A few months ago I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and came across a tweet from a Nova Scotia writer. It was a sign that had been placed in the window of an independent bookstore declaring they were going out of business. It saddened me on a couple of levels. Firstly, that any bookstore would close is sad in my eyes. I enjoy trolling through bookstores, even though I love selling e books and push mine to the fullest extent. Secondly, I never like to see a small ‘mom and pop’ place close their doors. My grandmother owned a tiny craft shop in Cape Breton when I was growing up, so I know how much a small business means to the people who run it.
Although, “Myrtle’s Crafts” didn’t mean much to our family’s income, my grandmother loved that little makeshift shed turned business with all her heart and soul. She counted the days until she could open it in the spring, and wept tears when she closed it in the fall every year. All winter she’d plan what she was going to do next year. Making her own crafts, keeping in touch with all the other ladies in the community who sold their various wares through her shop, making new signs, etc. It was her life and she loved it. So when I saw that tweet my heart sank a little for the people who owned it.
And then I wrote a book…
When I decided to publish independently I didn’t expect to see my book, The Vampires of Soldiers Cove (yes I’m plugging it. Go buy it! Baby needs new shoes!) in an actual bookstore. It never occurred to me to even contact any of them. I figured I’d just sell it online and to friends just to see what happened. But as I was going through my Facebook newsfeed one night I came upon a post with a list of independent bookstores operating in Nova Scotia. Figuring I had nothing to lose I emailed a few of them just to see what they’d say. Indie supports indie right?
The reception I got from a few of them was nothing short of icy, and most didn’t even bother with a response. Call me crazy, but I think it’s pretty ironic that independent bookstores (at least none on the list I had) would not even consider supporting an independent writer. The emails that came back said, in a very polite business like way, that independent writers had no place on their shelves because they were less than published writers. I’m open to the fact that my book might be drivel (although they didn’t ask to see it or lay eyes on it in any way) and may, in fact, not deserve a place on any shelf…ever! I fully await the day when I log on to the internet and find a review that says, “This is the worst book I’ve ever read! It has ruined books for me period, and I’ll never read again! Thanks Jessica MacIntyre.”
But that’s my book, what about everyone else’s? For the last little bit I’ve read nothing but independent writing, and I have to tell you, I’ve enjoyed most of it more than a lot of things I’ve bought from big names at a book store. I’ve discovered in the last few weeks since I’ve put my books up for sale that the indie writer community online is vast, and largely very supportive. We’re all just trying to be heard above the noise, and honestly, when I see an indie doing well I feel like we are all winning.
Perhaps, the independent bookstores need to look at what they’re offering that will make them different. What are you giving us, the book buying public, that we can’t get at the big box names? Right now…largely nothing! If you’re an independently run book store and you disagree and can point something out that Chapters (our big book store chain in Canada for anyone who doesn’t know) doesn’t offer please feel free to comment below. I walked through one in Halifax last week and didn’t see anything that I couldn’t get at Chapters, where it would probably be on sale, and I’d have a chance to use my loyalty card to save even more money.
I’m not judging here, really I’m not. I’m just thinking that perhaps, as I said above, indie should support indie. Indie books might be your saving grace. Dozens of people have asked me over the last few weeks, “Hey Jessica, which bookstore in town can I buy your books at?” Well…none. And that’s just my little crappy book. Imagine the response you might get with one of the great ones!
It’s a funny thing. Indie musicians are sought after and looked up to if they’re talented. I’ve been part of indie bands in the past and nobody would ever consider that a band without a record deal was less than a band that has one. As long as the music is good people are listening. So why the snobbery in the book world?
So, indie bookstores, I’d like to support you, I really would. And I’m sorry you’re hurting, but you aren’t thinking outside the box right now, not as far as I can see. But like I said, I’m open to the fact that I could be wrong.