Reports on the death of Indy Bookstores have been greatly exaggerated.
I’ve been out and about in New Jersey and Pennsylvania over the past weeks doing what I call my “traveling salesman” bit, introducing independent bookstores to Faithless Elector and Dark Network. I plan to widen the scope to include South Jersey, Maryland and Virginia in the coming weeks.
I show up with copies of the books, title fact sheets, review quotes and sample promotional materials. Everyone I’ve met has been gracious and interested, and so far (touch wood!) every store has said they’ll order a few copies. Based on Ingram’s sales reports, it appears they’re following through.
This was not what I expected at all. Recently, I read a piece on Facebook, shared in one of the writers groups I’ve joined. It was written by an independent bookstore owner in Britain, addressed to the self-published author. While there was some good information in the piece, frankly it was so snarky, condescending and negative, it read like a cry for help. Nevertheless, after reading it, I worried that the writer’s anger-depression mode might be some industry standard, and I would be spending my traveling salesman days being ground down by dolorous, mean-spirited anecdotes about how no one understands how hard things are these days.
Far from it!
Independent bookstores are thriving, and they’re excellently placed to take a chance on independent authors. They have defied all predictions about going the way of ditto sheets and blotting paper to remain an integral part of the lives of towns and cities. As the author Patrick Barkham puts it, in The Guardian, “no conventional economist could grasp how 900 indies are still in business. They are, because so much bookselling is done out of love. That’s wonderful, but the rest of us must love them back.”
And that’s the key: love them back! Stop in. Ask a question. Buy a book.
Bookstore owners and staff are far better than any algorithm at suggesting new books, and the serendipity of finding something unexpected–but perfect!–in among shelves you weren’t intending to look through is a huge part of the appeal. Thank goodness these stores are agreeing to stock my book or I’d be spending too much money in many of them to even out the balance.
Having a title fact sheet that contains your ISBN, distributor, BISAC subject code(s) goes a long way toward breaking the ice. I have no idea if the example on the right follows any standard format/template that real book reps use. So far, however, it’s not hindering me. Knowing a little bit about the bookstore–whether they have a niche your book might serve, for example–is also important.
Here’s a map of bookstores stocking my books as of today.
Perhaps there’s one near you!
Find them through Indybound.org.