As I’ve warned you already, this blog will at times reflect my position in the world as an author. You’ll hear me crow when I receive a box full of author copies, or learn about the process of making a book. Today, you’ll hear a little rant that really should be heard by everyone who has ever bought a book, not just the few people who stop by here to see my latest thoughts on team building.
In January when she hosted me for my blog book tour for Team Challenges, Jennifer Margulis addressed a problem that authors face, unbeknownst to their readers. Go into your local big box bookstore and you’ll see great stacks of books. Those, right up front by the door that catch your eye. They look great, don’t they? Maybe you’ll decide you must have one. If you do, you’ve been duped. Those books didn’t get there solely because they rock. They might, sure, but they got there with cold, hard cash. The stories and memoirs and histories sitting prominently at the front of the store are all but guaranteed success. Those books stacked in the coveted storefront position have a leg up on every other book in the store, many of which are excellent – perhaps even better – books with a really bad in-store location. Those front-of-the-store book tables are prime real estate, and not everyone can afford to get into the market.
Books produced by small presses with a limited budget simply do not have the chance to shine in the eyes of the consumer. The authors of those books, the ones written with a passionate hand and a dream, hope for a kind review and thrive on word of mouth recommendations, because, unless their publisher wins the lottery, their book will never sit front and center in those stores.
If you’re not sure you want to believe me on this one (after all, I am an author hopelessly dreaming of a prime piece of real estate), check out this article. The money mentioned is in pounds and the stores in question are across the pond, but the same holds true for bookstores on American soil. Tainted book reviews and product placement are shaping the way people buy books.
Shocked? I hope so. I hope that as a book buying consumer you are shocked enough to step up and lend a hand to the authors that make your day. Instead of simply feeling frustrated about this stilted practice, I’d like to offer some suggestions that anyone – anyone – can follow to make a difference. Better yet, I challenge you to make a difference. Do any one of these, and add a comment telling me what you did. I’ll make sure you get something nice in your inbox. Beyond your favorite author’s gratitude, of course!
- Tell a friend about a book that she might like, to begin that word of mouth talk that authors so dearly love. (simple, eh?)
- Recommend a book to a stranger in a bookstore. (maybe a little harder)
- Take the time to write a review of your own. Many of you are bloggers – use that space on occasion to recommend a good book to your readers. Or, maintain a list of recommended books on your blog.
- If you don’t blog, visit an online bookseller like Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Powell’s and add a comment or review for the books on your shelf that you enjoy. Buyers count on those reviews to help them make a good decision. Bonus points if you add a review to more than one site.
- Write a letter to your favorite author telling him or her why you enjoy a certain title. Give permission for the author to use your letter as an endorsement.
- Shop at your local independent book store. Even if you can’t afford it all the time, make an effort to do so once in awhile.
- Buy books as gifts. Kids love ‘em. Grown ups love ‘em. The author will love you.
- Is there a local author that you appreciate? Ask your bookseller to carry those books. And then ask again. And again.
- Link back to this post so others can learn about this practice and help to make a difference for their favorite authors.