Wait, don’t toss out the book with the bathwater! I’m not just waxing nostalgia when I ask authors to support their local bookstores.
Supporting local bookstores builds community, brings authors face-to-face with writing groups and book signings, plus in my city, Bellingham, Village Books is adjacent to two cafes.
For authors who shun print books and independent bookstores in favor of online stores and services, think again. Many independent bookstores offer numerous support services for authors including in-person book signings/readings, book clubs, writing groups, and even sponsor writer conferences.
Many people believe that local or independent bookstores, also known as, brick and mortar stores will disappear in the near future. Many authors have flocked to online services such as Create Space and Kindle owned by Amazon.com or have tried other e-book routes and services. They get involved with virtual book tours or work with online media sites to promote their books. This works for some authors, but it left me feeling dry. I require an off-line community and I have always supported independent bookstores, ever since purchasing my fiction classics at a small bookstore in Oak Harbor, Washington during my high school days.
Now, I’m not going to tell authors to completely ignore online bookselling and promoting avenues. But I will encourage authors to get acquainted with their local booksellers and brick & mortar bookstores. These stores offer many opportunities for authors to launch new careers or further an existing one through book signings, readings, book festivals, writers conferences, writing workshops, open mikes, writing groups and so on.
In Bellingham, Village Books offers all of the above, plus the friendly staff invites famous and upcoming authors for book signings and even offsite events. VB gets involved with the local community by teaming up with the food cooperative, Whatcom Community College by sponsoring the local writers conference, the Whatcom Literacy Council and other community organizations. The store has a good children’s book section plus story tellers and other children’s book events and it’s fun to peruse three stories of books, then hang out at the Book Fare Cafe on the third floor over looking Bellingham Bay or to meet with friends in the Colophon Cafe adjacent to the Village Green (a local meeting center for Old Fairhaven).
No online community can provide all of that in one place. I’ve met a lot of fascinating people at this bookstore too and even given readings of my work. But if you’re not convinced, here are 10 benefits authors receive by supporting their local community bookstore (that is if they still have one).
1. Meet visiting authors face-to-face. Sometimes these authors give free advice to upcoming authors.
2. Offline writing groups provide a safe and comfortable space to get critiques from other authors and to share resources. Avoid online flamers with anonymous web names.
3. The in store book clubs feature local authors so it’s a good way to get the word out and receive in-person feedback.
4. A kind and knowledgeable staff supports local authors in helping them with research (other books or resources), hosting open mikes or coordinating a local author book signing.
5. Many bookstores are adjacent to cafes or provide an in store cafe where authors can meet with other authors, edit, critique or offer advice.
6. Bookstore staff feature local author’s books with in-store displays giving the book visibility. Try doing this with online stores if you’re not one of the big 7 publishers.
7. Local bookstores sponsor writing conferences, celebrity author events, and host unique genre book events like the Steam Punk Book Festival for Village Books.
8. Some community bookstores put out their own newspapers or print publications with event calendars and book reviews, usually supporting independent authors.
9. Some community bookstores provide small printing presses for authors wishing to self-publish at a reasonable cost.
10. Community bookstore owners and staff have nationwide contacts and can help get the word out for new authors. Some independent bookstores are part of an independent bookstore coop which is nationwide in the US so this does involve networking and networks (both on and offline).
Perhaps it is ironic to say that independent bookstores are also online. Many of these bookstores have interactive websites, use social media including blog hosting and YouTube videos. This idea that independent or brick & mortar bookstores are for Luddites is a false assumption and far from the truth. However, some independent bookstores won’t sell Kindle or Create Space books. They will sell e-books and self-published books from non-Amazon.com sources. Authors wishing to sell both online and offline require research in this area before publishing their books. Also research offline distributors for self-published authors and independent booksellers.
Personally, as many cities go the “buy local” route and make efforts for building offline communities, I think independent bookstores will get a stronghold. Those of us who wax nostalgia for the good old print book days, will return to brick & mortar stores. I have only had good experiences going this route and my writing career got its biggest boost from local booksellers in Seattle and Bellingham.