I find it ironic. And sad. Struggling bookstores tend to reject new authors for book-signing events.
The relationship between bookstores and authors is symbiotic: bookstores need authors just as badly as authors need bookstores. But with the invention of Amazon and other online book retailers, perhaps it’s now fair to say that authors don’t need bookstores as much as in the past.
Many authors—myself included—have decided to publish and sell their books mainly online. However, having your book sold in a bookstore is a significant addition to any sales platform.
So I ask, if Amazon welcomes all authors and books, why don’t brick-and-mortar bookstores?
Readers select books for various reasons: genre, author, book cover, price, and sometimes just because it is part of an event. I have bought books written by authors I’d never heard of just because I’ve attended a book signing or reading at a local bookstore. Any book-signing event can bring business into these struggling bookstores. People will hear buzz about upcoming author events and may attend to see what it’s about, and while they’re at the author’s event, they may peruse bookstore aisles and pick up a book or two.
While bestselling authors are sure to bring more business to the bookstore with large crowds, there is still something to be gained from an event for the debut novel of a new author as well. I remember the early book signing events for J.K. Rowling before her book sales skyrocketed. The small bookstore readings—I bet those bookstores are glad they didn’t turn her away back then.
Every book holds something in it for someone. Yet, brick-and-mortar bookstores conduct their business as if only books that are written by best selling authors have something to offer to readers. As such, they do NOT welcome newer authors—they don’t like to consider them for book signing events or even to stock their books on the shelves.
The list of excuses is longer than the list of explanations:
Yes, I agree. Best selling authors might bring in bigger crowds. However, if J. K. Rowling was not given that opportunity in that small bookstore who knows if her book would have taken off.
I look at my local Atlanta Barnes & Noble store and see that although there are some events booked, not many author events are on the roster for the coming weeks. In the ten events scheduled within the next month, only one is showcasing an author—the rest are children’s story time events, Lego build events, and a summer reading program meet up. Why are so few authors invited to have book-signing events at bookstores? Even in the narrow window of author events bookstore chains host, the opportunity for first time authors to host their signing and meet-and-greet event is even slimmer.
Bookstores, I implore you: consider us, the not-yet-best-selling authors, as your next event! Let us show you how our events can be beneficial for everyone involved. Considering the fact that all expenses fall on us, the authors, you have nothing to lose. Actually you might come out on the winning side. We may be the ones who bring new life to your bookstore.
Let’s, together, revive brick and mortar bookstores.