Friday, June 27, 2008

Balm for One of My Pet Peeves

(partial) Quote of the day:
…Ayn Rand, who is to traditionally female attributes like empathy and interpersonal relationships what Grover Norquist is to functioning government… Salon Magazine

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve been pretty busy. For that matter, over the past 24 months, but that’s neither here nor there.

Wednesday evening I was trolling one of the several Internet message boards I scan to keep up with news about books. I came across a posting by an author, Robert Thompson, who was seeking to promote his new book on leadership by offering to do Internet radio interviews. In his sign-off, he blithely told the board to “Order Your Copy Today at: or Barnes and”

I’m sympathetic to the difficulty authors face in getting exposure and sales for their books. In Mr. Thompson’s case, he had taken his professional skills as a trainer and translated that into a book. The book had been picked up by a major publisher of business books, but, as you will see in the correspondence I’m sharing below, he was surprised at how much of the burden of selling his book had fallen to him.

But this blissful ignorance, this example of taking the easiest way, sounded my gong. So I flamed him, albeit gently. Here’s what I said:

Hi, Robert.

I have a new BTR show that will be about half books and half local public affairs. I'm also an independent bookseller.

Should you realize that and arent' the be-all, end-all of bookselling, we'd be happy to schedule you on our show.

Every time an author solicits bookseller support and then says "check me out on amazon," another angel falls from heaven.

I thought that was gentle. I have the same reaction when I hear the word “Kentuckiana.”

We Indies, the independent booksellers of America, are an amazing resource for authors of “midlist” books like Mr. Thompson’s. At this moment, I can’t tell you if the Indies would or could make his book a bestseller. His publisher, Jossey-Bass (an imprint of John Wiley & Sons), hadn’t chosen to promote it by sending it out for evaluation and I’m perfectly willing to admit that I would never have heard of it, in all likelihood, or at least I wouldn’t have remembered hearing about it.

Here’s the book, in case you were wondering. If you click on the book jacket, you will be directed to our Web site, where you can purchase it. More about that later.

To his credit, Mr. Thompson (I’ll call him Robert from now on) responded with alacrity.

He wrote: Randy, so sorry for all of the fallen angels. :-)

As a first time author, I am learning I am somewhat clueless to the industry but trying to learn as quick as possible. Thanks for the new lesson…If you ever forgive me, I would be happy to be a guest on your show. If your store carries my book it could be a mutual benefit.

Again, sorry. No offense intended.

Cheers, Robert.

Thus began a rapid-fire exchange in which I tried to educate Robert to the realities of the 1,800 independent booksellers in America who could, unless supremely insulted by the author’s attempt to drive sales to monolithic, soulless, quarterly dividend-chasing online retailers, help to sell his book.

Indies contribute to their local communities at about 150% the rate of chains. As best as I can tell, nonlocal online retailers not only don’t contribute to your community, they, inexplicably, don’t even collect or pay sales taxes.

Over the course of the day, Robert instructed his technical people to insert a link deep on his Web site that would also direct those who are aware of the distinctions between Indies and the chains and online parasites to other choices, including our own
Oh, and by the way, Robert’s e-mail signature now reminds his correspondents that they can buy his book at their local independent bookseller. And I learned a bit more about how authors think during the exchange of e-mails, too.

What does this mean for you, the typical reader, a person who likely shops at Destinations Booksellers and gets it? Probably not much. But let me share with you some of the reasons it’s important to shop local first.

First of all (in my words), your shopping choices are your votes. When you shop at Destinations Booksellers, you’re telling us you want us to stay in business, that having a local independent bookseller is something valuable to you. If you were building a city from scratch, wouldn’t you choose to have a bookstore? If you were to, instead, buy your books from national chains or internet purveyors, wouldn’t that be your vote to replace your local bookstore with something else – either something you prefer or, God forbid, another empty building?

But take a look at these reasons (not my words, but ones I wholly endorse):

Thanks for shopping at
Destinations Booksellers
Here's what you just did!

1. You kept your dollars in our economy
For every $100 you spend at one of our local business, $68 will stay in our community. What happens when you spend that same $100 at a national chain? $43 stays in our community.
2. You embraced what makes us unique
You wouldn't want your house to look like everyone else's in the U.S. So why would you want your community to look that way?
3. You created local jobs
Local businesses are better at creating higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
4. You helped the environment
Buying from a local business conserves energy in the form of less fuel for transportation, less packaging, and products that you know are safe and well made, because we stand behind them.
5. You nurtured community
We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at twice the rate of chains.
6. You conserved your tax dollars
Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money available to beautify our community. Also, spending locally instead of online ensures that your sales taxes are reinvested where they belong - right here in your community!
7. You created more choice
We pick the books and gifts we sell based on what we know you like and want. Local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because we buy for our own individual market.
8. You took advantage of our expertise
You are our friends and neighbors and we have a vested interest in knowing how to serve you. We're passionate about what we do. Why not take advantage of that?
9. You invested in entrepreneurship
Creativity and entrepreneurship are what the American economy is founded upon. Nurturing local business ensures a strong community.
10. You made us a destination (Destinations?)
The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors, and guests. This benefits everyone.

Love your local
Community, Business, and Neighborhood Alliance

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