Independent Bookstore Boycotts Local Independent Author

Agatha Hattie, Queen of the Night

I learned a valuable lesson today, some independent bookstores may boycott  local  independent authors if said authors have used an Amazon affiliated company to publish their book.

Here is a response I received from a Seattle independent bookstore when I inquired about performing a reading/signing to attempt to promote our book and possibly have them carry it:

“Thank you for thinking of our bookstore.

Unfortunately, your book does not meet our current programming needs.

In almost no circumstances do we promote CreateSpace or Kickstarter books,
since they are products of Amazon, which has hurt independent businesses
like ours across this country like no other thing ever.

Best of luck going forward with your book.”

My partner Leslie and I spent a day in Seattle visiting independent bookstores. We hand delivered several press packages that included our book and other promotional merchandise that we payed for, out-of-pocket, in the hopes that we could convince local businesses to carry our book.  We offered to organize and perform readings/signings to bring our audience into the local shops because we are passionate believers in supporting small local businesses. The bookshops took our books and agreed to look into our situation. I waited a week and then sent emails to all the shops we visited to follow up.

We have only received encouragement and positive responses from shop owners who know us personally and believe in us as artists. The local shop owners in our small community are proud of our work and happy to help out anyway they can. To those who know us know that we worked very hard on this project. My partner and I are two stay-at-home moms from single income families. It is very hard to make ends meet and we make a lot of sacrifices for our art. Not making art – is not an option for us. Creating art makes us sane and able to enjoy life even though money is tight and times are tough. We had an idea for a book so we did the work necessary to create it. Big-name publishers would not give us the time of day so we decided to self-publish our book. We had received very positive feedback after entering our book in a contest and we felt confident that given the chance we could win over an audience.

I have had experience self-publishing both literature and music with indie publishing/distribution companies before and unfortunately it has not worked out for me. In all cases I have made no money whatsoever and have even lost the sales that I promoted on my own. I have personally sent retailers to the  indie publishing/distribution companies who were representing my work in the past, retailers were ready and willing to buy my product and I ultimately ended up loosing those sales because the company representing my work couldn’t find the time to reply to retailers. Self-publishing on other websites like blurb.com has not worked for me either. Even though Blurb makes a beautiful, well put together, professional looking book it is far too expensive for anybody to actually buy that book, including myself.

I knew that if we wanted Agatha Hattie to have a chance we had to make it widely available or else the work we did would never reach an audience. I wanted a professional book that I was proud to call my own and I wanted wide distribution so that the people who were willing to support us and our art could easily purchase our book at a reasonable price, as an independent author I know you have to pay for these things. We didn’t have the kind of money one needs to purchase a publishing package so we used Kickstarter as a tool to reach out to our community to back our project.

I wanted our book to be available on Amazon.com because I have learned the hard way that no matter how awesome your book is people will not take it seriously if they can’t find you online with a company that they are comfortable with. I also wanted to support local businesses. We purchased an expanded distribution package through CreateSpace so that our book would be available through all distribution channels used by libraries and small business owners, this included Baker & Taylor and Ingram, companies that I know most retailers are familiar with.

I am very disappointed to find out that many independent bookstores, especially in the Seattle/Portland areas, where we live, will not support us as local artists because we chose Kickstarter and CreateSpace as tools to independently publish our book and these companies are both affiliated with Amazon.

I do understand why an indie bookstore would feel this way, Amazon sells books at prices that small shops cannot compete with and CreateSpace charges retailers 20% more wholesale for self-published books, the reason being, independent authors require smaller printing runs (because they are not well known and do not have the same kind of following as Stephen King, for example) so it is more cost effective for CreateSpace to mark up  prices.

An independent bookstore will ask you to pay 20% to 40% markup for the purchase that you make, as a consumer, in their shop as opposed to getting the item cheaper online. That markup is what keeps small companies in business and allows them to turn a profit. I support that. I will always try to get what I need from the local shops in my community  first. In return you have the items you need stocked locally and you also have the chance to support the local economy and spread the love to the little guys, your friends and neighbors, the people in your community. That’s a good thing right? Supporting local business and local artists is good for the soul and community right?

I do not agree with punishing independent authors for using the affordable tools necessary to create, promote and distribute a book and here’s why:

The independent shop who sent the response that I posted above in bold asks the community to pay a little extra to them, 20% to 40% extra maybe even more. They ask you to do this because they need your support to exist. Most every book they sell in their shop can be bought on Amazon for prices they can’t compete with. However, they will not pay that extra 20% to 40% towards a local artist who has supported their shop and their prices and I don’t think that’s fair. They seem to want to punish Amazon and blame them for destroying indie shops like theirs and yes they have a valid point, but in my case I don’t believe Amazon will be affected by their boycott, but I will be.

Many of our friends, family and followers have encouraged us to inquire about signings and readings through their favorite bookstores. I know for a fact that some of our followers are holding out to buy our book because they wish to do so through local bookshops. There are a few independent bookstores and gift shops who have agreed to to allow us to perform readings and also have agreed to carry our book. We are so very grateful for their support and in return we will make all efforts possible to encourage local fans to do business with them.

Some indie bookshops will choose to boycott our book because of our affiliation with Amazon companies but we still need to promote Agatha Hattie if we want her to make it out there in that great big world. We are shifting our tactics a bit. If you know a local bookshop who will have us, let us know. We have also had very positive feedback from coffee shops and cafes. We would love to perform a reading near you. If you know of a place who you think will welcome us, let me know and I will contact them to set something up!

I find it very disturbing that independent shops will turn away local artists to prove a point against a major corporation, but that will not ever discourage me from creating my art and finding a place for it.

Thank you again to our community, friends, family and followers for supporting our book. We would be nothing without your love!

As of right now Selah Gift’s in North Bend, Washington and Crash Bang Boom in Philadelphia are the only independent shops to carry our book.

We are currently making arrangements with a Seattle comic book shop who would like to support us and carry our book. I will post an update as soon as we are available there. I do not believe that all indie bookstores will reject our book. I will keep trying.

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13 Responses to Independent Bookstore Boycotts Local Independent Author

  1. jon says:

    That’s not cool, but it’s interesting. It seems like there should be some sort of middle ground. Like maybe they could have something equivalent to a genetically modified food label that they could stick on your book so the customers could make that decision for themselves.

    • That’s a good idea, let the costumers decide. It really only hurts the shop boycotting us. I now have to tell people to go elsewhere to purchase our book. Regardless of drawbacks like this, Agatha Hattie continues to win-over new readers everyday.

  2. Teagan says:

    Well written and expressed, Jackie. I hope that there can be a happy medium for everyone and you get the support you deserve. You are a hard working and creative person who has proven that your thoughts, ideas and creations have a worthy spot in this world. Good luck. We are thinking of you!

  3. Shelly says:

    As owner of Selah Gifts I couldn’t be more pleased at the opportunity to sell Agatha Hattie books! And sell them I do! Amazon may own quite a bit of the market on many different things but there is a wonderfully supportive artistic community that make it their purpose to support each other’s art here in the Snoqualmie Valley. Plus, on a website you won’t get to meet the author nor illustrator, chat a bit and have them personally autograph your book like you will at an event. Nor have the opportunity to hear Jackie sing songs about Alice in Wonderland while playing an electric uke! Thank you Jackie and Leslie!

    • Thanks Shelly, we’re lucky to have you on board. Shelly supports many local artists at Selah Gifts in North Bend, WA. She helps find homes for all of our creations while making sure both her shop and the artists are compensated. Both Leslie and I are regulars at her shop, that’s how we met and became friends. Observing how Shelly struggles when the shop is slow is how I first became passionate about supporting local businesses. This is my friend and my community and I want to see them thrive and succeed!

  4. tommiaw says:

    Well written article, Jackie, and I hope you and Leslie are successful in getting Agatha Hattie out into the world.

  5. tommiaw says:

    Reblogged this on Tommia's Tablet and commented:
    What are your thoughts on the choices of some bookstores? Is Amazon to blame for the artists’ ambitions to share their work?

  6. Denise Hisey says:

    The publishing world is very confusing and I was dismayed to read of your experience here. I wish you all the best as you navigate through it all.

    • Thanks Denise. The entire industry is changing. Never before would independent authors be able to have access to the wide distribution that Amazon brings. I love indie bookstores and I do everything I can to support them but we would have never seen the success we have so far with Agatha Hattie if it wasn’t for Kickstarter, CreateSpace and Amazon.

  7. Wow, that’s some crazy stuff! How is refusing to carry local authors going to help them fight Amazon? It’s not! Like you say, the more they carry our neighborhood folks, however their books were published, the more we will support them. If they only buy mass produced stuff that I have no connection to and I can get everywhere, I will be more likely to quit bothering to go in and look for gems. BTW, the reading/performance at Pioneer Coffee was fabulous! Here’s a link to the review of it on my blog and it had links in the post to a couple videos from it that I put on You Tube to help promote you guys. http://sherijkennedyriverside.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/k-is-for-kreative-if-youre-creative-a-to-z-challenge/

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