Indies, Chains, and On-Line Sales

At a women’s program years ago, we were asked to find a partner. I sat facing an older woman I knew well-enough to know I liked. In the exercise we were given, one partner was to take five minutes telling the other woman what she wanted. If it wasn’t your turn to talk, of course, you were supposed to listen deeply. Then the second person would have five minutes of “I want __________. I want __________. I want __________.”

Something else I want–especially in my back yard.

I didn’t want to sound trivial, especially since my partner wasn’t a trivial person. She carried  heavy burdens—the death of her husband and a son with AIDS (at the time, it was pretty much a death sentence). She had important things to ask for in her life and in her hopes for the world.

So did I, but not five minutes worth. Towards the end of my time, I realized (with embarrassment) I really wanted a beautiful dress that fit well and had a good line on a short person. (If a sundress makes you feel that you resemble a Roman legionnaire, you know what I mean.) After wants of justice and peace in the world, a deep desire for her son’s health, a dress just seemed too, too trifling. But I was supposed to say what I wanted for those pesky five minutes, and I try to fulfill my social obligations, so I said it.

There was such a sense of liberation in acknowledging the desire for things both high-minded and those that are insignificant. Somehow all my parts felt claimed. We shared the good and the selfish—although I don’t remember anything trifling from her.

It’s a great exercise and I recommend it.

This door used to lead to the basement bookstore where I worked. Now I think it’s an alternative music venue, but I’ve never seen it open. There also used to be a used bookstore right across the street. I think you can eat there now.

Now I find there is something to add I’d like to add to my want list that I took for granted then—bookstores, especially independent bookstores. I very much want them to continue to exist. They are endangered. There used to be a bookstore in La Jolla in an old house that overlooked the ocean. Different rooms contained different sections. I don’t remember, but surely the kitchen housed the cookbooks, the coffee table books were in the living room, and the children’s books set in one bedroom ready for a bedtime story. It was a magical place that no longer exists. Neither does the well-known and also long-established children’s bookstore also in La Jolla. Within the last year, a small independent children’s bookstore in my city had to close its door.

The children’s bookstore near my home that used to be there. Now you can get cards.

Every link is important. The independents especially provide a personal connection. After a time, the staff alert you to what they think you’ll like. How do I know if I want to buy a picture book until I’ve read it? I need a place where I can hold and look at the picture book to know if it’s one I can’t live without. It may scream to be shared or it’s message makes it one I want to read again and again.

If you are like me, a self-published author, you need the indies. They may be willing to carry your book. They often provide an opportunity to sell and sign your book. Chains usually won’t even consider us.

But the brick and mortar chains are there for readers when we need a book right now. We can amble through the shelves to see what speaks to us, Since the chains are also scrambling to stay in business as they compete with internet sources, particularly The-Company-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, we have to patronize them if we want them to continue to exist. Please don’t use them as a 3-D catalogue and then spend your money on-line. It’s pretty much impossible for a handful of us to keep one going on our own.

John’s Bookstore in a set of the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.

But The-Company-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is also an important link. No library or bookstore can possibly carry everything. The number of books in our world is astounding—scary even. The internet makes it possible to access out-of-print books or more obscure books in a way never practical before. E-books (which I’m still working up to) provide another avenue for independent authors who otherwise wouldn’t get a foot in the door or who write for such a specific audience they are not likely to find a publisher no matter how good the writing. So I’m thankful for The-Company-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but I’m happier if I put them at the top of the food, I mean, book pyramid.

And before something else that I take for granted is endangered, I want libraries to continue to exist and to be open every day.

One last note. Just one week after stating my goal of posting every Thursday, I blew it. (I was helping my elderly mom.) I promise not to do it again, at least not until it’s been long enough that I think you will have forgotten.

Call to action? How about giving a shout out for your favorite bookstore and it’s location.  Mine is The Yellow Book Road in Liberty Station, San Diego, CA. I really, really, really want them to thrive.

Second call—make a long list of what you want and see what you find.