Originally posted on Goodreads, Dusty Shelves!
Most people who know me know I'm part of an indie-only bookstote in LA called Pipe & Thimble Bookstore (www.pipeandthimble.com). As the co-propriator, the PA, and the salesperson who sits behind the counter, I know one of the biggest struggles, especially in getting out there and drawing in the community, is that most, if not all,the names are unknown. While it is a selling point for most (No one else will bring that book as a gift to the babyshower), others don't always grasp how special and essential these relatively unknown voices can be. As an indie author myself, I've also experienced this in regards to my own books at events or trying to promote books online.
Here's the thing. If you were to walk into some big name retailer, like say Barnes & Nobles, and you were to browse their shelves, how many names would you recognize? Sure, you might know some of the classics. Bronte, Austin, Dickens, Twain... You might recognize most recent big names. Green, Roberts, Sparks, King... But how many times do you glance at a Best Seller List and know every single author on there? One of the biggest challenges of this industry for many is how inundated it is, how many books are out there, and not only through self publishing and the rise of the small presses, but traditionally published books, too.
Marketing wise, it can feel like you're shouting into the void. Indies don't have the corner stone on being unknown. The difference is, we have to work a bit harder to be seen. Reader wise, though, what's the difference?
Okay, yes, theoretically the endorsement of a big press or a well known name gives the reader certain assurances. Indies are on their own for things like formatting, cover design, editing, and content. However, recent years have proven the stigma and stereotype in regards to quality or lack thereof false. There's a reason Pipe & Thimble Bookstore not only sees repeat customers, but customers coming back for more copies of the same book to give out to friends or even more titles by the same author. And, while there can be drawback from someone who does not rely on big name companies, there's also many, many benefits. The only censorship for an indie is self-censorship. They can cover topics and issues that seek to make a difference in readers lives, regardless of if it's "in" or "sellable." The passion and quality can remain the same through out a series without the restrictions of pre-set deadlines. The list can go on.
There's another part of this as well. I've been to a Barnes & Noble where the salesperson didn't know Jane Austen wrote Pride & Prejudice, didn't realize she has been dead for a while, or that the book is not part of a series. People know Ray Bradbury wrote Farenheit 451 or that Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five, but can they name other titles they wrote? Can they list off all their titles? Did you know George Orwell didn't just write 1984 or Animal Farm, but also wrote Keep the Apridistra Flying? Or that the author who wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is the same author who wrote Treasure Island and he wrote another book called Kidnapped. If an author themselves is not unknown, chances are there's a book of theirs that is, if not to you, than to someone.
And, let's be honest, no author was a success overnight. No author started off with even 10 reviews. At some point, they all were just some unknown name writing some unknown book and shouting into the void of an inundated industry. J.K. Rowling got where she was because someone took a chance on her. Any of the greats, any of the well-known who have been adopted as a pop-culture reference got somewhere because someone happened to hear them out.
It's no different walking into Pipe & Thimble Bookstore or when you walk by an author's signing table. You could be that first spark to ignite recognition, or at least for that author to know someone took the time to hear them, that they aren't shouting into the void. With you, they can be more than just an unknown, they can someone to somebody. Chances are something they say will resonate. Take a chance on them, and take a chance on me.
And, authors, yes it feels like shouting into the void. Yes, we are inundated with books. But, don't stop. There's an endless amount of stories to be told and there's an endless amount of people to tell them, including you. And, just as endless as those stories may be and despite whatever the media is feeding you, there are endless readers to enjoy those stories. You will hear people say reading is a dying art. The truth is, it never went away. We will not, and will never, run out of readers. And, books, much like basset hounds, chocolate, fried rice, and potato chips, are an addiction. Readers don't just have one book. So, never stop shouting into the void. You never know who might hear.
Gathering dust in the depths of my mind, random thoughts dusted off and put out there for the world to see...