Friday, January 9, 2009

Happy New Year?

Life has been moderately insane the last few months, and one of the first things to go seems to be this blog. The election consumed me. I have always been fairly political, but the last administration and their practices so disgusted and alarmed me that the thought of another Republican administration was giving me hives. I spent every spare minute I had on-line, switching back and forth between and CNN.

That done, we had a very late Thanksgiving, daughter comes home from college for Christmas, and all of a sudden it's January 10. I pick up my local paper to find that yet another wonderful independent bookstore is closing its doors. After being a fixture on Market Street for several decades, Stacey's is shuttering up. This is/was a marvelous store, several floors with a selection to die for. The only major independent bookseller that I can think of that's still in business in the Bay Area is Book Passage.

For someone like me, a small niche writer, the closing of an independent is another roadblock in the ole writing career. Someone like me doesn't do well in the chains. If on the off chance I can even get them to host a signing, these signings are usually abysmal beyond belief. No sales, no one even interested in hearing you speak. The independents cater to writers like me, willing to take a chance because they tend to be about selling books and not about selling widgets. So my potential audience (read: sales) has just shrunk. Again.

And no one I know is willing to talk about this, but I'm going to throw caution to the winds and just lay this out there. I check out how Roux Morgue is doing on amazon on a fairly frequent basis. Mostly to try to get me motivated to write the next Mary Ryan book, because that Publisher's Weekly star is still really bright and shiny. I also check to see if there are any more reviews by readers. I'm hoping to get at least one more positive review to balance out that person who loathed my book. And it's impossible not to see the stats. It's also impossible not to see that currently there are 40 books for resale at $6.00/piece. Which is right next to the already discounted price of $18.25. Do the math. Is someone going to buy a slightly used book for six bucks versus a new book for eighteen? I don't think so. I understand the resale market is what is keeping a lot of bookstores still open. I would imagine Powell's in Seattle survives BECAUSE of its resale market. I know that for Black Oak Books in Berkeley the resale factor is critical.

But what it means to me is that say I have an event and wow people with my brilliance and truly charming smile. They can purchase that book on amazon for $6.00. It gets even better. I didn't sell a single book at Bouchercon, and yet I had several people come up to me after my panel wanting to say how much they loved the first Mary Ryan book and were so glad to see number two. Emboldened by all these nice comments, I went to the book signing room, had pen ready, and waited in vain. However, I did go back to my room and watched the used book resale numbers on amazon plummet. People were heading back to their rooms, getting online, and buying used copies.

Where does this leave me: with fewer options to sell, as the independents slowly get killed off by amazon, WalMart, COSTCO, and the chains. On the off chance that I can actually connect with a reader who wants to read my stuff, the resale market is in a very good position to trump my original sale.

Ebooks are looking more and more viable for people like me.

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