Imagine: You write a book. It receives an exceptional top honor. And still, you can't find it in bookstores across the nation.
This is the problem plaguing Barrow writer Debby Dahl Edwardson, whose YA book, My Name Is Not Easy, was a National Book Award nominee. Perhaps you already read the details in the March 3 Anchorage Daily News article: Edwardson's small publisher, Marshall Cavendish, with whom she has had good relations, was bought out by Amazon, the industry giant whose power is worrying bookstores and publishers both. Barnes & Noble responded by no longer stocking that publisher's books.
If you were like me (an apologetic but usually highly satisfied Amazon customer, who has ordered from them four times just in the last two weeks, but only because my local indie didn't have those books in stock), and you assumed that Amazon -- or maybe even her publisher -- was probably the bad guy in this particular fight, consider this from Edwardson's blog (worth reading in its entirety, but I'll quote just a piece):
Now, here’s my personal experience. I spend ten years writing a book, a book of my soul, one I was driven to write. Some people tell me it’s a good book, maybe even an important book, but I don’t really care for any of that. I'm writing it because I have to, because I'm a writer and that’s what writers do—we write the stories that speak to our souls, looking only at where we have succeeded and where we have failed, determined to do better this time and even better next time. Happily, in my case, my book is published and a small group of other writers sees fit to name it a finalist for one of the top awards in the industry. Suddenly lots of people want my book. My small publisher, who has never had a National Book Award finalist, goes into a frenzy trying to get the book reprinted and into bookstores. I’m patient with them. They get a reprint done fast and the book is out there. Or so I think. Then I start getting reports from friends all over the country: no one can find my book. In NYC, not one Barnes and Noble carries it. Ditto in LA and Boston. Two weeks ago, my husband, who is president of the Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, had ten minutes with President Obama. I didn't have a copy of the book to send with him so he decided to pick one up in DC. The book, after all, is his story. He went to five bookstores there and nobody had it. He finally found a copy at a used bookstore. Yes, President Obama got a used copy of my book.
She goes on to explain that people are threatening to boycott Amazon, but she is herself a satsified Amazon customer (especially living so far off the road system and needing to frequently order books by mail) and is glad that at least at the online giant, you can count on finding most books.
People can go ahead and say what they please about Amazon but at least they’re not killing our books by not selling them. Amazon is very democratic this way: they sell everything. Yes, the move into publishing is a game changer. But then again, maybe the game needed changing.
Again, it's a really good post, and you should visit her blog directly. She also has an apologetic reply letter from the local Barnes & Noble. Still, Edwardson is stuck.
I want to keep this short because I want to hear from you: Where do you stand on the issue? What problems have you had with finding books you've written or want to read, whether in chains, in indie shops, or online?
My own experience with my own latest book: I've been told it will be stocked in certain stores, only to find it's not stocked there. A friend who just brought over eight gift copies to have me sign had to buy them--where else?--Amazon. Other friends have told me they bought the ebook. (Good for them! But I get a much smaller cut.) If Amazon didn't exist, would there still be a friendly neighborhood Borders, a store that tended to stock my titles well? If Amazon didn't exist, would Borders have gone under, and my own local friends wouldn't be able to find my own recently published book at all?
Tell us what you think!
And if you do read Debby's book, make sure you post a review online, at Amazon, Goodreads, or on your own blog. That kind of word of mouth really does matter in this increasingly social-media-driven world.