This is a serious post for people who love books.
So, you may not have heard about this, but B&N and Simon & Schuster are currently locked in a dispute over financial stuff. Normally this is all behind-the-scenes publisher/bookseller stuff, but this is directly affecting authors because B&N has significantly reduced the number of S&S titles it’s ordering and carrying. The big names (like Jodi Picoult) are still being carried due to demand, but as for lesser-known or debut authors? Many are not having their books placed in the stores at all.
I’m not going to get into the details and who’s-to-blame here, partly because I only know what’s superficially available about this situation and partly because the “why” isn’t as important as the effect it’s having on authors.
In a nutshell: Barnes & Noble is the last major national physical book retailer, and placement in their stores is often vital to a young or midlist author’s success (“young” as in their career, not their age). B&N is requesting more money for “prominent” placement in their stores, and S&S is balking. So B&N is reducing the titles they’ll carry.
Whether this is good or bad or someone’s being a butt and someone isn’t is not the issue, really. The issue is that there are a lot of authors who are going to have trouble making sales because no one knows their book exists.
I know many people have this idea that authors live glorious lives of art and luxury, but they don’t. Most write because they love it and barely see any real income. So to have even that little bit stifled, or run the risk of their debut flopping and not getting another contract? It sucks.
This is why I try to feature books that don’t get a lot of press, because I want to be sure that readers know these books are out there. This is why I get so frustrated when some jerkball is like “omigawd eyeroll every single YA book in B&N is the exact same thing.” Because they AREN’T all the same thing, but the general public will never know that if they’re not on shelves.
So what can we, the consumers, do?
If there’s a book you want that isn’t on the shelves, ASK THE STORE TO ORDER IT IN. This goes for B&N or your local indie. Bookstores can do that. They can order any book you want and then you can come get it. If enough people ask for a book, they may reconsider whether they should stock it.
If you love a book and it seems like no one else has heard of it, SPREAD THE WORD. Tell people that this book is amazing!
If you scan the shelves and don’t find anything appealing, go online. Look up books you love on Goodreads and find similar titles. Check out book blogs. Don’t give up! The books are out there! When you see one that looks awesome, ASK THE BOOKSTORE TO ORDER IT.
Other suggestions welcome.