Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Big Bookstores versus Little Bookstores

Big bookstores versus little bookstores

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for small bookstores. Well, let’s amend that. I USED to have a soft spot. Now I have a dilemma.

I live in a relatively small town with just two small bookshops. One handles all second-hand books; the other is a mixture of second-hand and new. When Master of Shadows was published, I approached the bookshop that handles the mixture to introduce my book and to arrange for a signing. I also gave them a flyer that listed where booksellers could order the book.

The signing was scheduled for mid-January when the local population swells with visitors from the cold north. A few days before the signing I received a phone call from the bookshop. They claimed they had been unable to get my books from Ingram, and they wanted to cancel the signing. Of course that meant I also had to call the local newspaper and ask the editor to put the article about the novel that would have been published just before the signing on hold.

When I e-mailed the publisher to find out about Ingram, I was told there would have been no problem rushing books to the bookshop for the signing, AND although there appeared to have been a computer glitch at Ingram a couple of weeks earlier, it had been fixed immediately and there were currently no problems.

I was determined to try again. I returned to the bookshop and arranged for another signing, this time scheduled for mid-February to correspond with Valentine’s Day. After all, MOS is a romantic fantasy. I also figured that gave me enough time to make sure the books would arrive for the signing and to get the news story rescheduled.

The owner of the bookshop confirmed that the new date would work, BUT I would have to supply the books. Yes, I would have to buy the books for the bookstore to sell, and we would split the profit – 60% for me, 40% for them!

I thought this had to be a fluke! After all, I wrote the book, I worked hard to find a publisher, and I am certainly willing to give publicizing the book my best shot. Was I now going to have to act in the capacity of a bookseller as well? What was the bookstore going to have to give up besides a place for me to sit and sign?

So I went to another small town nearby where there are a couple of bookshops. I ran into exactly the same problem. But they were a little more businesslike. They confessed that very few small bookshops have the capital to purchase a large quantity of books. They didn’t want to be stuck with books that might not sell.

I was stunned. This wasn‘t how it had worked with Barnes & Noble and Borders. The big chain bookstores didn’t expect me to buy the books for them.

In the end I cancelled all local book signings.

Fortunately the newspaper has printed the article about Master of Shadows. And I’ll be attending the Romantic Times Book Reviews Convention in Pittsburgh in April. They expect over a thousand attendees and the final Saturday there will be a Book Fair. Over 200 authors will be signing, including me!

But back to the beginning, and my dilemma with small bookshops – at least the local ones. They want authors to support them, but on the other hand, it appears they don’t always support their authors. I wonder, is my experience unique?


Tia Nevitt said...

You had to purchase the books, even when your novel is fully returnable? That does seem a bit unreasonable.

CaroleMcDonnell said...

Did they think Juno books were unreturnable?

Were they small book stores in small towns?

Are they just really lazy?