Drum roll please! THE LUCKY WINNERS ARE:
Svetla, Donna, and Lynn. Watch your email, ladies! Thank you all for reading and commenting!
So I was at an event a couple of weeks ago. The question of bookstores came up. The question was simple. Do libraries increase book sales to a general audience?
My initial knee-jerk reaction was a resounding, “NO!”–with a caveat. From my perspective, publishers have a terrific opportunity to sell books to libraries. There are a ton of libraries, and even if a library take a single copy of your book, with the right sales people handling your title, that can add up to a significant number of novels landing in the hands of the library-supporting public.
However, my experience–in the years I’ve been working bookstores–, is that patrons loyal to libraries show up at the store to see what’s out, what’s the latest and greatest, and they make notes or take pictures on their smart phones to bring back to their library of choice so they can get their hands on the book without shelling out a dime. And almost, to a person, they have what I call the “library chip” on their shoulder. Why would they cough up their hard-earned money on a book when they can score it for zip? Really, that’s a great question!
At the afore-mentioned event, my library perception was challenged by one of my favorite authors and most wonderful friends, Ellen Hart. She said that, in her experience, libraries circulating an author’s books generate sales on backlist and potentially frontlist titles.
My emphatic “NO!” that popped unbidden from my mouth was an accumulation of many years experience as a past and current bookseller. The run-ins I’ve had with customers who were loyal library supporters, while working Borders Bookstore for almost ten years and two small niche indie stores for the last five years, followed two camps: either the customer lived for the sole purpose of supporting libraries, or they were tightwads who would never fork over money for a book they could read for free. And if they did it was a book that cost no more than the price of a mass market paperback.
Okay, okay. Calm down! Take a breath. I’m not here to blast libraries. My mom was a librarian-cum-media-generalist for twenty-four of her thirty-four year teaching career. I grew up in libraries. Still, to this day, I believe wholeheartedly libraries are 100% essential to the social fabric of civilized society. In fact, I’m appalled at the state of the library in the twenty-first century. In the past few years, I did a talk with the gay-straight alliance at my old high school, and it was held in the library–or media center. I distinctly remember libraries of my youth, places that were a refuge from the turmoil of my school-age self. I remember the stacks–which were row upon row of bookshelves housing everything from mysteries to marketing to mechanical guides. When I walked into my old high school library, I could hardly believe my eyes. Where the shelves of books had once stood was a vast openness, and tables had been spread out to take up the space.
Now, I understand the technological age and its impact on the printed word. I can see where so many libraries, especially in the educational system, have suffered funding cuts because students no longer use the library as they once did. However, what about public libraries? I still see bookshelves filling the buildings. People who live in places where there are no bookstores still have libraries to give them a door into another world, be it LGBT fiction, alternate worlds, or something as simple as books to help one find a fulfilling and meaningful life.
“So what?” you ask, dear reader. What does this have to do with authors and sales? Why am I bothering to read this blog any further? Because I have questions!
When I was a kid, I would find a book and fall in love, and then I’d spend days, and sometimes weeks tracking down more in the series or by that author, because I wanted to buy the books, to be able to read and reread those tales whenever I wanted. Anytime and anywhere I wanted. And this brings us full circle.
What function do you, as a reader, feel libraries have? Do you use them? How do you use them? Does what you find within the stacks spur you to buy additional books by that author if you like them? Or are you content to wait for the next release to show up at your favorite lib? Are you one of the “library-chip” folks who show disdain in bookstores and only use them as your perusing grounds for gathering book-related intel? Come on, people, let’s talk libraries, book sales, and cherished memories!
Leave a comment, tell me your library thoughts, memories, and opinions, and I’ll enter you into a drawing for a free book–ebook or print of my newest release, Operation Stop Hate!