Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm Not Necessarily a Starry-Eyed Independent Bookseller, but Here are Some Developments that Seem Encouraging.

I couldn't think of a way to illustrate this blog post without using photos that I didn't have the rights to, so I decided to use pretty endpapers from new releases as my illustrations. Stacie thought for extra credit, I could ask folks to name all four.

a. More Borders locations are turning into independents than I expected. It seems like almost every day we hear abou another conversion happening.Here's a store called Ukazoo Books from Towson, Maryland, that decided to base their expansion on closed Borders location.

The Spirit of '76 in Marblehead is opening a second location in Swampscott, according to their owners, Hugobooks.

And this store, Ode, in San Francisco, opened in part of a former Borders. Not that his inventory sounds like it's mostly bargain books, and this sort of trick is not new to Milwaukee. Who remembers when Desmond's Formalwear closed, to be replaced by Ed's, using the same sign letters.

The Fairfield University Bookstore took over a Borders space in downtown Fairfield, Connecticut. I find it a little odd that the location is two miles from the university. Will students really hang out that long for a shuttle bus? And why can they only afford a once-per-half-hour bus, while UWM seems to be able to supply unlimited taxi service for students between the campus and the dorms on North Avenue? Maybe having a smaller vehicle on call might be more efficient, excluding times like textbook rush.

Here's something about the Book Shack in Kingston, Massachusetts.

Now there are plenty of Borders that are becoming Books-a-Million, the now second largest chain out of Birmingham, Alabama. While they only picked up one Wisconsin location, there were rumors that they were nibbling at the Madison location on University that eventually wound up becoming part of the UW Credit Union.

Plenty of Borders locations are following the trend of the Milwaukee area, becoming things like Fresh Market and Planet Fitness.  I'm not sure what is happening to the Southridge location.

Regarding the new indies, consider that this is in spite of how difficult the market is for financing right now.

b. Indies have been used for a long time to build word of mouth on books. One thing you should know about author tours is that for the most part, they don't make back their money in book sales. Instead, what they do is use a combination of bookstore enthusiasm and local media attention to jumpstart title interest.

Publishers look to independent bookstores more than ever for usable recommendations. The Indie Next list sort of galvanized this trend into a structured request for quotes, but that's not the only place where they are used. I see publishers putting bookseller in ads, particularly in ones geared to the industry. I see bookseller quotes in galleys all the time now, and even sometimes in finished books.

Just about ten days ago a publisher contacted me about getting on board a title that is being published next summer. It's an author whose last book I really loved, and they are turning to several booksellers they think helped get this title up to speed.  Needless to say, I really want to read the new book but I think I've already messed up the first deadline.

But pre-pub quotes are so last year. The next trend might be pre-book-sale quotes. Boswell has fortuitously befriended an agent who wound up buying a local Milwaukee author's book that was previously self-published.  As we were chatting, he asked if someone could take a look at a manuscript that he loved that had already been turned down in two rounds of submissions.  On the third try, a substantially shorter book that now had some (note from the agent, more like "one" than "some") foreign publisher on board was ready to go out, and his idea was to get some booksellers on board at this level. Well, it turned out that not one, but two Boswellians wound up loving the book, and booksellers at several other stores felt the same way. According to the agent, there's a happy ending to this story.

c. Our ebook sales are picking up, and we're really low key about the whole thing.

I'm not all sunshine and watermelon balls.  I know there are a lot of struggling indies out there. If you like one, don't take it for granted.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Last time I checked, the Southridge location was a Halloween store.