The whole, entire reading public in the United States of America probably knows about The Fault In Our Stars. It was a YA book that’s now a huge movie.
What does that mean?
It means the author, John Green, now has his books sold in my local grocery store. I saw them. It wasn’t just The Fault In Our Stars, though. It was other books with John Green’s name on them, books that previously weren’t sold in my grocery store were. Because he’s a big deal. He’s made a name for himself (yes, a big motion picture helps).
But what it also means is that authors should quit complaining about where their books are sold.
Yes, I’m referring to this Medium article by Dolan Morgan. The gist is that Morgan goes to an independent bookstore and they won’t sell his indie press release. Even though he’s from the town or whatever.
Life’s no fair.
Guess what? That stuff used to bother me, too, until I worked for a book distributor. What did I find out?
Independent bookstores, chain bookstores, discount chain stores, grocery stores or whatever will sell anything that sells.
The independent bookstore gets requests like Morgan’s all the time. They’ve got to be selective. They’ve got to figure out if their stock will sell. And you know what moves? Big stuff. Publisher stuff. The Fault In Our Stars stuff. Stephen King stuff. And then after that a bookstore can specialize and be selective.
Yes, there’s for sure some bias in there. Not every big publisher book will sell. But you know what? The bookstores can then sell it back to the publisher (YES THEY CAN IT’S CRAZY). That’s a harder thing for smaller publishers and independent distributors to match.
Do you know what would cause any bookstore to go around their independent press policy?
IF THE BOOKS SOLD.
That puts more pressure on every author. It means creating relationships, building up a demand…even if it’s just locally.
Maybe local authors should host readings at their local bookstore and then bring along their own copies…if it’s packed, say like 50 people, I bet the bookstore would be more likely to carry the book, no matter what press it’s from.
It’s about showing worth and value to the bookstore.
Independent bookstores and any bookstore for that matter are not in business for charity. They can and won’t offer shelf space to just anyone. (THERE’S AMAZON FOR THAT AMIRITE???).
Instead, they want to see dollar signs.
And then they’ll tear up any special forms..
That’s why you see John Green in my local grocery store. They don’t care about John Green. They care about what the people care about.
And what about John Green? He worked his way up, too. He started a YouTube channel, he created a community and then he published books. Then my grocery store eventually got interested.
I’m tired of authors expecting handouts and for people to do the work for them. We’ve got to do the work. The literary community doesn’t owe us anything.
Stop complaining about where your book is or isn’t sold.
Instead, make them want to carry your book.
We have to work to make ourselves known and then bookstores, grocery stores, whatever picking up the book is just an unexpected bonus, not the linchpin to success.