Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oh, you published a book...

Before this space became the home of Indie Booksellers Top 50 lists it was something else. What, exactly, I am not sure. A soapbox? A virtual venting space? A what? It's hard to even remember--but like everything in the digital world, it is all there for anyone to take a peek at.

I've had a few customers ask for something other than lists so here are some of my ideas again. And, I should note(again), that these are simply my simple thoughts and meanderings and that they do not represent Micawber's entire staff.

I'll begin with a question: what do I/we owe to self-published authors? Almost every day, and sometimes multiple times in a given day, I get a call/e-mail/in-store visit from someone who has published their own work. They most often start with a line of "I am a local artist..." Anyone who truly shops at the store and is someone we actually know by face and name gets a free pass. We always are willing and happy to sell those books. Like many other stores we have some real success stories amongst those kinds of books. In the past few years we've sold 100+ of a few and just had an event three nights ago when we sold 48 copies of a poetry book done locally.

But I'm thinking about the larger issue. The same technology that has introduced e-readers has also enabled either individuals or small companies to print books at a reasonable price. The world of self-publishing is a sort of DYI adventure that I admire in principle. Yet I also see the other side of the coin--not every book works for us in terms of content, style, price, etc.

Lately I have begun to wonder about what I owe to these people/books. Is every e-mail deserving of a response? My quick answer is no. Is every package containing a book worth an answer? No, again, I think. Should a local author get an audience to tell me about his/her book simply by stopping by the store? Another negative is my immediate response--after having dealt with hundreds of these types of requests.

Here are a few simple rules that would probably apply to most stores: call in advance to set up an appointment. Do not drop-in and expect time with an owner/buyer. If you mail a copy of your book do not expect a store to pay return postage. Ask once about a store hosting an event. Do not ask a question when the only possible answer you want is yes. Do not stress your local artist angle unless you know or shop at the store.

I deal with authors on the regular who begin their spiel with total numbers of sales via Amazon and the very simple response is to tell them to contact regarding an event.

1 comment:

  1. it's so hard. i face the same thing you do in this regard, and i struggle, too. my standard answer is "we don't review self-published books." and that is true 99 percent of the time. ron charles (fiction critic for the washington post) put it well when he said he appreciates the curating that commercial publishers do for him. the number of self-pubbed books could, really, be infinite. it's not possible to sort through them all, or deal one on one with all of the authors. i always feel bad about it. but there's only so much we can do.