Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “independant bookstore”

Help an Author over Thanksgiving

From Thanksgiving through December is a period of great festivities and socializing. We give gifts to our dear ones for whatever holiday(s) we celebrate. We are invited to people’s houses for dinner or a party, and often we go stay with relatives.

Now I admit that I love receiving a good bottle of wine or a special box of chocolates since these are rare purchases in our tight family budget. But I want to suggest that you look at the gift buying as a double opportunity. Provide a nice, meaningful gift, and help support a struggling author.

From this thought came a list of 10 easy ways you can do to help the author. I would like to share 3 of them that would be easy to do during this season of goodwill. Moreover, I firmly believe that what goes around comes around – when we help someone, we are in turn helped by others.

1. Buy your friend’s book, and if you enjoy it, buy it as a gift in the situations mentioned above.

2. Where should you buy the book? There has been a lot of discussion about where to buy books. Your local independent bookstore is probably struggling to survive. If it is important to you that such businesses survive, now is as good a time as any to patronize them. This is also good for the author as the bookstore will often order 2-3 copies.

The same actually goes for both Barnes & Noble and Borders. They are struggling and closing stores. Also when one store orders a specific book, there is a good chance that other branches in the region might buy it as well – you could start a chain reaction (pun intended!).

First choice: the independent bookstore nearest you (that will help your friend get her book into that store on a regular basis). Second choice: a chain bookstore like Borders or Barnes & Noble (if they start selling the book locally, they might buy books for more stores in the chain). Third choice: the author’s website (the author makes the most money when selling direct). Fourth choice: buy direct from the author. Fifth choice: Buy from Amazon.com (preferably from the link on the author’s website).

3. Recommend your friend’s book. If you like the book, recommend it to friends. Blog about it. Tweet a review or mention. Share a note on Facebook. Recommend the book to your book group. Post a review on Amazon.com, and other reader social networks. People do read them before making a purchase.

Word-of-mouth remains the most effective form of marketing. So when you are standing at that family get together by the fireplace with Uncle Moe, swirling your wine glass and trying to think of something you have in common beyond shared genes, how about this for a great conversation starter:

My friend just wrote this great book…” And you never knew that old Uncle Moe’s friend at the golf club has a son who works for Random House and is looking to discover the next John Grisham to impress his boss and save his job.

Happy Thanksgiving,

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

Independent Bookstores.

In a past blog, I shared my frustration with an unnamed independent bookstore not willing to order my book when a customer requested it. My frustration came from a deep desire to support the uphill battle that the small bookstore wages against the online mega stores and the two big chain stores that dominate our streets. As I said in that blog, the corner coffee shop and independent bookstore are an integral part of the community and hold a special place.

This week I had a healing experience. I emailed various independent bookstores around the Bay and was invited to visit a couple. The conversations were positive and supportive, and I left copies of Oilspill dotcom at both stores. I felt in.

Not that I should promote one store over another, but…

The Bird & Beckett is at 653 Chenery St., San Francisco. Glen Park is a neat neighborhood, with cool coffee shops, diners and local businesses. What I like in particular about the store, apart from the obvious grassroots political environment, are the regular jazz performances. There is something…organic, synergistic, about jazz and political novels…I’m not sure what, but it seems kind of Beat.

The Green Apple, 566 Clement Street, is an icon in the City. When my wife, Ariela, and I would visit friends in SF every three years, we made a pilgrimage to The Green Apple. We would leave a few hours later with enough books to seriously challenge our baggage limit as we flew home.

So, with my faith restored, I am back on the road, visiting the independent bookstores, plugging my book and myself. If you haven’t yet bought my book, perhaps consider supporting one of these unique establishments.

And if you have already bought my book, perhaps consider patronizing these stores for your next literary purchase.

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

The Independant Bookstore

A friend went to her local independent bookstore and browsed the shelves intent on purchasing my book, Oilspill dotcom. It wasn’t there. Unperturbed, she went to the counter and asked the employee to order her a copy.

The assistant told her that they are not ordering single copies of books just now and would not be able to order Oilspill dotcom for her. Now I understand that the small bookstore has limited shelf space and there are 2 million books out there. I even understand (begrudgingly) why a bookstore where I haven’t appeared, or am not a local author, would not be sensitive to the legions of grassroots activists and readers who are seeking out my novel.

My friend went home and ordered the book online, I assume from Amazon.com.

I am a big supporter of the independent bookstore. I appreciate the service that Amazon provides, but if I plan to buy a new book, I would rather patronize my local bookstores. I admire Starbucks – they make good coffee, have cheerful staff, and a vibrant and clean store. But providing that they match the standards, I would rather give my business to a local coffee shop.

Times are hard, and the consumer field is becoming even more competitive. If Darwin was a capitalist (I’ve no idea), he would probably suggest that Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon will not need to share the field with the independent bookstore for much longer. Likewise, Starbucks, Peets, and Tully’s should be percolating the death knell of local coffee shops, grinding them into the dust, relegating them to has-beans…I’ll stop. Who said blogging couldn’t be fun?

Whether or not the mom and pop shops’ days are numbered, I would rather see them for a while longer. I feel, maybe irrationally, that they have a place in my ‘community’.

Which is why I don’t understand why the independent bookstore employee didn’t go the extra mile and order Oilspill dotcom for my friend. Perhaps they make less money from the small publisher than from major distributors, but hey, isn’t that ironic? My friend might have been able to buy my book from Amazon for less, and certainly didn’t have to leave her house, park her car and walk into the store. Furthermore, that satisfied customer might have returned to buy the next bestseller she fancies. More likely, she bought it when she purchased Oilspill dotcom and saved on the free shipping for a $25+ order.

There is a fascinating report out on the state of the book industry. What makes it fascinating is that it is cautiously optimistic of a literary future. But it does challenge the future of the independent bookstore, and anticipates a time in the not-too-distant future when e-books will match tree-books for sales. The author is Danny O. Snow, who works for the Society for New Communications Research, and his report can be found at http://www.sncr.org/

So let us end on a positive note. The book industry is not dying, but it is evolving and everyone: authors, publishers, distributors, bookstores, need to learn how to adapt to the ever-changing reality. That includes the independent bookstores, if they want to continue to exist. And I hope they do

Good Writing,

Alon

http://www.alonshalev.com/

 

A Request for Help

It’s been a good week with the interview from Frank Mondo, of the LA Books-Examiner, buoying my spirits.

I want to ask a favor from those of you who have read Oilspill dotcom. If you have finished reading it (or when you do), could you please take a few minutes to post a review on the amazon.com website.

This is becoming my main distribution channel and I need to exploit the tools they provide. I will spend the next week polishing up my amazon page to make it as attractive as possible to the casual browser.

I had hoped to focus my efforts in marketing Oilspill dotcom through the independent bookstores. I love these shops and am sad to see so many closing. A local bookstore is like…a local coffee shop (also a disappearing breed). They seem to be part of the community fabric.

However, it is not proving easy to secure readings and shelf space. These small shops have limited space, for a reading or on the bookshelf, and do not always have the staff to organize. They ask understandable, but challenging questions, like how many people I will draw to the store for my appearance. I remain (for the present) a small fish in the literary ocean.

Thank you for posting a review on Amazon. I have set a goal for 10 reviews by the end of the weekend.

Good Writing,
Alon

http://www.alonshalev.com/

Becoming the Personification

A new member at our writer’s group asked me what genre I write.

I answered: “Transformational fiction.”

“What’s that?”

I was asking for it, since I have adopted a phrase I heard from the presenter of a workshop at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

“I write about change – people who want to make a change in the world and by doing so make a change in themselves.”

What followed was a meaningful conversation about my books. It progressed into which causes we each work for, and what organizations we are members of and support. I felt that I left him wanting to buy my book because he had connected to me. Best of all, it wasn’t false or salesmanship. I was being me and, perhaps the fact that I was being genuine is what was most attractive.

Brian Judd in a recent Booksurge webinar recalled a man who had written a children’s book about bananas. He would dress up as a banana, which naturally became a talking point.

I have tried to make my website (http://www.alonshalev.com) fit that transformative flavor: the Richard Wright quote, the request to purchase my book at an independent bookstore and showcasing non profits and causes that I support.

This urge to advance a persona behind the book and author feels right. It wouldn’t work if it wasn’t genuine, but since I have been a political activist and community organizer (no I’m not announcing my candidacy for President) for most of my life, it fits.

And so I will go out into the world: Alon Shalev, author of transformational fiction. And maybe one day, the person I am being introduced to won’t respond: “Transformational fiction – what’s that?”

Even better, maybe they’ll say: “Alon Shalev? Yeah I read your novels.”

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