Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An Author Supporting His Local Bookstore on a Budget

Photo Credit: Amazon

Saturday I was at The Avid Reader in Davis considering buying Neil Gaiman’s newly released paperback version of The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I had told myself, since the day of Gaiman’s novel’s original hardcover release a year ago, that I would purchase Ocean as soon as it released in paperback keeping in mind the $8 “pocket” size mass market version. When I saw that the paperback was a $16 trade version, I had second thoughts. I thought that if I’m going to pay $16 for a trade version of Ocean, then I’ll just try to get it used on Amazon. I could probably purchase a hardcover version of it on there for less than the paperback version offered at brick-and–mortar stores. However, while considering my budget, I try to purchase my books at my local independently owned bookstore, in which Avid Reader is, as much as possible. So I ended up buying another author’s book I had been considering, Beth Revis’ YA space opera, Acrossthe Universe. Even though that was a trade edition itself, it only cost me 10 bucks. Buying at an independently owned book store will not only keep much of the money in the local community but will also strengthen the local literary culture.

Photo Credit: Amazon

As a person who believes in contributing to community and local culture, I try to keep the money at home. By this I mean that when I purchase at locally owned stores, the money for those purchases are going back into those stores’ community. I admit that I’m not an economics expert, but I don’t want all my money for a purchase to go to some suit in a corporate tower across state or even on the opposite side of the nation (I’m on the West coast) who doesn’t give a damn about who purchases the products they distribute but just want the money from those purchases. Generally, the CEOs don’t give a damn about the individual communities they’re selling or distributing  to yet never see. They don’t care about the culture surrounding their products, in this case books. They don’t care who’s who in the various branches of their business across the nation and the world over. Those branches are just units of a machine to them, an impersonal network that pumps in the cash.

The locally owned, independent bookstores, the few that are left at least, don’t only care about the books they sell but also the people they are selling them to who are often avid readers. They are enthused about the books and the literary culture surrounding them, wanting to enhance that culture, and so are ready to promote local authors especially newer ones. That’s why you’ll see book signing events at these indie stores that feature authors who may be known around the community but often not worldwide via a best seller’s list. They tend to cater to the people in the local area and are less worried about how they‘re going to market a particularly book or service in a branch in Australia. Like the public library, they sponsor programs for both adults and children, often book reading clubs for the adults and storytelling time for the children and thematic arts and crafts to go along with it. They support community-wide events such as art walks and will often display local fine artists’ work in their stores. And so you can almost be sure that even when you purchase a big publisher’s book, such as Harper’s, at a locally owned bookstore, a significant portion of the money is going to go to the community at least through city, or maybe even county, revenue if nothing else. It, or the majority of it at least, won’t go to some big chain store’s headquarters that most shoppers haven’t even seen.

It’s true that chain bookstores such as Barnes and Noble (which I heard has not been doing too well with their sales and may go the way of Borders) have their book culture events, such as book club meet-ups. But they’re often for the reason of selling a single book or series of books such as the Harry Potter or The Hunger Games series and so these clubs or their individual meet-ups often are based on big selling titles such as these two. And so big chain bookstores centering their literary cultural events around these best sellers is more of the agenda of pumping more money out of more consumers to go into the company rather than the local community. It’s an agenda that cares little about the culture of books in general, even within certain genres such as sci fi/fantasy, romance or thriller and more about the individual product being sold and the increase (as opposed to the simple maintenance) of profits.

I’m not saying I don’t want to see my books, currently TheFool’s Illusion, sold beyond my local community. Most of us writers want to make sufficient money off our books and those of us who are lesser known can only do it by distributing our work beyond our home areas. I’m just saying that I want my books to be sold for the love of books themselves rather than to simply make ever increasing profits off of them. If those profits continue to increase inevitably then good, I can definitely go for that! But I’m going to make my books products of the local community rather than of the impersonal corporate system that many best sellers too often get caught up in and, when they do, the major publishing houses rather than the authors have too much control of how their sequels (if any) and the authors’ future works are written.

I’m a member of my home community of Sacramento, not a member of the global corporate system and so I’m going to market my books among the locally owned stores here way before I do to big chain stores elsewhere. I want people the world over to buy my books, sure. But I want people in my home area to also buy and read them and so I want to support the local literary culture. Like I was born here, Fool’s Illusion was also born here. We’re both members of the local community and so we’ll support that community first and foremost.

I’m in the process of pitching Fool’s Illusion to locally owned bookstores. Expect to see live signings by me in the Sacramento area soon. Exactly where and when, I’ll mention in upcoming blog entries. So keep tuning in.

Until next time . . . 

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