Today, I'd like to welcome a very very very special person to Literary Exploration. One of my good friends, Maggie from Not Your Mother's Book Club has graced us with her presence today to discuss how Bloggers, Booksellers, and Publishers can all work together towards a common goal: sharing and selling our favorite books. This awesome post is all from Maggie's words of wisdom, so please take the time to hear how an actual bookseller works with and appreciates bloggers.
I feel like everywhere I go, publishers and booksellers are talking about bloggers. And we should be. This blogging thing is for real: it’s happening, it’s gaining speed and it’s big. And I hope we can all, as an industry, find a while to work with this momentum so that book culture can stay vibrant, and relevant.
Everyone is afraid of the new direction of publishing, mostly because none of us are really sure where it’s going. And while the idea of bookstores dying off fills me not only with sadness and dread, but also with (I think) a valid concern that meaningful literature will die with us, I try not to shy away from the new opportunities that our web-based lives afford us. And one of my greatest sources of comfort is bloggers.
I love bloggers. Not all of them—I don’ think there’s ANY group of people that I love ubiquitously—but I love the idea of bloggers, and I love the bloggers that I work with (what up, ladies.)
As a bookseller, my entire livelihood is dependent upon people who love books. So why wouldn’t I love bloggers? Bloggers are people who love books so much that they spend huge amounts of time and hard work just to create a space where they can TALK about books. Those are my kind of people.
So we’re clear I love bloggers? Rad. Let’s divert course for a minute.
If you know me, you likely know me as the Not Your Mother’s Book Club lady. Not Your Mother’s Book Club is Books Inc.’s author salon, which has been running since 2005. We have hosted some of the best, most exciting and talented authors thanks to our terrific partners in publishing houses. Truly, NYMBC would be nothing without the tremendous support we receive from publishers—because events with great authors are the bread and butter of what we do.
The other hat I wear is that I’m the Children’s Department Director for Books Inc., a chain of indies in the San Francisco Bay Area. And while I’m proud to say that we’re thriving, it’s no great secret that: a.) we are dependent on SALES and b.) That evil online conglomerate that shall not be named? They’re the biggest threat to what we do, what we hold dear and our livelihoods. So I have to confess: this whole blog post has a DECIDEDLY anti-evil online conglomerate that shall not be named point of view. Just for the sake of full disclosure.
As for the rest of us: We’re all on the same team here. We all LOVE books. We all want a million copies of the books we love to sell so that those authors and publishers will be rewarded for their talent and hard work, and we want more, more, more of it. We want this industry not just to survive, but also to thrive.
SO. Here’s my community-building, hand-holding, let’s-all-be-friends-because-we’re-all-on-the-same-team proposal for publishers, booksellers, librarians and bloggers, IE the people who care THE MOST about books (and do not use them as a loss leader to get names into databases so that we can more effectively sling flat screen TVs) can work together, happily, to create a vibrant space for books, and the people who love them.
It starts with publishers. All the major houses are realizing that bloggers matter. Anyone who went to BEA 2012 could see it, and it left a lot of booksellers feeling, well, a little left out. And while I do feel like some of that was due a little to sour grapes, I also felt like I saw some things that did lend credence to that complaint. We sell your books! Don’t we matter anymore? I think we do, and not just because I am one. We do, not just because we’re the ones who SELL your books, but because we’re the ones who host your authors for events. And that’s pretty much the coolest thing we do. We’re a gateway from the publishing house to the public. We officiate that space, we curate it, and (if I do say so myself) we make it awesome. So don’t forget about us, publishing. Use us as your intermediary to bloggers.
But now we have moved swiftly into what booksellers must do. This is very important: we have to find our local bloggers, cultivate relationships with them, respect them, and treat them as our colleagues. Because that what bloggers are. They’re our literary colleagues. They’re fans. AND THEY DON’T EVEN GET PAID TO DO IT. So we should be finding ways to make sure that our stores are a meeting place, a home away from home, and a location for social gathering for these people. We should be using our events to connect bloggers with their favorite authors. If that means setting up interviews, do it. If that means personally introducing bloggers we know are fans to authors in the signing line, simply so that they have someone outside of themselves to break the ice, then we should be doing that too. If that means chatting about books, for the love of God, do it! We should be making sure our guests have had a meaningful, personal experience in our stores, and especially at our events. IE, we should be doing our job as customer service professionals. To. A. Tee. Because that’s how we’re going to stay around, and how we will stay relevant. Basically, we should be acting as gracious hosts.
But that leads us in to what it means to be a gracious guest. And here’s where we get into the uncomfortable truth about purchasing power, which is truly the crux of this whole plan. Because without your dollars, that space, where you get to meet your favorite author? It no longer exists. So bloggers, please: even if the publishing house sends you an ARC, if you’re lucky enough to have a store near you hosting an event, buy a book! Use it as a give-away if you don’t want to keep it. Give it to a friend. The publishers will be asking that bookstore, ALMOST AS SOON AS THE EVENT IS OVER what the sales were. So bringing your book that you bought on that evil online conglomerate that shall not be named is NOT supporting the event, or EVEN that author’s tour! Keep doing that, and there will be no more tours. And that will be lame, sad and super detrimental to the future course of literature.
Now, this doesn’t mean buying books you don’t like. If you don’t like it, aren’t interested, HATED the author’s talk, don’t buy the book. That’s fair. Those are valid reasons NOT to buy. But that it’s cheaper to buy online? Not valid. When that happens it justifies the worst complaints about bloggers, because you’re no longer contributing the industry that creates the literature you’re passionate about.
I have to follow all of this with saying that the bloggers I work with set what I think should be the professional standard for blogger/bookstore etiquette. I have little tornadoes of neuroticism before EVERY event I throw, and I only start to feel better once I see my bloggers there. As soon as I do, I literally feel my shoulders loosen, feel a smile spreading. That’s how it should be.
And I like to think that the basis of this great synergy is because Not Your Mother’s Book Club, as a brand and as a group, has the utmost respect and appreciation for our blogger counterparts.
If the amazing authors that publishers send to us (seriously, AMAZING) are the bread and butter of what we do, the bloggers are something like the dessert.
And really, what’s a meal without carbs, fat or sugar?
Lame. That’s what.