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). Continue reading

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Misadventures In Holiday Book Shopping (UPDATED)

bookstore

Being a fan of the local indie bookstore as an institution, I went out to do a bit of holiday shopping on Saturday. I had two books I wanted to buy. My chosen bookstore, a very good shop which has a big inventory and many author events (keys to the fact that it thrived even when the market consisted mainly of the big book chains), had one of the two (a perennial seller) in stock. The other I told them I’d like to special order.

The on-hand volume was twice the price I’d have spent online, but I had credit from previous dealings, so I bought it anyway.

The clerk looked up the other. “We can’t get that,” he said. He couldn’t explain why a book in print, published by Dell, should be beyond the powers of their distribution system. They’re not a new store, and I assume they do special orders all the time.

So, as a customer, I entered their shop with two specific books in mind, aware of the books’ availability and pricing online, but wanting to support the indie. One book cost me double the money I needed to spend. The other book was simply impossible to obtain.

That impossible book just landed on my doorstep, from Amazon. They not only had the book, they had it for cheap, shipping cost me nothing, and they got it to me inside of 48 hours. They got the sale because the local store either lacked a certain competence or wasn’t willing to find the means to get me the book I wanted.

Local shops can thrive, and this one does. If their owners are smart, and make themselves into community institutions that offer great customer service and special benefits and events, they can resist Amazon’s eminence in a way they were never able to resist the intrusion of huge chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. But they need to actually be able to get the books desired by their customers to those customers, efficiently, or they’ll lose valuable business. And that’s never good.

I’ll go back to the shop because I’m fond of it. But someone else may have walked out thinking, “Well, from now on, I’ll just go online…”  They’d have lost not only this sale but all the others that customer might possibly have made.

UPDATE: When I wrote the above, I forgot to mention that two weeks earlier I had gone to this shop’s website and used their automated search system to request ordering information on a title. Nearly a month later, I have yet to hear anything at all back regarding that search.

Small Bookstores and the Ebook Apocalypse

When both the big bookstores in her community folded, author Ann Patchett stepped forward and opened her own small bookstore.

In a very charming appearance on The Colbert Report, Patchett offers proof of my argument that the apocalypse brought to the bookstore industry by ebooks and Amazon is actually favorable to small local bookstores. Where Borders fell and B&N stumbles, small stores can now take root and give good old fashioned service to their communities.

In time, they’ll incorporate infrastructure allowing them to infinitely expand their stock by selling ebooks on-site and actually printing books on demand (as with the Espresso Book Machine, which is pretty amazing).

I wrote at length about how ebooks and digital distribution are good for readers, writers, and booksellers here, and if you have any interest in the topic, please give it a read.

You can watch Patchett and Colbert here.

Ebook Apocalypse!!!

The night is coming. The night that will never end.

Board the windows. Lock the doors and push our beautiful, heavy bookshelves against them. Hopefully we prepared enough, we stocked up on canned peas and sacks of potatoes and stacks of mass market paperbacks and hardbacks, some of them used and old and bound in cloth rather than shitty cheap crappy cardboard.

Outside, the wind howls like a cliched banshee scream.

They are coming, and we fear it will not matter how well we prepared, for they come on silent wings, their numbers are legion, and they don’t use doors, or windows. Like dire fairies of data they come through the walls, through the very air itself, at the speed of light.

And they want to eat. “BOOOOOOKS….” they moan. Because they want to eat our books, all our beautiful books.

The ebooks have escaped the labs. OH. MY. GOD. Continue reading

Doc Wilde to debut at Little Shop of Stories!

UPDATE: This event has been rescheduled from Friday, May 15th to Saturday, May 16th.

It’s official: Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom will debut May 14, and two days later I’ll have my first ever signing:

The Day: Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Time: 7 pm

The Place: Little Shop of Stories in beautiful downtown Decatur, GA.

Little Shop is one of the finest bookstores in the Atlanta area. It lives next to the Starbucks in Decatur, GA., and is mostly dedicated to books for young people, but also has a smart selection of grown-up fare for grown up kids.

It’s one of those small bookstores that springs from a place of obvious vision and love, with a warm, knowledgeable staff and comfy couches. They’re very active in the community, working with schools and literacy programs as well as helping organize the famous Decatur Book Festival. And so much stellar talent has passed through that the wall behind the counter is like a museum, covered with wonderful sketches and notes from writers and artists who have visited.

I’m thrilled and proud to be officially debuting the Wilde’s adventures at Little Shop, and hope to see you there!