aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

In an article in Sunday's Seattle Times, a bookseller from Third Place books laments authors who go to gigs that aren't bookstore-based. Kim Ricketts in Seattle, who used to work at Seattle's University books (I actually remember those days), hosts 30 book events a MONTH in Seattle and San Francisco. (Full disclosure: I was once booked by her to speak at Starbucks headquarters, but she must have been juggling too many events, because it somehow got messed up and never happened. I would still sign up again, after hearing author friends rave about selling 60-100 books an event – a really great number if you are not a household name.)

Through Kim, Mitch Albom recently addressed 600 employees at Starbucks, and then went to a $50 a head "literary salon." (Full disclosure: that would not be for me. Not even the free event.)

Robert Sindelar at Third Place Books (Full disclosure: I love Third Place Books!) objects. "They're excited because it's new and cutting edge, but these events don't sell their backlist." Plus: "I know for a fact that there are bookstores out there that rely entirely on their five big author events a year. If those big authors stop coming, they'll shut their doors."

Sindelar insists that, when it comes to buying and selling books, "There's a philosophical issue to consider: Is there a substitute for walking in to a bookstore? Is there a substitute for experiencing the physical book, browsing a few titles, rubbing shoulders with other book lovers, picking up books by authors you wouldn't have heard of?"

I say, whatever gets people to buy books and read. Are bookstores in the business of offering the bookstore experience? Or are they in the business of selling books? I think it's the later. Amazon has been a success, and while they don't offer the experience of rubbing shoulders, they still entice you to think of other authors you haven't heard of. I think booksellers can take a page from Kim and look for ways to make their own events truly "events."

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