In the weekends just after my first book came out in 2006, you could find me at a local Barnes & Noble or Borders or independent bookstore doing a signing. How things have changed. Borders has gone bankrupt. Local bookstores like Bob and Bob (that first book was the second bestselling novel of all time there) and M is for Mystery (how I miss that store!) are gone.
Here in the Bay Area, Books Inc. and Barnes & Noble stores are still around, but, guess what? They will not carry A FINE AND DANGEROUS SEASON, my latest endeavor. Why not? Because it is published by Thomas & Mercer, an imprint of Amazon Publishing. Can we probe their decision a little?
Does it serve readers to boycott books published by Amazon? Even putting my own book aside, clearly not. There is great stuff coming from Thomas & Mercer including books by Marcus Sakey, Sean Chercover, CJ Lyons, and others who have hit bestseller lists with legacy publishers. Readers want these books.
Does it serve authors then to boycott books published by Amazon? No. We authors who are published by Amazon think they do a great job supporting us. Royalties are more than fair as is marketing support.
So if a boycott doesn’t benefit readers and doesn’t serve authors, whom does it benefit? Lenin reputedly said the capitalists would sell him the rope he would use to hang them. Barnes and Noble and Books Inc. think carrying Amazon books would be like selling Lenin the rope. Fair enough, that’s their call. I wouldn’t dress up that choice and view it as a high and mighty decision of principle though. They are not doing it for us readers or us authors, they are doing it for themselves.
Target just made a comparable decision. Beyoncé’s newest album debuted on iTunes. Even though the album was downloaded 828,773 times worldwide through Monday, Target will not carry the CD version. Beyoncé probably doesn’t need the help, but when a customer wants to buy the CD, Target is saying look elsewhere. Won’t that encourage that customer to go to another store or buy it from iTunes? Does that really serve Target’s longtime interest? It seems a little petulant to me.
Moving back to Barnes & Noble and Books Inc., I question whether the decision to boycott Amazon Publishing benefits them overall. They do not want to do anything to help Amazon sales. I understand that impulse. On the other hand, the legendary independent, Kepler's Books and Magazines, threw a launch party for my new thriller. One hundred fifty readers showed up. Kepler’s sold out of my book. Isn’t that a good thing for Kepler’s? They got readers in the store and made some money. If the readers could not have bought the book at Kepler’s, they would have probably bought it online. Clearly, Kepler’s sees its self-interest differently than Books Inc. and Barnes & Noble. And I sure am glad they do.