A bookstore just for indies

A bookstore just for indies

I’ve seen a lot of bookstores in my time.

From a mega-used-bookstore in San Francisco’s Tenderloin (Albatross) to tiny-hole-in-the-walls that specialize in just one genre to dinostore chainstores, I’ve spent a big chunk of my life in them.

Of course, I’ve got a bit of an advantage there: I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore. 🙂

One thing I haven’t seen a lot in bookstores, though?

Independently published books.

Oh, I would have authors bring them to me in the bookstore and want us to carry them, but it just didn’t make sense.

One of the first things I would ask them was something like, “If I wanted one hundred more copies here tomorrow, could you do that?” The answer was universally “no”.

In a bookstore, you need that flexibility.

You are fighting three main things in a physical bookstore: rent; salaries; and “shrinkage” (shoplifting, employee theft, and damage).

If something is hot (maybe because the author appears on a local talk show) you need copies…now. Not a week from now, but right away.

Those indie (independently published) authors would sometimes want me to take a book on consignment.

That would mean that I wouldn’t pay anything for it unless it sold.

That seemed to think that would mean that I couldn’t lose anything by having their book on my shelf.

Well, I would.

I still had to pay for the rent. If that book didn’t sell for a week, I paid the rent for that space for nothing.

I still had to pay for salaries. My employees had to shelve the book, merchandise it (make it look neat…people don’t always put books back carefully), dust them, sell them, handle returns…the combination would of the last two would be particularly costly (and not just in money…if a customer really didn’t like the book, it could hurt our relationship).

There was still the risk of shoplifting (shockingly common in bookstores, at least in those days) and damage.

They also didn’t get that the traditional publishers generally guaranteed me I could sell the book. If I didn’t sell it, I could return it for credit. That’s not how consignment functions, but it can be pretty equivalent in terms of risk.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to carry indies…it just didn’t make economic sense.

That’s why I’m impressed with the idea reported in this

Publishers Weekly story by Judith Rosen

It’s about the

Gulf Coast Bookstore

which has a different business model.

What happens is that authors “rent a shelf” for three months for $60 (plus a $15 set up fee).

The authors get 100% of the sale price of the book.

It’s sort of like…having a “chair” in a beauty salon. 🙂

I think it’s a cool idea, and it’s a bookstore I would like to visit.

I’m guessing that the owners have figured out their “nut”, what they have to make to make a profit.

Since they are fully booked at this point, I’m guessing they are doing okay. 🙂

For that to continue, though, they’ll need to keep the shelves rented…and that’s going to depend on the success of the indies.

It’s a reasonable price point…but the authors/publishers also have to do the restocking. I’m assuming for most authors/publishers they’ll have someone else (maybe a relative) do that…you can’t do the “hustling” as an indie author if you have to go to the store every day to “face” the books (turn the covers so they face the customers, when there is room).

There’s more to the article, which shows that the owners have thought about this, and how to keep the store interesting. I recommend you read it.

I have to say, though, I don’t think I would enjoy managing a store like this.

I liked curating the collection. I liked recommending specific books to people. I liked the excitement of juggling what was on the shelves…moving something over here, putting this with that, see that constant shuffle of titles, and watching some rise to the top.

Still, I can see a market for shelf-rental locations like this.

One thing I didn’t like?

I couldn’t see a way to buy the books online from the store.

I get that it changes the nature of the relationship a bit to do that, but I don’t see a reason why that couldn’t have a more traditional set up with the bookstore getting a cut of each book sold. You could still make it that the publisher has to fulfill the orders…the bookstore would just provide a link to the books, and get…well, it would be an advertising fee, really.

Seems like that might be an additional factor which would make it more dynamic.

Bonus deal: three Fire tablets on sale

Amazon’s having a limited time sale right now on three Fire tablets:

I’ve seen people describe this as a Mothers’ Day sale…although buying the kids’ edition for your Mom seems…atypical. 😉

These are good prices. The Fire 7 is the larger of the current models, and has a front camera and a rear camera (which mine doesn’t). However, mine does have Mayday (the almost instant onscreen tech help), and the Fire 7 doesn’t. That could be an important feature if your mother isn’t comfortable with technology. Many Moms are, of course, but some aren’t.

The Kids’ edition might be a good gift as we are going into the summer. It’s ruggedized…if you are going on a trip, that might be important. It could also make a great graduation gift…not from high school, but younger. 🙂

I don’t know how long these prices will last, but enjoy!

What do you think? Would you go to a bookstore just of indies? Do you think those will succeed? If you are an author and/or publisher, would you want to try that? Do you see a franchise opportunity here? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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