I am in the throes of exploring how to publish my novel in paperback. It seems my best options are Create Space through Amazon, and Lightening Source, which distributes through Ingram, a book distributor to stores and libraries.
In the past few weeks, I’ve placed calls to local book stores to suss out whether or not they would carry a book published through Amazon, or if they would only take a book that could be distributed through Ingram.
The first phone call was pretty straightforward: we won’t carry an Amazon book. I understand completely, I said. Furthermore, we’ll only carry your book if we like it. “It takes place in Berkeley and has garnered great reviews,” I said. But this monosyllabic twenty-something didn’t care. She grunted and hung up. That was a fairly edgy bookstore with a not terribly friendly staff, but large enough to carry many books from all genres. My book cover would look great in their window. But they didn’t care enough to even ask me the title, let alone the topic.
My second call was to a tonier store in a wealthy neighborhood that is featured in Finding Clarity. A woman of a certain age answered the phone. My question was fairly simple but she clicked me on hold without even a word, such as “just a moment while I find out for you.” I truly thought she had to burp or someone had bumped into her. She got on the phone again and dismissed my question with an answer that had nothing to do with what I asked.
I tried three, count ‘em, three more times to ask the question “I have an e-book that I’m going to put into print; what is the best way to publish so that you can carry it?” Each time she clicked me on hold unceremoniously, and came back with a partial answer that did not relate to my question. Truly, she had no concept of what I was asking. I finally laughed and said she clearly didn’t understand me… was there someone else there I might talk to?
The owner came on the phone. I posed my question carefully. She responded that Amazon won’t let her sell e-books (I’m not sure I understand the logistics of a book store selling electronic books) and so no, she would not carry a book that I published by them. I said I could understand that. “What about if I do it through another source that can then distribute through Ingram?” I asked. She then said she’d have to consider it, but that she’d have to learn about the book and see if she liked it. She really only takes books from publishers.
Okay, fair enough. That’s her prerogative. But since publishers are going the way of the dodo bird and the creative world has decided that the Big Six do not have to control their future, I’m not sure that hitching my wagon ONLY to them is the brightest idea for a mom and pop store. Again her choice.
But what really fascinated was the fact that this woman never even asked me, then and there, what my book was about. She didn’t ask me the title or genre. Was it a book of aerial photos of the Bay? Did it include recipes, porn, or children’s stories? She never asked, even when I mentioned that Finding Clarity had garnered great reviews on Amazon. Mere mention that it took place in Berkeley and would be of interest to her clientele did not elicit any response.
And that, dear readers, is part of the rub here. It used to be called “coming over the transom.” Local writer makes good by capturing the spirit of our silly city in her hilarious debut novel which by all accounts should have come through a big NYC publishing house, but didn’t, and is now published independently and we are so pleased to have her here tonight to sell more copies that we can make money off of and draw in more customers....”
But what I got instead was one woman who was incapable of politesse on the phone or of comprehending a simple question. And then the recalcitrant owner of a store who made no effort to explore the topic to see if it even remotely would benefit her, let alone enlighten or delight her readers.
Incurious, bitter, and phlegmatic store-keepers are only one reason why the publishing game has changed, and not in their favor. And this is just the beginning of my stories of why I went the indie author route. More to come.