Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Boycott No way!

From Publishers Weekly:

At the just concluded Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association fall trade show, Carol Besse, GLIBA’s outgoing board president and co-owner of Carmichael’s Books in Louisville, Kent., jolted more than 200 booksellers . . . by sounding a forceful call to arms, urging them to not only build alliances with other independent retailers, authors, and customers, but also to “get out there in front” of store patrons and explicitly explain why consumers shouldn’t buy books from It’s a matter of survival and a quality-of-life issue for entire communities, Besse explained, also calling for a “grassroots effort to re-educate every author” who visits independents, asking them to disable links to on their Web sites. . . .

"I’m sorry to paint such a grim picture, but I think we’re entering a grim time.” Retailers in the Great Lakes area have been doing business in an already-depressed region that has gone into an economic tailspin this past year with skyrocketing unemployment and home foreclosures.

Are you kidding, Ms. Besse?

From the authorial point of view your proposal is simply outrageous. Here's why:

Like the big chains, independent booksellers will keep titles in the stores only as long as sales are brisk (sometimes with the help of hand selling), and when they slow, out go the books, back to the publishers. Six weeks is the average shelf life of a midlist mystery novel, the kind I write.

Sure, some indie booksellers are willing to order single copies after the initial sell-through, but it's far more convenient -- and usually cheaper -- for a book buyer to sit down at his computer and order from, or any of the other online book retailers. Once a book has achieved that sell-through, it's on display and sale only on Internet bookstores. Even if a book is out of print, will direct the buyer to used bookstores that have it in stock.

In an ideal world it's a good idea to support your local indie bookseller, but this is not an ideal world. Economic efficiency rules, and that is why Barnes & Noble and have grown ever larger, much like Wal-Mart in the boonies.

As an author I'm going to support whoever sells me. If an indie likes my book enough to put it in the front of the store and invites me to come and do an autographing, I'll happily do so. So will I if the store is Barnes & Noble or Borders.

And I will most certainly maintain my relationships with and other online retailers -- before, during and after my books have sold through. That's how the world, not just Main Street in Podunk, becomes -- and stays -- aware of them.

We authors need to eat, too, Ms. Besse. Don't ever forget that.

1 comment:

  1. Ms. Besse wants to "re-educate" authors. Isn't that what the Chinese and Vietnamese governments did to those who disagreed with them?

    What an unfortunate choice of term.