If I were in charge of the world of publishing, my first edict would be Honor Thy Booksellers. Forget those pie charts showing bookstore sales on the wane, those bloggers or twitterers with adoring followers, the number of books Amazon can sell in a single click of its mighty mouse. Independent booksellers are the single most powerful cog in the publishing continuum and should be celebrated as such. Publishers’ reps, librarians, legitimate book reviewers, and literary critics are not far behind.
When I managed iBrowse Bookstore in West Bloomfield, Mich., our customers would come in asking what was new on the iBrowse Recommends list, our store list featuring staff picks, who would be appearing at the next author event, or when we would be hosting the next chamber music concert. Our influence on the reading habits of the community was significant (we sold a lot of books) and reinforced by other nearby indies. We knew customers’ tastes and how to whet their appetites further, how to get them excited about books.
If I were in charge, I would take Hollywood’s approach to new releases. Instead of “only in theaters,” how about “only in bookstores” before a mass release through every other available channel? Not only would this support the partner that should be viewed as the publisher’s greatest sales asset, a slower roll out might actually give a book more visibility and a chance to gain a toehold beyond the current three-month lifespan.
And while we’re at it, how about net pricing? Except for magazines and newspapers, I can’t think of another industry that prints prices on it’s product… Groceries? No way. Automobiles. Forget it. Shouldn’t the people who are taking the time to read catalogues, meet with reps, and order and inventory books be allowed to price the books? If I were in charge, the answer would be yes.
Make Nice with the Libraries
Many of the larger publishers have still not warmed up to the idea of selling e-books to libraries. HarperCollins, at least, has come up with its 26x download policy. If I were in charge, another edict would be to sell e-books to libraries and generate revenue much the way the music industry captures royalties from songs played through licensing agreements. Why would you not want to expose your titles to those millions of people who visit libraries across the country?
ARCs and Book Expo
Let’s face it: the reason book industry professionals enter publishing, bookselling, and related fields is because of the books. Thank goodness for public libraries, or I would have gone broke supporting my reading habit after I stopped managing the bookstore at the Norton Simon Museum. And is there anything better than a free book? (Many free books!) Before BEA each year, I scour PW and BEA’s online spreadsheets for giveaways and authors of interest. I approach BEA anxiously: will I get the ARCs I so dearly wish to read? Will there be any tickets left for a much-talked-about author signing? If I go to booth X instead of booth Y when the floor opens, what will I miss?
Publishers and booksellers gripe about the onslaught of attendees on their (diminishing) pyramids of galleys, yet publishers feed that habit. I pose the question to publishers, why even put the books out? Couldn’t it be enough, particularly on an ARC everyone knows will be most coveted, to have a sign that indicates the book is available upon request? Tower only those books that need extra help in gaining traction. I would be happy to fill out a form prior to or at BEA checking off the ARCs I’d like to pick up, or even pay a small processing/handling fee, and have a package waiting for me at the show with my registration material or with respective publishers. I know, I know, in my dreams, but if I were in charge...
Barbara Bloom of Bloom Ink (www.bloomwriting.com) is a freelance writer and editor. Her children’s book, My Library, will be published by the Bloomfield Township Public Library in 2012.