Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rediscovered Books and the Demise of the Local Author

Here’s one thing I never wanted to write about. But as we go through life we encounter the good, the bad, and the ugly in due course; it’s all in one package.

Aaron Patterson, my publisher/partner in the industry, dropped one of my books off at Rediscovered Books in downtown Boise the other day, and it wasn’t long before I received a voicemail about how it wasn’t “a good fit” for their inventory.

And that's fine, but when I returned the call (I had been on vacation) I was given a lecture about how my book will “never be a success” because “full color books at this price point are all hardcover” and since there is nothing on the spine of the book “it will only get lost on the shelf”. I was told in short that my book is not saleable—at least at Rediscovered Books.

And that’s still okay by me. What they fail to understand though, perhaps willfully, is that the book is what it is not because of random chance and arbitrary mindlessness, but because of well-considered and informed choices. There’s no print on the spine, for instance, because it’s not practical to put any there on a 32 page perfect-bound softcover—either it will not show up properly because of manufacturing inconsistencies, or it will simply be way too small to be useful. And it’s softcover because, dear God, it’s expensive enough to print. Their ultimatum to me that I sell it at $8 in their store means that I would lose money on every single copy. The local indie author doesn't have a whole lot of options anyway, but after this experience I'm afraid my options are far fewer than I had suspected to begin with.

During my browbeating over the phone, though, I wanted, at least, to say that she didn’t need to be so rude to me. I wanted to tell her that I have poured two years of my life into the concept and the book. I would have liked her to have known that the book is not in fact a “full color” book, but I’d like to feel safe in assuming that she, in the process of rejecting it, was observant enough to notice that it says all over the cover, front and back, that it’s the OK-to-color-in-picture-book, and that, if one was to crack said cover open, one would notice that it is not printed in full color because it’s meant to be colored-in by the reader. But since she was lecturing me, and also since I understandably wanted to terminate as soon as possible a phone call that amounted to abuse, I didn’t attempt to get a word in edgewise.

What's really amazing to me is that my experience is not the exception; rather, it seems to be the rule. I've talked with authors and publishers who know, and Rediscovered Books--which bills itself as a haven for indie and local authors--has become hostile to us. Some of us are published with major houses, too, and yet, for whatever reason, none of us (or should I say, none of some of us?) are good enough for them. The question is, what now?

I can only speak for me, so sadly, Jammy Adventurists, Rediscovered Books will not be one of our retail partners. I’ll try my luck at Barnes & Noble, in the local authors section. And Hastings. And other kid-focused places like Just Kid’n Around in Meridian. And whoever else wants a piece of the action. Ironically, none of these are as hostile toward local authors as the "local indie" book shop. In fact, none of them are hostile in any way, except Rediscovered Books. Bizarre, huh?

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