Sunday, August 18, 2013

Charity Begins At The Bookstore

I am not sure if we hit a new low in the world of bookstore survival, but after reading a recent New York Times article about how some independent bookstores are taking a begging approach, I have to wonder if this is what the literary landscape is supposed to look like.

Bookstores apparently have taken to seeking out donations, as if they were a charity.  They are looking to subsidize their income by asking consumers for help.  Stores raise money on crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.  Authors already use such sites in order to finance the publishing or marketing of their books.

I want bookstores to stick around and the ideal way for that to happen is not for such stores to borrow, beg, or raise prices.  They simply must offer great customer service, offer a good selection of titles, and be willing to hold author events at their stores.  They need to immerse themselves in the communities they serve and to position themselves as civic-minded leaders.  But to seek out donations as if a museum or to raise funds online like an unknown wannabe business is sad.

That said, I can’t blame any bookstore for trying to stay afloat and survive.  I am not opposed, in principle, to them doing what is needed, but their desperate maneuvering alarms me.  Is the time coming where bookstores simply cannot be the pillars of towns because they can’t keep their doors open?

Every day I look up from my book or newspaper on my commuter train and increasingly view a sea of devices entertaining and informing the passengers.  I don’t see too many books, digital or paper, being read.  People are texting or emailing, surfing sites, clicking on YouTube, watching shows, listening to music, playing games, and doing anything but reading a book.

Perhaps a telltale sign is membership totals for the American Bookseller Association.  In 2002 there were 2,4000 members.  It stands at 1,632 today – a loss of a third in little more than a decade.

So will we now have to choose between donating to organizations that battle homelessness, cancer, poverty, illiteracy, war and giving to a bookstore?  It used to be a bookstore cashier would ask if you want to make a donation to a special cause.  Who knew they’d now be the ones in need?

Interview With Author John P. Maines 

What is the writing process like for you? I think through scenarios in the broadest sense then sit down at the keyboard. I do most of my development work while I'm typing. I tend to work every day unless some member of the family tells me to stop.

What did you do before you became an author? I was a mental health community counselor in East London, working for a charity. We tended to see those who didn't fit into what was available on the health service so my 'take' on mental health is a little different from most.

How does it feel to be a published author? Nothing special really. I used to write self-help books for my employers and they sold very well without me taking much notice so it has been a fairly painless transition.

Any advice for struggling writers? Put time aside to do the work whether this is a few hours a week or every day and be ready for rejections - lots of rejections

Where do you see book publishing heading? E-books are big business and I don't see that changing. I think most publishers will end up with a hard copy and e-copy section to their output.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2013

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