Big news in the book world. Borders is in financial trouble and may be up for sale. One potential buyer? Barnes and Noble. Why should this matter to writers? Check out Kristin Nelson's blog (see sidebar) for an in depth explanation. The short of it is, right now one of the steps a potential publisher takes in deciding to buy your book is to check it with the buyers from B&N and Borders. If they say they don't think they can sell it, you don't get published. So there would be one fewer buyer to say 'yes' to carrying your masterpiece.
Why is Borders in trouble? I have my suspicions. The Borders here in town are rather sterile in look and feel. The lights are too bright, the people who work there are not particularly friendly and the openness of the store makes the place feel empty. There are no comfy chairs to curl up in. Their 'rewards' program sucks in comparison to B&N's. And they almost never have the book I'm looking for.
At the same time, independent book stores are going under at an alarming rate. Which is sad. But when I think of one of the local independents who went out of business, Chinook, I think it could have been for many of the same reasons I listed above. The people who worked there rarely came out from behind the counter just to see if they could help. The shop was cozier than Borders but still no welcoming chairs. Their selection was limited. And I've heard people say, "But they'd special order anything you wanted." True, but if I have to wait for it, I can get a better deal on Amazon or at B&N. Sorry, but that's the hard economical truth. And their employees were willing to buy the shop when the owners wanted to retire, but they said no.
So what's the answer? Maybe the independents should band together. Form a coalition to build bargaining power. Then they could offer discounts as well. Offer the best of what the biggies do and find a way to stand out. When a friend near San Francisco talked about opening a book store, we suggested partnering with a winery to offer wine and cheese instead of the ever present coffee shop. The shop pet is always fun, especially with a cool name. The Book Sleuth in Old Colorado City has a black cat name Moriarity. Community involvement is good. A literacy program or sponsoring a writer's group can get you noticed.
Look at The Tattered Cover. Three locations in Denver and they have a signing with big name authors almost every day of the year. And there's a friendly feeling when you walk in.