Local Bookstore Research: Breaking My Heart

15 Mar

I was told point blank that yesterday’s post was lame and I needed to do a second blog this week. Okay, so…. it was lame.

Here goes on the Blog This Week, Take 2

So, if you saw my blog post last week that for some reason everyone loved, (Rumors in YAlandia) you all saw that I’m doing 2 things: Writing and Researching Author Promo (in prep, people. no one get excited.)

So, one of the things I’ve been doing is researching local indie bookstores.

I KNOW! Totally a life sucker, huh…. Not.

I’m huge into the buy locally when it comes to books. Not that I don’t spend hours at B&N also, but supporting local bookstores is vital. I used to work at a local bookstore and the day it closed we all kind of stood around lost.

But, here’s the thing. I live just outside Boston. I’m blessed. There are no shortage of bookstores. But, so very many of them aren’t genre friendly. Mystery seems to be the exception to this. I have one bookstore I’ve stopped shopping at. I was told outright that they don’t sell “trash” — trash being romance, sci fi, fantasy and most YA.

But, this isn’t anything new. Google bookstores in Massachusetts and start scanning their sites. Let me know how many genre books you find… even in the local author’s sections, there are some stores where the number is ZERO. Do you know how many published authors there are in the Boston area? Well, I can tell you it’s no where near zero.

I sat down with one of these owners once at a coffee shop and we got to talking. He was lamenting the slow sales, lower walk-in numbers, rent worries. I asked why he didn’t start carrying more SFF (he has 1 shelf) and Romance (no shelves) – especially since there’s a gaming store 4 doors down! I can’t remember the exact words, so I won’t put them in his mouth. But he was horrified.

It makes me wonder about a lot of things.

The first is completely selfish: Where the heck will I be pimping myYA book locally when it comes out (Did you see that when? Aren’t I positive-thinking girl??) And, what is so wrong with selling two of the top grossing sections of publishing? Why does “genre” so often equal “unsophisticated” or “trashy” or “lowbrow” or whatever it is.

Some of the greatest stories of all times, ones that have long endured beyond the “literary masters” of their time. Austen was the equivalent of chicklit. Dickens and Alcott wrote serials for newspapers. Some scifi named our greatest inventions decades before we had them.

But, at least around me apparently, we’ve gotten to the point where only “literary fiction” and non-fiction is acceptable to sell.

I’m heartbroken by this for three reasons. First, all those books who are missing their local audiences. Second, the attitude this creates around genre books. I recognize the attitude. A lot of my friends have it. And, third, for every indie store that goes out of business because I (and all my fellow genre readers) don’t care to be talked down to and go to B&N, Borders, Hastings, and Amazon… When you close, I’ll mourn you, but still… I was already shopping at genre-friendly places.

Oh, and btw, one mile away: There’s an Annie’s. For those who aren’t in the NE, Annie’s are independently franchised used genre bookstores. The base of all of them is Romance, but most also have amazing SFF and Mystery sections. These stores stay in business (we’re talking decades) strictly buy doing used book credit/purchases with the addition of a very small “new” section. If they can make that work, that’s saying a lot for genre books.

So, tell us all – What’s your local indie store like? Is it your go to place? Do they carry everything? Specialize? Are they author friendly? Are they reader friendly? Are you still in love or fighting to find ways to support them when they don’t support your reading?

They’re a dying breed. I’m rooting for all of them, even the ones who would never carry my mainstream YA books. I do wonder how to support them… How do you?

7 Responses to “Local Bookstore Research: Breaking My Heart”

  1. sharla March 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Well, I used to BE an indie bookstore. From 2001-2003 I owned my own store, it was new and used…and didn’t make it…. *sadness* I just knew it would, because there aren’t any….ANY….where I live. All we have in the Beaumont Texas area is a Barnes & Noble and a Books-A-Million, and once upon a time we had a Waldenbooks before hurricane Rita destroyed it. I was the only indie bookstore in the area, and no matter what I did it didn’t work. I had a ton of people buying and trading used books with me, but not enough buying new…because the internet was too easy and cheaper. And you really can’t make a living on just used books if you have any sort of overhead. It’s constant money but small money.

    I’ve kinda been researching too…(hoping for that optimistic viewpoint although my book on sub isn’t lighting up any fires) and I’ll probably have to travel the two hours to Houston to get any kind of presence going. They have quite a few indies there.

  2. briaq March 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    Sharla – Sorry to hear that! It sounds like you were trying every avenue tho. I totally respect that — In any business, not just books.

    The store here that I was talking about has a elitist feel in a genre neighborhood. It’s a reciepe for a fast ending.

    Good luck with the next store. That’s always been one of my dreams, even more so since the one I worked at went under.

  3. Sonia M. March 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Shame that there are bookstores who look down on genre fiction. That’s my favorite kind. LOL.

  4. briaq March 15, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I’m lucky to have THREE indie bookstores in my town.

    The one I talked about that won’t carry genre (and is struggling to stay afloat)
    The one who cares only genre and has been there for almost 2 decades.
    And the new one trying to do both – We’ll see how they do.

    I wish them all luck. Bookstores are vital to any community!

  5. sharla March 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Well I won’t be opening ANOTHER store…lol. That was my dream for a long time afterward…to do it again…but with the economy and the surge toward online purchases and ebooks…I won’t go that route again.

    I’ve rechanneled that into writing books of my own, and I was talking about driving to Houston as an author because they have indie stores there.

  6. Kat Cantrell March 16, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    Wow. I’m really lucky. The indie bookstore in my town just hosted Susan Eliz Phillips for a book signing and the romance section is like eight shelves. I had no idea that was unusual, though I appreciate the heads up. I certainly don’t want them to go out of business before I’m published. 🙂 I’m going to buy a book there right now…

  7. briaq March 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    I do feel lucky that there’s a Romance used store with big Mystery and SFF sections. But, I’d like the other two to be more open minded. Oddly, guess which one *isn’t* struggling… ok, maybe not oddly.

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