8 Reasons Why Indie Bookshops Need to Support Indie Authors

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Although some insist that independent bookstores are doing just fine, I think it’s safe to say that, for many, keeping the lights on in the last few years has been– and continues to be– a struggle. At a time when people seem to be reading less, and those who do can buy books cheaper and more conveniently at a certain online retailer, indie shops are left in an ongoing precarious position while they try to find new ways to increase (or maintain) sales. I have a suggestion for them: support independently published authors.

Indie authors fall through the cracks with bricks-and-mortar bookstores for a number of reasons. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Seeking out and featuring the works of indie authors is a mutually beneficial– and smart –practice for indie bookstores to adopt. Here are a few reasons why:

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1. It sets you apart.

When Michelle Obama’s book came out, every bookstore’s website or Facebook page I visited had it plastered front and centre. More recently the same thing happened with Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. Your store is selling these extremely popular books? Great! So is literally every other store. I’m not saying don’t offer the guaranteed sellers, but what does your store have that others don’t? How about a specially curated section of indie works? If customers are going to go to the trouble of actually visiting a shop, you need to offer something new and interesting and different. Worried indies won’t sell? An informed and engaging staff or a little extra promo can make all the difference.

2. It’s a new revenue stream.

While books may not be anything new for bookstores, indie books and authors are. These are books most customers may not have heard of, simply because the promotion isn’t there for indies. Don’t underestimate the power of introducing something new to customers, or the appeal of an underdog/unconventional author.

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3. It helps you be truly local.

Does a famous author live or work in your store’s neighbourhood? No? Chances are an indie author does. Why not connect with your community by supporting the authors in it? Your customers would probably love to know about the talent living down the street. Local authors also provide great opportunities for in-store events and signings.

4. It creates diversity.

The truth is traditional publishing is not known for its openness to diversity. It’s getting better, but the focus still tends to be rather narrow. Many indie authors eschew traditional publishing for that very reason. By supporting indie you’re contributing to much-needed diversity in literature– something customers, especially younger customers, appreciate.

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5. You could discover the next great read.

Excluding an entire category of books from your store ensures that not only are you missing out on something fantastic, but so are your customers. It’s impossible to predict what will strike just the right nerve with readers, but the more books your customers can access, the more chances for one to take off. Imagine the bragging rights (and marketing opportunities) when you can say “we loved this author first.”

6. Indie publishing is here to stay.

Indie publishing was the original publishing and it’ll be here long into the future. The truth is, traditional publishing is not serving authors well, which is why so many authors choose to go the indie route. As publishing houses consolidate (or disappear) and publishers care more and more about big names rather than new talent, indie authors will only increase in number. Booksellers can choose to support these authors, or they can be left behind.

7. Authors buy books too.

It’s wise to remember that authors are also potential customers. Any store that carries my books has an instant fan. Not only will I make a point of shopping at that store, but you’d better believe I’ll also tell everyone I know about it. Margaret Atwood might appreciate that you carry her books, but she’ll never encourage anyone to shop at your store.

my face when, aspasia s. bissas

8. Indie should support indie.

Several indie bookstores offer Love Lies Bleeding online (you can see the list here). As an independent author, I want to promote my fellow indies, so I post about these stores on my website, blog, and social media. But it can get a little cringey when I see indie bookstores asking people to support them, and then turning around and looking down on/ignoring indie authors. If you truly care about indies, you need to support all indies; otherwise, why should anyone support you?

 

Love Lies Bleeding is a dark fantasy novel about delusion, obsession, and blood. Love Lies Bleeding (ISBN-13: 978-1775012528/ISBN-10: 1775012522) is available in paperback and e-book and can be ordered wholesale from Ingram and other distributors. If you’d like to find out more about my books, click here.

7 ways to support indie authors, aspasiasbissas.com  free short story by aspasia s. bissas Tooth & Claw, free short story by Aspasia S. Bissas

What do you think? Should independent bookstores make a point of supporting independent authors, or should we just stick with the status quo? Share in the comments.

 

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

IWD: The Sexism That Writers Endure

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From the start, women writers have had to endure an unending slew of sexist attitudes and commentary. Pick a writer and she’ll tell you about comments claiming women aren’t serious writers, that they don’t write “important” works, and aren’t worthy of awards or acclaim. Women writers can tell you about how there is a constant assumption that they must write romance or “chick lit,” that they don’t write anything a man would want to read, that they can’t write certain genres, or that women’s fiction is fluffy and sentimental. We can tell you about how we’re questioned in a way male authors never are about work-life balance, how we can possibly work and take care of our children and homes and partners. The list goes on. And when we dare complain about any of it, we’re accused of being “whiny” and “privileged.”

On this International Women’s Day, I’m sharing a few of the sexist remarks said to, or of, women authors:

Sci-fi author Gérard Klein about Ursula K. Le Guin: ” … her art is the product of ‘a happily resolved childhood, an active feminine genitality, and her intellectual indebtedness to her historian husband.'”

 

Audience member at a reading, to Julia Fierro: “Who is taking care of your children?”

 

A reader, commenting about The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris: “The novel is ‘capitalising on the fandom of Tom Hiddleston.'”

 

Author David Gilmour, on not teaching women authors in his class at the University of Toronto: “I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women.”

 

Author V.S. Naipaul about Diana Athill: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not… My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way.”

 

Interviewer to Victoria A. Brownworth: “I don’t think women should be writing about this kind of violence.”

 

A lecture attendee to Joanne Freeman: “How does your husband handle your wit?”

 

A one-time boss of hers, about Clarice Lispector: “She was ‘a smart girl, an excellent reporter, and, in contrast to almost all women, actually knows how to write.'”

 

Random people, to Lis Harris: “Oh, you’re a serious writer? But you’re so pretty!”

 

N.S. Willis, to his sister, Fanny Fern: “[…he stated that] her writing was ‘too vulgar’ and she should continue with her needlework instead.”

 

To these I’ll add a quote from Charlotte Brontë, which she wrote in response to harsh reviews. This is (or should be) the unofficial motto of women writers everywhere:

“It would take a great deal to crush me.”

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The problem of sexism in publishing is improving–the fact that it’s finally being acknowledged is an important first step. Will it be solved anytime soon? As with other forms of inequality, probably not in my lifetime (although I live in hope). But there are things everyone can do to help get us there:

  • Read books by women (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comic books, essays, articles…)
  • Review books by women (whether on a book site, store site, social media, or your own blog)
  • Buy books by women (let publishers know what you want to read)

If you want to start right now, you can download my free story Blood Magic. One reviewer wrote about it: “A sign of the times, this short story should be folded up, put inside an envelope, and slid inside the goody bags ready for the male attendees of the next Golden Globe Awards.”

Happy International Women’s Day. Show your support by reading more women.

Find Out More:

‘How to Suppress Women’s Writing’: 3 Decades Old and Still Sadly Relevant

Women Writers Are Over Hearing These Sexist Comments

Women’s Fiction Is a Sign of a Sexist Book Industry

Canadian Author David Gilmour Sparks Furore Over Women Writers

7 Breathtakingly Sexist Quotes by Famous and Respected Male Authors

A Woman’s Place

Sexism in Publishing: My Novel Wasn’t the Problem

Female Authors Are Speaking Out About the Everyday Sexism They Experience

The True Glamour of Clarice Lispector

I talked to 39 Women Who Write Nonfiction, and Here’s What I’ve Learned

The Evolution of Female Writers

5 Things Sexism Deniers Say to Woman Writers

 

5 Famous Authors’ Drafts

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Although readers are generally interested in a writer’s final product, it can be interesting to see the early process. Drafts can be funny, surprising, and illuminating. For example…

Joseph Conrad’s preface to Victory:

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Conrad had trouble deciding on the right wording to convey his meaning in this preface. He was hesitant about using the word “victory” in relation to World War 1, and he couldn’t decide whether he was worried about “misleading,” “deceiving” or another word I can’t make out (any guesses?) the public.

Sylvia Plath’s outline for The Bell Jar:

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This outline was written two years before The Bell Jar was published. Since no copy of the manuscript draft survives, this outline is the only evidence of Plath’s original intentions for the book. Apparently Plath had planned a “coda” of two extra chapters at the end of the book. There are also smaller changes, such as the character of Joan starting out as Jane.

Marcel Proust’s draft of Remembrance of Things Past:

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Shirley Hazzard’s draft for The Great Fire:

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Both Proust and Hazzard show that, no matter the time period, the first draft is never the final draft. How either could even decipher their edits is a mystery.

Mark Twain’s notebook:

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Twain, pondering the concept of a doctor writing a play, jotted down several potential character names, including Siphillis Briggs, Asphyxia Beedle, and Typhoid Billings.

Would you want to see your favourite author’s early drafts and notes? Share in the comments…

See more:

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God

David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King

George Orwell’s 1984

Emily Dickinson’s poetry (written on an envelope)

Christina Georgina Rosetti’s poetry

A Peek Inside the Notebooks of Famous Authors, Artists and Visionaries

When Publishers Pass You By

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When I was much younger and just beginning to realize that I wanted a future as a writer, I had starry-eyed notions of a major publisher recognizing my talent and jumping to offer me a contract (with a generous advance, of course). Yeah, not so much. Instead I have a pile of rejection letters, mostly of the form variety, some with encouraging words about how my writing is good (just not quite right for them). I had to learn the hard way that being a good writer isn’t enough to get published. In fact, sometimes you don’t even have to be able to write at all as long as you have a big enough name to guarantee sales. Depressing doesn’t even begin to cover it.

A recent article in the Washington Post shares how Madeleine L’Engle and other well-known writers have suffered rejection over their careers. So how to deal with it when it happens to you?

Like L’Engle, stick to your vision. Don’t compromise your work to suit the industry’s sometimes narrow definitions of salable. Your readers are out there, even if your book is genre defying and a little odd (something readers are a lot more open to than publishers).

Like J.K. Rowling, keep persisting. Just because 12 publishers reject your book doesn’t mean 13 won’t be your lucky number. [Edited to add: Also like J.K., if you’re a woman, you might want to submit under initials or a gender neutral name instead of an obviously feminine name–especially if you don’t write romance or “women’s fiction.” Sexism in publishing is real, and I wish I’d realized that years ago.]

Like Beatrix Potter, do it yourself. Self publishing has been around a long time and is only getting bigger. When traditional publishers have let you down (or you don’t even want to bother with them in the first place), don’t be afraid to go the indie route (which is what I did with my dark fantasy novel, Love Lies Bleeding–and what I will also be doing with the new novel I’m working on).

Whatever you do, don’t let rejections get to you. They are common, they are inevitable, and they don’t reflect the quality of your work or you as a person. Just remember: a good story will find a way.

How do you deal with professional rejection? Share in the comments.

[This was originally posted on 13 March 2018. Re-posted with minor edits.]

Why You Need to Read Books

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I always find it strange that people need to be convinced to read. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. For me, books have always been magic, gateways to other worlds, other lives. They’re adventures and dreams, knowledge and potential, all packed into conveniently portable packages. Forget apps–no matter what you want or need at any given moment in life, there’s a book for it. How could anyone not instantly see the value in that?

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And yet… According to the Pew Research Center, 26% of American adults have admitted to not reading even part of a book in the last year (and I’m sure the numbers are similar in Canada). Clearly a lot of people don’t realize they’re missing out.

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If magic, knowledge, and adventure aren’t enough to get you interested, maybe I should also mention that:

Yale researchers found that people who read books for 30 minutes a day live longer than those who read magazines or who don’t read at all.

(This reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode where someone was reading a book in parts to their elderly relative, always leaving the story on a cliffhanger to keep the person hanging on well beyond a normal lifespan. #goals)

Successful people read (and they share some of their favourite books here).

People who read short stories are more open-minded and creative, according to a University of Toronto study.

Need a short story to get you started? How about “Blood Magic,” available free here, and at other online booksellers!

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas

You can read more about the benefits of reading books here, or you can just pick up a book and find out for yourself.

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Today is also World Book and Copyright Day! It’s the perfect day to start a reading habit or to encourage others to start one. How will you be celebrating? Share in the comments.

Lastly, the Copyright Act is under review in Canada. The current Act has allowed copying of copyrighted works to the extent that Canadian creators and publishers have had their royalties decline by 80% since 2012. I urge everyone to read more about it here, and to show your support for Canadian writers and creators (like me) by sharing the message on social media using the following hashtags: #IValueCdnStories #CreativeCanada #ValueGap #INDU #cdnpoli #WBCD2018 #worldbookday2018 #worldbookandcopyrightday