the other day on twitter, lots of us were talking about the price wars between amazon and walmart (and now target). until Caitlin from Ubb pointed out that what worries her is regional indie bestseller lists devoid of indie pubbed books, that is. which to me felt like a related question — if indie booksellers are outraged by price inequity, shouldn’t indie publishers be outraged by promotional inequity?
there are all kinds of factors to consider — arc saturation and marketing in particular — but, as Caitlin pointed out, if indie bestsellers are made at least in part by handselling, then shouldn’t indie publishers have a fair shot at getting their titles some indie bookstore love?
let’s talk about arc saturation first. what I mean by that is, the number of arcs distributed to bookstores for a particular title. for a large publisher, that could be (and often is) four arcs sent to 75% of indie stores. for an indie pub, that could be 75 arcs total. so whose title has a better shot at getting read and handsold? yeah.
but if it’s all down to arc saturation, then what chance do indie publishers have? the same chance that indie bookstores have if it all comes down to price — a snowball in hell comes to mind. but if indie bookstores have proven anything, it’s that it’s not all about price. we survive because we offer things big box stores don’t — a curated selection, knowledgeable customer service, value added with events and readings, being a community hub, etc.
so what do indie publishers offer? let’s be clear here — large publishers can and do offer edgy, offbeat, and new work. but the nature of the beast is that they rely on blockbusters to pay the bills, and so unless you are one incredibly lucky debut/unknown/edgy author, the marketing dollars aren’t headed your way. whereas with indie publishers, the same author is their bread and butter.
so why aren’t indie booksellers as a whole (there are notable exceptions) more excited about indie books? we can rattle off the names of the big houses — how many of us (that are not buyers) can name more than a handful of small presses? let alone any of their titles. my guess is, not many.
and this brings me back to the parallels. indie stores will never compete with big boxes on the pricing of bestsellers. ever. and indie publishers will never be able to distribute as many arcs as big houses. so if we aren’t going to sell as many blockbuster titles, you know what that leaves room for? books that blow our minds, books by the author we have just now discovered, books that may not have flashy marketing campqigns but that we know will appeal to our customers. and sure, some of those titles will be big house midlist — but some if them could be indie too.
I’m only just learning the buying game, but I already know there are many factors that come into play aside from publisher. and I’m as deluged by arcs as everyone else. but let’s be honest — wer’e all in this together. if we want education, awareness, and a support for ourselves, shouldn’t we extend those same priveleges to indie publishers?