Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Tremulous Future of Bookstores and Bound Books

By Mark W. Danielson

There is nothing official about this topic. It’s just some observations about the book industry. First and foremost, readers need to support their local book stores, especially independent ones, or they will cease to exist. When that happens, a dark era begins, and you will have to visit Starbucks or McDonalds for your coffee and free Wi-Fi.

In October, 2009, I sent 70 newsletters to independent book stores and fifteen were returned because those stores are no longer in business. Others may follow suit unless our economy makes an abrupt turnaround. This is a disturbing trend, particularly for authors who aren’t household names. If Kindle is successful, bound books may only be published on demand.

Personally, I like browsing through book stores. I like the feel of a book in my hand, flipping pages back and forth. Sometimes I might dog-ear a page or two, or highlight things if there’s good reason. My library is full of reference, fiction, and non-fiction books. I have plenty yet to read, and some I may never read in their entirety. Still, they are comforting to have, knowing they can be viewed regardless of my electric power situation. I don’t believe Kindle can match a book’s features.

Independent book stores feature a far greater variety of authors than you will find in chain book stores. These stores are more likely to carry my books. My latest, Diablo’s Shadow was highly rated, and yet Barnes and Noble won’t carry it because neither my publisher nor I are big names. However, I did receive a nice letter from their corporate department manager saying my books meet their criteria, and they will gladly order them on demand. At least I have that going for me.

Last November, I participated in another enjoyable Men of Mystery event in Irvine, California. As one of the fifty-plus authors in attendance, I am always amazed at the talent in the room, and yet few have heard of the majority of these mystery writers. In this regard, an author breaking out is comparable to an actor being discovered while waiting tables. There are plenty of wonderful books out there, but unless they get noticed by the right people, it’s unlikely they will ever become best sellers.

Some of these issues are discussed in my upcoming novel, Writer’s Block. More than a murder mystery, it’s an inside look into the fiction writer’s world. Please don’t confuse this with a documentary or autobiography, though. Nothing could be further from the truth. Writer’s Block is simply a fun story filled with twists and turns. I hope to name a publisher later this year.

Without readers, there would be little reason for authors to invest so much of their time in creating stories, and yet those of us who take writing seriously would probably write them anyway. Once a story teases your brain, there is no escaping it until it’s written down. Whether you read my stories or someone else’s, please try to buy them from your local book stores. They really need your business.

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