I’m sad to announce that Between the Covers, my town’s last local independent bookstore, has announced it’s impending closure. After we lose BTC, we will still have several used bookstores, but the only bookstore to offer a large selection of new books will be Barnes & Noble.
As an author, my relationship with B&N has deteriorated over the past 3 years. When my first book was released by a small press, the manager of the children’s section ordered a few copies of my book for their shelves, but couldn’t give me the “local author” turn out, because shelf space in the middle grade section was too valuable. She suggested I get an article written about me in the local paper to drive traffic to their store. She wasn’t able to host a book signing either, but I didn’t mind because I had one scheduled at a local independent store (not Between the Covers). Since the release of my first book, the indie store that hosted my very successful signing has gone out of business, and B&N has stopped allowing my books on their very ‘valuable’ shelf space because my publishers dare to be print on demand (some with return options, mind you). So the only way a B&N customer can get my book is if they request it be brought in for them.
For my family and friends, that’s okay. If I’m not selling directly out of my stock, I’m having a conversation with them and can explain that the book is available from B&N, they just need to request it. Honestly, since they have to wait anyway, they usually end up getting it through Amazon to avoid the trip to the store. But I’m not having that conversation with the parents of the kids I meet through local school visits or with the grandparent who read my article in the local parenting magazine and likes my writing style and decides to look for my books the next time they visit B&N.
Being an author and getting the word out about your books is hard enough, but with our retail options shrinking – even in our own backyard, it is increasingly more difficult to support the storefronts. I’m sorry to see our last indie bookstore go, but I’m wondering what the bookstores do for us anymore? If all they can afford to do is sell bestsellers and not engage in the local talent pool, do we even need them?
I want to hear from consumers! What does your bookstore do for you, specifically? How have they enhanced your reading experience? Educate me on how to get the most out of my storefront experience! Or have you stopped using them altogether?