When Booksellers Attack!

I’d intended to write a different sort of post today (something I’ve been meaning to do for a week or so now) but something happened earlier which has left me slightly amused and more than a little perplexed. So, in times like these, I turn to my blog like most of the kids do these days, and air my grievances for all to see.

Right. As regular readers know, ALT is out now. I’ve made no secret of it. Like any author with a book for sale, I try to get the word out and keep the book in the public forum for as long as possible. Twitter is one of the ways I do this. Every day, usually in the morning, I’ll send out a tweet about ALT. Sometimes there’s a link to the website. Sometimes there’s a link to the book discussion. And sometimes there’s a link to the Amazon Kindle page (which is the lowest price point). I’ll probably switch things up soon so that it points to Smashwords, too. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Today, like every week day (I rarely send the ALT tweets on the weekends), I did what I usually do.

Then I went about my day. A couple of hours later, I started seeing retweets about some bookseller ranting about direct links to Amazon. For most of the day I thought I might have been a catalyst since our tweets sync on the time line, but it seems that isn’t so. Unless, of course, I’m an expert on bookselling (doubtful). In any case, I discovered earlier that this fellow had blocked me for reasons unknown, but which I suspect had to do with my direct link to ALT’s Amazon page.

To play devil’s advocate for a moment, I can understand his venom. Amazon is, to some extent, killing indie booksellers. Why drive across town to a store when you can order a book and have it delivered the next day? Or have it delivered wirelessly in seconds? The industry is changing, and it’s unfortunate that the Mom & Pop shops are feeling the worst of it.

But, as a publisher and an author, I can’t afford to have any illusions about where my sales are going to come from. Amazon is the biggest kid on the playground right now, with the biggest audience, and it’s just so damn easy to buy something from them. I fully expect 75% to 90% of ALT’s sales to come from Amazon. That’s a fact.

However, I’m not adverse to selling the book in other venues. It’s on B&N. It’s on Smashwords. It’s on iBooks and the Nook store. It’s in Powell’s. It’s soon going to be sold by Foozago. I’ll be updating the ALT site shortly to reflect these things. I support all of these – but I’ll support Amazon more, because more people are going to shop from Amazon than they will the others. I’m partial because I have to be.

Part of the guy’s tweets just seem like rants, like he’s been bottling it up for a while and just wanted to get it off his chest. That’s fine. Everyone should do that. But to say you’ll cut off orders because you saw an author linking directly to Amazon? And then block people (including potential customers) because they have a dissenting opinion? Fuck that. If he’s not happy about the current status quo, he should be spending his time brainstorming ways to trump Amazon rather than bitch about it on the internet. If he wants authors to start tweeting links directly to his shop rather than Amazon, he needs to give them a reason to.

Tomorrow I’m going to do my daily ALT tweet. It will probably be a link to Amazon. That’s the way it’s going to be for a while.

So there ends my own rant. A real post will probably follow tomorrow. Feel free to chime in with your own opinion. I won’t block or ban you if it’s contrary to my post. I’m not a dick like that.

TK

4 thoughts on “When Booksellers Attack!

  1. What sucks is, I agree with both sides.

    It’s a clusterfuck.

    There is no compromising answer if that’s A) how jilted an indie bookseller feels and B) how strongly an indie author must realistically defend web traffic. And both of things seem to be irrevocably true.

    Ayeesha.

  2. Any sympathy I had for indie booksellers evaporated completely at a conference (Future of Story) that I went to last year.

    Owner of (now defunct) bookstore from prominent local family (whose other store is still open) openly denigrated books that she didn’t have any interest in and customers that might *gasp* want a book she didn’t see value in. She was proud to be a gatekeeper, to keep books she thought were unworthy out of the hands of her customers (even when the customers wanted them).

    On top of that, she was painfully ignorant about ebooks and Amazon (let’s face it, that’s her competition in Canada aside from the other local indie and our one national chain store). I don’t mean her opinions were contrary to mine; I mean her actual facts were … not facts. I could point to press releases and other authoritative sources that disproved almost every ‘fact’ she came up with about ebooks and Amazon.

    She was proud (not an interpretation, by the way) to discourage her employees from using the computer to look up books. Which explains why it took me half an hour to convince employees that the book I wanted existed, let alone convince them to order it for me, the last time I was in her family’s indie.

    Not all indie’s have this attitude. But many have an unwarranted sense of entitlement. No other small business category expects me to buy out of obligation instead of value except booksellers.

    The small booksellers that don’t fit into that category are the ones who are making an effort (and often succeeding) in providing value that customers want (as opposed to value that booksellers want customers to want). They’re not bitching because they’re too busy doing business. How novel. 😛

  3. Well that was stupid of them. Since they are in the market to be selling books then they should understand that the author will have to do his/her best to sell their book, and that means even having to sell their book in other ways which they may not want to.

    I want to open up my own bookstore despite the fact the Amazon and the kindle have been causing problems for indie stores. I understand why people want the kindle, but to me having a real book in ones hands is better. I can also understand why people prefer Amazon, I’ve used it plently of times to get books I probably could have found at my local Chapters.

    But just because the bookseller does not like Amazon doesn’t mean they have the right to be a whinny brat. Suck it up, deal with the changes and if you can work with the flow then you’re business can still thrive.

    Still, I know that if I do open a bookstore it will be tough, but as I’ve said I love books so I’m willing to do the work to get them ino the hands of people who love to read. I just know that I need to be smart about it. There are plently of ays to keep a indie bookstore still running in this day and age.

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