After the school situation, I queried the indie bookstore about carrying Finding Angel.
The staff replied to me right away, and they have graciously answered all my questions. It turns out that because I'm with an indie press, part of the issue is the policy that goes along with print-on-demand technology: the books are non-refundable. Also, the distributor gives them no discount, which means they essentially pay retail price. Which then means they'd have to jack the prices up to make money. As they put it, "No one is going to pay $20 for a kids' paperback." Well, duh. I don't blame them!
Really, I mean it. I don't blame them given those facts. But they sent me a form to fill out to submit Finding Angel for possible consignment, which took things to another level. The form explained about what a bookstore goes through when trying to decide which books to carry. And honestly, it's not just about cost and profit--and when it comes to their other points, the place of blame is clear.
Their form says:
"Technology has made publishing easier, often without traditional professional editing, proofreading, and evaluation of marketing and distribution. Consequently, the number of books we are asked to review continues to rise dramatically."
"...many of the books we are asked to try to sell are overpriced compared to similar books, the content is of very limited interest to anyone other than the writer’s friends and family, and/or a lack of editing or even proofreading is obvious. A surprising number of writers acknowledge that they have never paid a similar price for a similar book from an unknown writer and an unknown publisher with no objective reviews, yet expect us to try to sell theirs…"The bold was not added by me, btw. But I would have added it, had they not done so. I mean, really. We have to admit this is true.
Every small press and self-published author out there thinks their book is worthy of that shelf space. But let's face it--most of them are not. This bookstore is dead-freakin'-right. With the ease of access to publishing these days, any yahoo can publish a book. And far too many do. Far, far too many who don't write well, don't get proper editing, don't invest in decent cover art, and publish through routes that inflate the cost of the books. I've seen this first-hand. First-time authors who chose dubious publishing routes (high-priced vanity presses and such) and whose less than 200-page paperbacks (with generic looking covers) end up on Amazon for $26. Hello, I'm not paying $26 for a hardback version of a favorite author, much less some skinny paperback by someone I've never heard of. And neither would you--don't deny it!
So how do we blame the bookstores? When they have a sea of garbage to wade through when determining what books go on their shelves? Is it really their fault? Or do we look at the authors who insist on pumping out overpriced rubbish?
Don't get me wrong--I think it's awesome we have publishing choices. Those choices are what allowed Splashdown Books to get its start, which is why I'm a published author today. But with those choices come the responsibility to work hard and put out your very best.
I'm not just representative of myself as an author, I'm representative of the small press community. Each and every one of us is--and that, unfortunately, is why so many bookstores turn us away en masse. Not because they are heartless, but because too many of us have made them scared to open their hearts to us.