How Indie Bookstores are killing Indie Books

The last sacred cow of the book world is planting the seeds of its own irrelevance. The untouchable, most holy of institutions, hailed as the prime literary taste-maker and engine of new discoveries, no longer holds its touted powers, yet none dare voice out loud that the ‘Emperor’ is no longer wearing their clothes.

Until now.

Once upon a time, in the blissful days of the pre-Internet literary world, local independent bookstores played a crucial role in discovering and publicizing new books. Great books on small presses could win the attention of literary agents and major publishers, and the then-Big-Six’s ‘hidden gems’ could find the accolades they deserved.

For the last fifteen years, the Web has been usurping the indie bookstores’ ‘power of influence’. Countless literary review sites and blogs, and book retailers’ online reviews, have, for the most part, taken over the role of “taste-maker and engine of discovery”. Yet, everyone in the literary world still treats the local indie stores as the most sacred of cows.

They shouldn’t.

indie-bookstore-meme

Yes, one of their biggest issues can be summed up nicely in a meme. Yet, the problems here go much deeper than that. Indies are backing away en-masse from “local author” programs and even stocking any books released by small presses. With the Big Five’s ever-increasing risk aversion, and honing of commercial formulas, how much “literary discovery” can the local indie stores really do, when they restrict themselves to carrying only major-publisher books?

Soon, the indie bookstores will be forced to recommend books by “James Patterson” his hired writers, because they’ll be the only titles left on their shelves.

james-patterson

A slight exaggeration, but you get the point.

Due to the aforementioned risk aversion, increasing numbers of excellent books will never be published by the Big Five. And those books have to go somewhere.

Over the last five years, many have headed for self-publishing. The preponderance of best-selling self-published books has long since proven that the Big Five’s commercial formulae are missing many #1 New York Times (e-book) best-sellers, and even “The Martian”, a novel that served as the genesis of a hit movie. No indie bookstore could have discovered or championed “The Martian”, because it was never on their shelves in the first place.

And the indies’ lack of shelf diversity is creating an even bigger problem for themselves.

Given the relative ease of self-publishing, it is safe to say that any author who signed to an independent publisher after, say, the year 2010, was an author who was committed to having print versions of their books available for sale at bookstores.

With the local stores turning a blind eye to small press books, in the process they also shelf-block the authors who committed themselves to the more difficult path of traditional publishing, just to have print versions of their books, that the typical indie bookstore will now no longer stock. In other words, the indies won’t stock the books by the authors who gave up full creative control and self-publishing’s higher royalty rates, just to get print editions for stores that will no longer carry them.

Not a great way to make friends of those authors. Or, for that matter, their independent publishers.

In the face of this trend, some great small presses have had to shut down (R.I.P. Booktrope). Others, like my own publisher PDMI Publishing, LLC, have moved on to targeting large book retailers. For the last several years, PDMI has been holding its author signings at major chains such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, which have proven to be more receptive to the small press, its authors and its books than the typical local indie bookstore.

Other small presses still vainly holding out hope for the indie shelves will probably go the way of Booktrope, sad to say. And once all of their authors realize the “local indie Emperor” is no longer wearing their shiny book-championing armor, they’ll be free to move on.

Once again, their books will have to go somewhere.

“Yes, self-publishing,” you say, “but what about print? Print isn’t dead.”

Which is precisely why Amazon is venturing into brick-and-mortar book retailing. If the indie bookstores thought CreateSpace was bad, “they ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Once Amazon’s brick-and-mortar infrastructure is in place, any “Kindle” that catches fire can be on Amazon’s bookshelves in a couple of weeks. Are the Big Five and their self-appointed ‘indie’ taste-makers ready for a world where books that bypass them entirely can become #1 New York Times PRINT best-sellers?

Another hypothetical question: What would happen if more independent publishers followed the path of PDMI and focused on large retailers? Unlike the Big Five, smaller publishers could sign exclusive deals with large retailers, in return for print book shelf space. A “Barnes & Noble Exclusive” title could easily reach #1 NYT best-seller status, if carried in enough stores.

And, given the local stores’ current exclusionary climate, would any of the publisher’s authors really object if their publisher went “Barnes & Noble Exclusive”, especially if it meant their book got shelf space at B&N’s across the U.S.?

And, of course, there are other retailers large enough to be able to sell enough print copies of a title by themselves to push said title to #1 NYT best-seller status.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Jack-Wendell-s-Vampire-Syndrome-Book-1-in-the-Vampire-Syndrome-Saga/53628570

One thing is sure to continue. Once Amazon entries are regularly populating several places of the Top Ten New York Times print best-seller list, the indie stores will whine and complain about it. Yet much of the ‘blame’ will rest with themselves, for turning a blind eye to the smaller publishers and their authors, all parties involved who had dedicated themselves to the difficult task of producing print books, only to be rebuffed at virtually every turn. Killing off some of the geese that laid the golden eggs, but those eggs have to go somewhere.

Straight to Amazon’s waiting nest. 😈

UPDATE 9/08/16: A quote from this excellent Observer article The Truth About The New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists :
“(For the N.Y.T. list) a hardcover copy of your book purchased on Amazon.com is counted differently than the same hardcover book purchased at indie bookstore X.”
Here may be a more valid reason why people are still treating indie stores like sacred cows.
Yet, if you could sell a million books at Wal-Mart alone, you may not make the N.Y.T. list, and you definitely wouldn’t make the W.S.J. list, as Wall Street Journal doesn’t even tally Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club sales, which is a ‘hole’ big enough to drive literal semi-trailers full of books through….

Unleashing The Muse – Multi-Author Event on June 16th

This June 16th, from 10am to 6pm, Tyward Books, in conjunction with PDMI Publishing, LLC, will host “Unleashing The Muse“, a spectacular multi-author book signing event. If you are an author resident in or visiting the Southern U.S., you’ll want to join us for one of the best opportunities to showcase your work to the widest possible audience!

“Unleashing The Muse” features TV/film producer and author Joel Eisenberg, co-author of “The Chronicles Of Ara,” a heralded new eight-volume fantasy novel series, now being developed for television by Eisenberg and his co-author Steve Hillard. Joel will be signing copies of “Creation,” Volume One of The Chronicles Of Ara series. “Creation” debuted on March 15th in a standing-room-only event in Pasadena, California, and it has already received countless five-star reviews on Amazon and millions of hits on social media channels. Don’t miss this rare chance to meet Mr. Eisenberg and get your copy of “Chronicle” signed in Albertville, Alabama, instead of having to travel all the way to L.A.!

Other authors confirmed for this signing event include Jack Gannon and Cyndi Williams-Barnier (“Murder in Twos & Threes”, “Ancient Footsteps”, “Trail Of The Talon”), Clay Gilbert (“Dark Road To Paradise” and the “Annah: Children of Evohe” Series), Greta King (Waiting For Santa, The Adventures of Fred and Ted), Andrea Zug (the “Lancers Inc. Mysteries” Series), Virginia Jennings (“The Alien Mind” and “Visionary From The Stars”) and Daven Anderson (the Vampire Syndrome Saga).

Best of all, Tyward is inviting other authors to join all of us at this amazing event! A one-time set-up fee of $20 gets you table space from 10am to 6pm, and a ticket for a sandwich and drink of your choice. Additional food and drinks will be served. Don’t miss this chance to sell your books, and meet publishers and other authors at one of the largest multi-author events in the South!

Register for your tickets to “Unleashing The Muse” here at Eventbrite.com

Creation Novel

Bitten By Books – Review of Vampire Syndrome

Bitten By Books Review of “Vampire Syndrome” by Daven Anderson

I’d like to thank Marie for her honest and thoughtful review! 😀

For anyone concerned that using a character with Down Syndrome may be exploitative, do not worry. Jack proves he is capable of filling a valuable place in the vampire community, and he draws frequent parallels to the way regular society short-changes their expectations of people with DS.

As I intended! 😀

There may also be concerns that characters pan a vampire book/movie series based with no veil whatsoever on Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series.

This may also be a selling point to many readers. 😉
I did use the in-universe “Vampire Moonlight” series as an opportunity to show how I would have written a similar paranormal romance. 17-year-old human Janet Zachary is an apprentice professional drag racer, and at one point uses her race car to rescue her vampire boyfriend. Janet would have more crossover appeal to male readers, and this setup above establishes her as a strong female, not a pushover. Instead of just criticism or satire, I use my in-universe series to suggest how (I think) that particular series could have been substantially improved. And…

…one of the strongest vampire characters loves the series and does not care what anyone says about it, so both sides are covered.

I do want to address this quote below, as this is not the first time someone has made this criticism.

(Jack) uses logic and problem solving skills I found unrealistically advanced for someone with DS.

Jack is a composite of several people that I have worked with over the past twenty years. Two of them have read my book, and they both felt I was spot-on regarding Jack. Jack’s logic and problem-solving skills are in line with those whom I have worked with, who deal with customers in a retail environment on a continual basis. I will admit that it does require a certain level of aptitude regarding logic and problem-solving skills to work in a job requiring constant interaction with the public, but this applies to people at all levels of cognition, and there are many, many people of “normal” cognition who are not at all suited to working in retail. The movie “Where Hope Grows” features a main character with Down Syndrome who works in a grocery store (and its lead actor would be a great candidate to play Jack!).

Books-A-Million

Books-A-Million, the second largest book retailer in the nation (with over 250 stores in 31 states and the District of Columbia) will be attending the 2014 Birmingham Local Authors Expo with myself and over one hundred authors. Come see us! 🙂
Expo Poster DavenBPL Expo 2014 crop