Local Author Adventures – Part Two (booksellers)

February 2, 2011 Uncategorized

While “self-published” might strike fear into reviewers’ hearts, it seems the phrase “Local author” does the same to booksellers.

I just had a very depressing discussion with a local independent bookshop. I went in at the arranged time and went up to the lady behind the counter.

“Hi, I’m X, I made an appointment to discuss my book.” I was surprised when her face fell, and then set into an apologetic expression.

“We don’t stock POD books.” I blinked slightly.

“That’s fine. It’s sale or return. Usual trade discount.” She looked rather sceptical.

“Well, that’s good but you’ll need to arrange a distributor.”

“It’s with Central Books. You can order through Nielsen.” I was absolutely stunned by the smile I got, as she headed behind the counter and asked for the ISBN. I handed my book across (having brought the copy all that way I wasn’t wasting it) received a sunny grin in return and was shortly afterwards standing outstide bewildered with my media kit untouched and several books ordered. It was surprisingly painless.

The depressing converstaion followed that one, when I asked, during a quiet spot why booksellers react like that to local authors, and got the bookseller’s side of it. Not just books without ISBNs, but stories of ring-bound home-printed manuscripts complete with coffee stains, the proud mother who wanted the bookshop to let her daughter personally sign her name in crayon in each of their books (“because she’ll be famous one day!”), or the person who thought that 1% (one percent) was enough of a margin for a bookshop to buy his book outright with no returns. Then there was the person who wanted the bookshop to take part in their latest money making scheme – printing out e-books they had downloaded which they wanted the shop to sell for them. Unfortunately they hadn’t written the books in question…I didn’t have the nerve to ask what she’d said to that individual – her expression said quite enough.

Apparently “author” has a very flexible definition. It’s certainly given booksellers a range of horror stories.

Please, be kind to your local bookshop. There aren’t enough of them left.