The co-owner of Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts in Berkeley, California has written a letter to the editor of the New York Times, taking time to provide a word of warning for indie authors:
We see this every day in our independent bookstore: writers dropping off unsolicited work in the hope that we will stock books that have had little or no editing, and few reviews or distribution beyond Amazon (always a nonstarter).You can read more here.
Of course, it seems odd that an independent bookstore should be at odds with independent authors. It seems odd that the co-owner of the store would think that a book would have had "little or no editing"
simply because the book is not corporately owned. I do not automatically assume that the restroom at the independent has had "little or no cleaning" just because it doesn't have the Barnes & Noble smell.
Then again, I don't have the experience of a bookstore co-owner, nor the experiences of this particular co-owner. It could very well be that 98% of indie authors she's met have had horribly edited books.
Typos can ruin the read of even the best book. I recall how I had to set aside the purple paperback of Graham Greene's TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT because of all the typos in that book.
What really seems odd to me, though, is this notion of the two indies at odds -- the writer who, for whatever reason, is not published with a corporation fighting against the little shoppe on the corner.
Maybe the indie author went that route because she didn't want to "sell out" or answer to anyone else. Maybe she didn't like the corporate terms. Sometimes people go indie as a choice. Sometimes people don't work in indie bookshops because they were fired from Barnes and Noble. Maybe they like being indie sellers. Maybe people like being indie authors.
In fact, when you consider some of the troubles between traditional bookstores and traditional book publishers -- BN vs SS, for example -- you'd think that working with individual authors with a stake in their books would be welcomed. And, as most indie authors don't have budgets to travel across country, being able to focus on locals would be beneficial.
Of course, we should be honest about it. Having a publisher to vet books means you don't have to read 500 books a day. Which, you know, you can't.
And some indie authors are batshit crazy. Some are awful to deal with. Here at DSD, we get bombed a few times a week by someone attempting to get reviewed here by acting like an asshole. That said, this type of behavior is not limited to indie authors.
And dealing with one sales person from the publisher is much easier than dealing with 1,000 various authors.
But that's the point, isn't it? You've got so many local, indie authors who want to be associated with you, that you should be able to figure that out. When their books sell, your cash register rings. And
you get to keep a chunk of that money.
When I worked at a gas station, we'd often get folks coming in, telling us how we could all be rich if we'd just give shelf-space to their innovative beef jerky/fingernail clipper/lighter. Everyone wants
And I'm not suggesting that bookstores do anything different than they've always done. I'd never suggest that. I don't know the business from a co-owner's point of view. I have no idea the challenges these folks face. If they want to keep going about it as they always have, that's fine.
But how cool would it be if indie authors and indie bookstores could work together? Maybe a special section for indie authors, Maybe a monthly spotlight. Maybe a reading on the 13th of every month so that readers can meet local, indie authors.
After all, these authors are coming to the bookstores because those bookstores are doing something right.
I think many, many bookstores, both indie and corporate, are probably trying stuff just like this. One store came under fire a couple years back when they sold shelf space to indie authors instead of just
offering it. Some have other ideas that seem to be catching on.
I don't have the Great Solution. But I think it's just making the problem worse when you tell indie authors that they're not the type of authors you want in your indie store.