.

Writers want to be heard, too. What we write is a reflection of ourselves and we share that on a different listening sphere. You may forget my spoken word, but my written word lives forever.

Buy a book and hear what an author has to say.

Support Independent Publishers.

Occupy your local Independent Bookstore.

In honor of listening instead of pontificating, I’m going to shut up now and entertain you with some random pictures (each has its own unique story, but that’s for another day):

Central Park Squirrel caught in the act

John Wayne was here

Gumby Interrupted

My rakish dad (on the right)

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Authors You Admire

There are only five authors I follow without question: Pat Conroy, Michael Cunningham, John Irving, Kate Atkinson and Lisa Gardner. Unfortunately the wait was 14 years between Conroy’s Beach Music and South of Broad. Four years between Irving books. Cunningham’s By Nightfall: A Novel comes out next month after a 3 year absence of his words.

Thankfully Gardner and Atkinson come out with a book per year. Count on crime writers and their avid fans who demand a religious release date. Gardner is the first woman to receive the Best Novel award from the International Thriller Writers Association for The Neighbor. Her latest, Live to Tell, is one of her best. The second chapter will absolutely blow you away. 

Atkinson is a British author, but don’t let that turn you off.  Her tight literary prose are handled masterfully and always feature quirky and vulnerable yet strong characters are ones readers empathize with. Started Early, Took My Dog will be released in March.

I can now add two new authors to my must read list. Rebecca Cantrell’s historical mystery A Trace of Smoke continues to be one of my favorite books of the year. I’ve been reading the second book of her Hannah Vogel series, A Night of Long Knives, and this one is every bit as good as her debut.

The other author I highly recommend is Sophie Littlefield. A Bad Day for Sorry is fresh, full of memorable characters and a theme that screams to be on the big screen. Her second, A Bad Day for Pretty, is a fun, fast-paced read as well.

I have had the honor of getting to know these two talents recently and both have provided blurbs to the upcoming Sisters in Crime Chapter Desert Sleuths anthology, How NOT to Survive a Vacation, I had the pleasure of co-editing.

So which authors to you follow? Which do you recommend and are there any you’ve lost faith in?

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent bookstores.

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Searching For a New Title

If you’re anything like me, you spend a long time coming up with the perfect title for your novels and short stories. Some writers give their manuscripts numbers or nicknames until they’ve found something ideal. PublishersMarketplace often lists sales of projects as “Working Title” because agents and editors know the title pitched isn’t perfect/already recently exists/hasn’t been approved by the editing committee.

The title is one of the elements I always know when I begin a novel. Every title I’ve attached to my works has at least 4-5 different meanings to the piece.

I write thrillers, and one word titles seem to work best for this genre. Lisa Gardner’s titles Gone, Hide and Alone come to mind. And of course the Twilight blockbuster trilogy which has made one-word titles such a hit.

The title for my debut thriller novel is perfect: Staccato. This definer, along with the cover photo of hands clasped in handcuffs, hovering over a piano keyboard, give the perfect set-up. I had the Staccato title from day one of story conception and was thrilled when Second Wind Publishing agreed to keep my original title and the cover concept.

Now I’m polishing the second book in the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series and I’m rethinking the original title: Ice on Fire. Yes, there are problems . . . people are constantly calling the project Fire on Ice, which has been used as a title before. To me, these titles have completely different meanings and implications, but not to others. And the visual of a jagged edge chunk of ice with fire licking upward would make a really cool cover photo.

But after spending time with my writer friend, Jeffrey Siger, who’s second novel Assassins of Athens just came out from Poisoned Pen Press, I’m thinking I should not only go with a compelling one-word title, but completely redo my existing title’s concept. Jeffrey suggested I stick with the music theme since the plot also involves the music world (this time a rock star is in peril). I think that’s a great idea, so I’ve been kicking around options and looking through music term glossaries.

And so, for the first time ever I’m considering a different title that the one I originally came up with. Nothing has rung my bell yet, but I like: Resonance, Vibrato, Cadence, Velocity (my favorite so far, but not really a musical term unless I add another term to it) Frequency, Counterpoint. Any one-word suggestions for the title of the next book would be greatly appreciated!

What about you? Have you ever needed to change the “perfect” title of one of your novels?

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent book stores.

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The End Is Near – by Deborah J Ledford

So we’re coming up on the end of 2009 and I’ve been going down the list of everything to be grateful for.

First and foremost, professionally, is that my debut suspense thriller Staccato was picked up and published by Second Wind Publishing. This has been a decade-old dream and I am so proud of the finished product.

Three short stories were acquired for publication as well. The literary short “Sighted Brother” now appears in the Gulf Coast Writers Association anthology “Sweet Tea and Afternoon Tales,” my one and only humorous story “A Christmas Tail” was published by the Sisters in Crime chapter Desert Sleuths for their anthology “How NOT to Survive the Holidays,” and “The Spot” will soon be featured in the Second Wind Publishing anthology “Mystery on the Wind.”

Most of all, I am grateful for all the readers who have found my work, the reviewers who have showered Staccato with praise, and the other authors I have met during my seemingly endless online promotions.

A BIG thanks to Pat Bertram for her tireless and awe-inspiring efforts in promoting all the Second Wind authors. And, of course, to Mike Simpson for making my wish to become a published novelist come true.

What were your accomplishments this year? Let us know what you have to be grateful for.

Wishing you all a fabulous 2010! Hang on, it’s going to be a wild, exciting ride for all of us.

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent book stores.

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