Posted November 24, 2013on:
For many years now I’ve been out there, selling books to people, through a little bookselling operation called Author Guy.
I started selling shortly after my first novel was published and i found out the hard way that no bookstores were interested in carrying it. It was a small press title. I wasn’t already famous. It was POD. Bookstores, like a lot of businesses, are trying to make money, which means they have to sell things. My book, in spite of being the best thing since sliced bread, was unlikely to sell with so many strikes against it. Large presses have a number of faults, but one of their benefits is their number of different parts, and connections to other companies’ moving parts. This is where the fabled ‘buzz’ comes from, as people in the industry start talking up this book or that.
There was a nice little publishing movie called ‘If You Believe’, about a woman who slips on ice at Thanksgiving and starts seeing a version of herself when she was younger, berating her for having gotten so dull and boring as she grew up. The woman worked for a publisher, and as she was helping her latest author edit his magnificent novel ‘Phooey’ she starts to get in touch with her former self. It’s a nice little movie, not great but I like it. Anyway, at the end of the movie, she’s presenting her book to the meeting and no one on her list has read it and she has to defend it as an acquisition, when suddenly someone she didn’t like speaks up from down the table, going on about how everyone in the copy room was raving and he bootlegged a copy for himself. He gets the others on the board interested, and before the meeting’s over, the chairman is saying “I can’t wait to read your new guy.” That’s buzz, or the beginnings of it.
A small press has no or few connections. No buzz. My book came out to a whimper, not even a whimper. Even worse, it was POD, which meant, to the bookstores, that it couldn’t be returned. Unfortunately, as my publisher discovered, they could indeed be returned. There’s nothing about POD that says it can’t be returned, that’s really a bookstore excuse for not buying POD. What POD really means to a bookstore is that individual copies of the book are expensive, which means they don’t make as much of a profit as they want. Large presses can print up large quantities, at low cost to them and maximal profit to the store. A paperback costs about a buck and a half to print, the publisher sells it for five and the bookstore sells it for fifteen.
So, to make a long story less long, I ended up creating my own bookstore. I started selling my books at craft and gift fairs, but I eventually turned it into a genuine business, a portable bookstore called Author Guy. (I originally wanted Books and Beasties, but the lady in the office where I was registering didn’t like ‘Beasties’ as a word, so I chose Author Guy instead, after a character in a story I’d just written, named Author Guy. Other characters were Fearless Hero and Evil Enchantress. The only one with a regular name was the Damsel in Distress, named Loretta, but I digress.) Author Guy exists to sell books, mostly my own but I carry all the books my publisher makes so a lot of others as well. Tom Clancy and Nora Roberts don’t need me, but these other guys are as unknown as I am, so I gave them a chance too. It helps that my publisher has the same taste in books that I do, strongly character-driven stories, so I could read all these books in genres I don’t usually read and enjoy them. More important, I could talk about them to customers, since none of the titles or authors were known to them. One of our slogans is “If you’ve heard of it, it’s not here.”
And now Author Guy is on the web, too. AuthorGuy.biz is live online, with all the books and deals we’re known for, but now available to people who don’t happen to be standing right in front of me. I even have my own little icon, a piece of art that I commissioned years ago and never used before.