To celebrate the UK's Independent Booksellers' Week that launched this weekend, ALLi Author Advice blog editor Debbie Young explains why she thinks bricks-and-mortar bookshops are of value to all indie authors, whether or not they stock your books, even if you don't even publish print books.
Whether I call myself an indie author, an author-publisher, or a self-published author, the buck stops with me: I am responsible for all aspects of my publishing process, from the writing to the selling. I can choose whether or not to try to sell my print books through bricks-and-mortar bookshops, or whether to stick with handselling wherever I can, plus selling online through the usual distribution channels.
I'm a realist, and as I currently write books with a very narrow target audience, I haven't been pursuing the bookshop avenue very much. All I do is to make sure my books are theoretically available to order through bookshops, by giving them my own ISBN and loading them on Ingram Spark. This means they show up on bookshops' ordering systems, so can be ordered for a customer who asks for them. I appreciate that this in itself won't push books through shops, but it will allow them to be pulled.
I've also been lucky enough to secure the support of local bookshops for specific purposes at set times of year: Foyles in Bristol kindly allowed me to launch my diabetes book, free of charge, in their lovely event space on World Diabetes Day last year; three smaller local bookshops near where I live took my Christmas short stories book, one of them placing it in the centre of the shop window; one of them frequently puts me in touch with any contacts that they think might be useful to me. They also recommend ALLi and my book for authors, Sell Your Books!, to any new indie author who approaches them with a view to stocking their book.
The number of books I've actually sold through physical bookshops is tiny. Sometimes they're sold on consignment, requiring me to drive to and from the shop to deliver and collect stocks, thus negating any profit in petrol costs. Even so, I confess to being very excited whenever I spot my books being stocked in a “real” shop.
I can't imagine that this situation is going to change any time soon with regard to my books – not until I write that bestselling novel, anyway!
No Author is an Island
BUT I will still feel diminished if bookshops continue to disappear from our high streets, not only as an individual author, but on behalf of the whole breed of authors. Because doesn't it help us all if bookshops continue to present to shoppers of all ages the notion that buying books is a Good Thing? That instead of spending their disposable income on clothes or shoes or electronics or toiletries, they'd be better to invest in something fabulous to read? That rather than buy birthday and Christmas presents from random shops that they're unsure the recipients would like, that a great book or a book token would be a better solution?
I see bookshops, like libraries and schoolteachers, as ambassadors for the joy of reading – and don't all authors need readers? Unless these players keep shouting the message that reading is cool and fun and an affordable source of joy and inspiration for all ages, our society will all too quickly forget the power of the written word. We'll all be too busy filling our leisure hours with television on demand, listen-again radio and the frenzy that is social media.
Even Helpful to Ebook-Only Authors
Even if I didn't even publish print books, and stuck to ebook only, I'd still want to support physical bookshops – even though by driving shoppers into their stores, I'm showing them the range of competition to my own books. (But hey, they'll be exposed to an awful lot more of the competition if they buy my books online.)
Actually, by supporting my local bookshops, or indeed any other bookshops, such as charity (thrift) stores or the dreaded remainder booksellers, where trade-published books go on reprieve from being pulped, I come away inspired and motivated, as if my creative batteries have had a quick recharge. Visiting bookshops also helps me strengthen my relationship with the stockists that do carry my books.
So really, what's not to love about bricks-and-mortar bookstores? Next time you're on the high street, make sure you visit yours.
This Thursday on the blog we'll be sharing a list of 21 easy ways to support independent booksellers, to benefit the whole author community, so come back then to see which would work best for you.
OVER TO YOU
What is about independent booksellers that you like best? Or if you've been passing them by for a reason, please fire up a debate and tell us why!How bookshops help all authors, even without stocking their books by @DebbieYoungBN #Authors4Bookstores Click To Tweet