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.