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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aspasía S. Bissas