Support small book stores!

So here we are again. I recently discovered a major Australian retailer claiming to stock my books and saying the RRP on my paperbacks is $36.99 – nearly double what it actually is. This prices me out of the market as far as their customers are concerned, and they tell the customers it’s my fault! Their claims regarding this are absurd. I will not state them here, instead I will state the truth. At the actual RRP (19.95) they already have a 40% to 60% markup when ordering from the wholesaler, and I am getting squat out of the sale. By squat, I mean less than ten percent of the inflated retail price they are charging. I get $3, the retailer gets $25. Roughly. Where is the sense in that situation?

I am appalled by the greed in the skeletal remains of the large Australian book sellers. Have they still not learned their lesson? I will continue to focus my attention on the many fantastic small independent stores who continue to stock my books directly and accept reasonable cuts from the sale.

We have all heard in Australia the ongoing debate about the state of publishing and book retail in this country. Well, I begin to believe there are reasons that our big chain book retailers went broke, and it was not just the Borders fiasco. Granted that precipitated it, but would they have died within a few years regardless because of the greed in the system? The demise of Borders was not all bad for consumers. Sure it means I don’t have a great choice of book stores nearby, but the choice between Borders and Borders lite was never a choice to begin with. Now the smaller stores, the real book shops with real love for the written word, have an opportunity to flourish without the strangling hold of the big boys over the supply chain.

Support our many hard working, smaller independent book retailers. They do not pander to greed in the same way the retailer in my opening paragraph does. They offer true customer service to readers in ways the big stores had forgotten. They offer a hand to struggling authors who wish to find an outlet for their work. They support writing, and they support reading. Many host book clubs and genre clubs, many have sizable communities they have built around themselves. It appears the big chains only knew bottom line figures, and couldn’t care less about the products or the people (among those people I include their long suffering staff, many had tried their best to do their best.)

Local business means local jobs, and it means personalised locally centered customer service. This is true of all retail. But with books, it also means support and growth of the reading phenomenon, it means support of interest in local writers, it means support and interest in independent publishing and it means a better result for all stakeholders – consumers and creators alike. We have an unusual and unique opportunity to reverse the consolidation and expansion trend of retail. If we support the little guys, they will grow and prosper. With luck, the near monopoly in book retail will not return.

The next time you go into one of these smaller independent stores, tell them one thing. Thank you. They deserve it from everyone, for sticking true to their purpose through good times and bad, and for continuing to be a friend to readers everywhere.