I Love Bookstores. But Do They Love Me?

Your book, here? HAHAHAHAHA

We hear a lot about how authors, and everyone else, should favor local, indie bookstores over Amazon and big chains. I love bookstores, especially cool little ones, and I even link to IndieBound on my site above Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and other larger vendors.

Well, I recently tested the waters at the two most prominent indies in my town to see if they’d sell my book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. (I should have done this months ago, but what with the crushing depression and electroshock therapy I just didn’t get around to it.)

The first I won’t name because I’m not looking to be personally contentious with them as they are very nice folks who run a great shop. It happens to be the very store where I debuted the novel in 2009, when I was with Putnam. I had a very successful signing with them, came in to sign books when they needed me to, and had what seemed to be a friendly relationship with the main folks there. I love this store. I showed it off to Nydia when she was visiting in the summer. I recommend it to folks all the time. I even used to link to their website from the Doc Wilde site, until I left Putnam and my book was temporarily out of print.

I walked in their door, an author who already ran the gantlet of traditional publishing, landing a multi-book contract with one of the largest publishers in the world, now carrying an improved, new, beautifully illustrated edition of my first book. A book with three pages of raves in the front from sources like Daniel Pinkwater, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and the screenwriter of Thor and X-Men First Class. A book, incidentally, with a 4.5 star rating from readers on Amazon. While I was waiting to speak to someone, I even helped a customer, selling her Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men (which is awesome and hilarious).

Well, they told me (nicely, but bluntly) to take a hike.

On to the second store, the Eagle Eye Book Shop, which I name because of the friendlier reaction I got there. I asked if they’d sell my book, they said probably, but not right now, I’d have to come back in after the new year and all the Christmas craziness. The guy looked at the book, said oh yeah, he remembered this in hardback, and praised the new edition. He said they’d probably even be open to me doing a signing. I was so happy I spent nearly $40 (getting among other things Neil Gaiman’s new one and Finn by Jon Clinch, which I’ve been wanting to read for a while).

All this is very personal to me, as it directly impacts my potential income and ability to find readers. I hope to have a local store which is the main place folks can order signed copies from. I want to do what everyone is crowing we writers should do, support our local bookstores. I’ll let you know how things go at Eagle Eye, and I’ll be visiting some other places as I can. Hopefully my book will start appearing on shelves so people CAN buy it somewhere besides online vendors.

Because if bookstores want authors to support them…it kind of needs to go both ways.

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I originally posted a short version of this post on Facebook and it garnered some interesting discussion, which I am attaching below (since the post and comments were posted publicly, I assume posting them here is also fine).

The image below is linked to the “Writing on  the Ether” piece, so you can click the pic to reach it (it’s definitely worth reading).

Feel free to join the discussion below….

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5 comments on “I Love Bookstores. But Do They Love Me?

  1. nydiacarioca says:

    Great post. I wish all indie bookstores owners could read this and finally understand that this is really a two-way road.

    • Tim Byrd says:

      I can appreciate their reservations, and the fact that dealing with a bunch of indies could get overly complicated. But it would be nice to see at least a minimal attempt to support indie writers, especially established ones.

  2. John Wetzel says:

    I used to work at Mcguire’s Bookshop decades ago, an independent store at Ponce and N. Highland that went out of business years ago, and a couple of things occur to me. Firstly, there is the problem for small publishers of ease of returns. If a store is getting most of their inventory from Ingram (or whatever the equivalent wholesaler is these days) then returns can be handled in bulk and the store will only be out 10%. Returns to smaller presses, such as the university presses, were generally viewed as a pain and a lot more expensive. If you can get the book in a wholesaler catalog it might help placement in the smaller shops. Also, I don’t know if the first shop is the one I think, but that store has a lot of books facing out on the shelves these days. What that means to me is a cash flow spiral and they are living off of past inventory. It is extremely hard to recover from that state as a bookstore. In their defense they might only be purchasing best-sellers and sale books trying to keep things going. You might have better luck if you try placing your work there on a consignment basis. That way there is no risk for them. Good luck!

    • Tim Byrd says:

      Thank you, John.

      Thing is, my book is available from Ingram, but for some reason this shop doesn’t deal with Ingram. Nonetheless, I’m standing right here with a box of books, ready any time to set up some sort of arrangement, ready to sign the hell out of some books and send traffic their way via my website.

      And it is possible they’re having money issues, of course, that I’m not aware of. But they seem to be extremely successful, both as just a bookshop and as a local institution.

      • John Wetzel says:

        Okay. We’re talking about different stores. I know the one you mean now. It might be that because they already provided the opportunity of a reading for the first edition denying you another opportunity is a way of making themselves feel even more important to authors than helping you would make them feel. You never can tell about people. They’re not the only store. Maybe Tall Tales might be open to something. The owner Maureen is very sweet and they’ve been around forever. Just an idea but if you could get Brewsters to sell you some coupons inexpensively or in trade for marketing, you could give those away with signed copies. Families in that area are always looking for an ‘event’ for the kids. A reading at Tall Tales followed by ice cream at Brewsters could be a fun thing for families. This might be a crummy idea just because of the smell of the place, but maybe Book Nook might like to do something. Though that place is kind of a mess they do have a lot of pulp fiction in there, so something educational about the fictional world you are coming from in your own work might appeal to the hipsters that work there and give them a way to highlight some of their vintage pulp and comics. I’m sorry for the free association of ideas. I know it can be annoying when you’ve spent months thinking over something to hear a lot of things you’ve already thought through and rejected, but there you go. Also, Atlanta’s a big place. There are other Decaturs. I never go out there but you could also check out Buckhead, Vinings, Johns Creek, or downtown Marietta. I can definitely see why you need a successful event to make the case to other stores that you would contact with mailings or what-not.

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