Thursday, June 23, 2011

Answering the question: where's the best place to buy your book?

Sometimes people ask me this question, so today, I'm answering it!

Now there is a part of me, a big part of me, that simply wants to say - you want to buy my book? You do? For REAL!? SERIOUSLY!?!? OH MY GOSH, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, that is so awesome, just buy it anywhere, it doesn't really matter.

But, if I'm being honest, it does matter a tiny bit. What they mean, I think, is - I want to support you in the best way possible. How do I do that?

So today, I'm going to tell you. And while I'm at it, I'll try to shed light on some things the average Joe Reader may not know about authors and publishing and book sales.

My first preference would be for you to walk or drive down to your local independent book store and buy my book there. A few examples of well-known independent book stores: Powell's in Portland, OR, Books of Wonder in New York City, Vroman's in Pasadena, or Books, Inc in San Francisco. Independent book stores are lovely things. Authors do not want them to go away. But we must support them, that is BUY BOOKS FROM THEM, if they're going to be able to stay in business.

Now, you might say, "But Lisa, I walked down to my local indie store, and they didn't have your book. How can I buy it if it's not there?"

I know this can be frustrating. I do!! But if you think about how many books there are and the amount of shelf space these days, it's not surprising that you may not be able to find every single book you want on the shelves. But here is the great thing - independent book stores WANT to serve you! They want to help you, so you'll come back again and again. So please - ASK someone to order the book for you!

This not only helps the book store, but it really, REALLY helps the author too. Because usually, if they're ordering one book, they'll think, well, maybe I should order a couple of more to put on the shelves. Do you get this? No? Okay, let me explain it to you.

Because of YOU, my books are now in a book store where they didn't use to be. THIS IS VERY GOOD! Because hopefully someone will be strolling along, looking for a good book, pick mine up, read the flap copy and buy it! If the book isn't on the shelf, it's impossible for that to happen.

Some of you are rolling your eyes about now, thinking, yeah, well, I'm not as lucky as those people in Portland or NYC or Pasadena - there is no independent bookstore near me. At all. So go suck on a pickle, Lisa, because you're rubbing it in my face I don't have a great book store like that.

Oh... sorry!! Come visit me and I'll take you to Powell's! :)

If you have a chain store near you (Barnes and Noble or Chapters or Books-A-Million), PLEASE go there and pick up the book. I love the chain stores too - they have been very good to me and my books! Sometimes it's more convenient for me to go to a chain store, and so I do buy from them as well. Spreading the love around is a great thing to do if you are lucky, like I am, and have lots of book stores near you. And again, if they don't have the book in stock you're looking for, please ask someone to order it for you, for all of the reasons above.

Another thing you may not know - sales in book stores are tracked very closely by an author's publisher. They want to know how many copies were sold the first week it was out. The first month it was out. The first three months. And six. And twelve. You get the picture.

These numbers come into play the next time we've written a book and want to try and sell it to our publisher. Sometimes, these numbers MAKE OR BREAK an author's career.

They also come into play when the New York Times is determining which books "hit the list." Now, it's a bit of a mystery how any of that works and what's necessary sales-wise any given week for a book to make the list. But I can tell you that sales from book stores the first week a book is out in the world are VERY IMPORTANT for this reason. If you love an author with all of your heart, the very best thing you can do is go out and buy the new book from a book store the week it is released. That right there is awesomesauce for an author. And if I could, I'd send every one of you cupcakes for doing that when one of my books is released.

I know some of you are thinking, but the landscape is changing. More and more people are downloading what they read. Believe me, I get it! And publishers should probably start paying more attention and putting more weight in digital sales. But for now, print sales from brick and mortar stores still matter the most as far as I can tell.

You've probably figured out by now - Amazon would be my last choice. But sometimes, I know the discount Amazon offers up is the reason people are buying books at all. If the choice is - buy my books from Amazon or don't buy them at all, guess what? I want you to buy books and support authors as much as possible! (Note: Another thing you can do is request that your library order a copy. Most libraries have a process in place to request titles to be ordered. Just ask one of the librarians next time you're in how to do that).

I do know more and more people have e-readers and they're just not going to buy regular books anymore. If that's you, then great - download the book and enjoy!! I thank you for that purchase as well, because I know you have thousands of e-books at your finger tips to choose from.

Sorry, this post got long, but hopefully it sheds light on why authors prefer you buy from book stores and why we love you a whole whole lot when you make that purchase the first week a book is out. For most of us, the NYT is a pie-in-the-sky dream, but your support the first week does make a difference for authors with a big push from their publishers and good distribution.

For other ways you can support authors, please check out this post I wrote a couple of years ago called Supporting Authors When Your Heart is Bigger Than Your Wallet.

Happy reading!


  1. I 100% agree with your comments. My husband works for B&N for the last ten years, and I have watched as the books stocked on the shelf grows smaller and smaller each week. I use to love visiting the store once a week and seeing what possibilities were out there. Now, they carry a comparatively small amount of stock. At one time I could browse the shelves for hours, discovering reads that others had not yet discovered. Now, the books tend to be "hot" authors, and others are left on the back burner.

    The reason for this is because of the Nook. I own one, (I know, I know), but I STILL buy books. I buy books like crazy! Why? Because I love them. Because I need them. Because the printed word is important. Because the written word is powerful. Because there is nothing like the smell of a book. Because jobs would be lost. Because ideas would be lost.

    Get out and support your book stores. I know Amazon can be cheaper, but remember, there is a consequence that must be paidzm. I'm waiting for the documentary "Amazon, the High Cost of Low Prices."

  2. What a great post. I tend not to mention the indies simply because we don't have any nearby, but yeah, I should really try harder to point out that indie is best if that's a realistic option for the person asking me. (I've had mixed experiences with sales/readings at the chain bookstores, but the indies are always awesome!)

  3. Great post. Support the indies above all and Amazon least of (or not at)all.

    The average book lover does not really think about the consequences of not buying from their local bookstore (many indies have closed due to competition from Amazon & chains, and many more are on the verge of closing). Or the consequences of NOT buying local, i.e., money leaving the community and heading to corporate headquarters.

    Thanks for setting us straight. Yeah, if the book is not in stock, order it from an indie. Check out

    And can I throw in a word for other items sold at indie bookstores, such as greeting cards and bookmarks made by small vendors? There would be no outlets for our products if indie bookstores disappear.

  4. Lisa- such a well-thought out post. Loved it. We need it.

  5. I buy from boarders but for me I have to be 100% postive I'm going to LOVE a book so when I do buy I only buy what I'm postive I'll love (The last book in the mercy falls series, the second book of nevermore, the day before I'm also planing on buying)

    Case and point I just bought "Through her eyes" and wasn't all that thrilled with it and thats normally how it works if I say I'm borrowing it from a library then there is good reason for that If I'm buying a book then it means I Loved the book enough to say "mine"

    anyway I shop boarders since we don't have any indepented book stores around me I also barrow from the library more then buying and if I HAVE to I'll buy from amazon becuse the library doesn't have it...or bug my librarain to get it for the library (she's getting sick of me asking every time XD)

  6. I agree with you. I often visit my local store, Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA. I'm impressed with how much stock they have. And if they don't have a book, they order it for free. It arrives in about 3 days, which is quicker than most Amazon orders, and I don't have to be there to sign for it or wait until the next day.

    When I learned how little $ goes back into the economy from places like Amazon, I made a bigger commitment to shop locally.

    By the way, I read Far from You yesterday. I gave it a glowing review on Goodreads.

  7. Thanks for the library shout-out! Research shows that folks will buy a book AFTER they have read it from the library.

    a librarian

  8. Wow, great post. I used to order all my books from a book store and then found Book Depository, that took away having to go into, find out the book isn't available and waiting for an order. I never considered the 'bigger picture'.

    I am also a huge fan of my Kindle now and probably read 80% on it. I wonder if downloading the first day or week would count at all because I would be happy to do that for sure.

    I am completely wow'd by this post. If I didn't have a Kindle I would totally continue ordering at my bookstore.

  9. What a wonderful post. It's impressive how just deciding where to buy books can make such a difference.

  10. I love my local indie book store! Okay, and I really like Borders too. :-)

  11. Thanks everyone, glad you liked it.

    For now, digital sales just don't mean as much in the eyes of publishers. At some point, very soon I'm guessing, that's going to have to change. Like I said, if you have an e-reader, I totally get it, and don't feel bad. You're still supporting your favorite authors, and we appreciate that!!

  12. I think the first question should who is publishing the author. If it's an indie author on their own, then buying from that author's web site if they sell direct is #1 as far as supporting that author. After that, if it's in ebook, then pretty much any electronic platform as prices should be uniform along with royalty rates.

    For traditionally published authors, their royalty rates on ebooks are so low, and the prices so inflated by the agency model, that publishers are pushing readers away in the hopes they can 'drive' readers to buy print, which is a flawed concept and inevitably doomed.

    To be honest, I've never quite grasped why so many authors are on this support the indie bookstore bandwagon, since most indie bookstores aren't on the support the author bandwagon. I know that's sacrilege, but I remember living in Boulder, CO and getting an email from an author asking me to sign a petition to support the indies over the chains. And I gently told him that his books were not racked in the indies, but they were racked in the chains. After all, you typical B&N racks many more titles, thus many more authors, than your typical indie.

    I've also run into many indies that really don't view genre authors, especially romance, as worthy of their racks. This attitude is a big reason many went out of business. By the way, I've spent thousands of dollars buying books in inde bookstores, but I am also a pragmatist as an author.

    Things are changing fast in publishing, so the business template of the last hundred years is evolving so fast, most publishers and bookstores have grasped it.

    I think the even more interesting question is where's and in what mode is the best place for an author to publish a book?

  13. Wait, you live here? LOL! I had no idea! I'm realizing that lots of authors live in the area.

    I love Powells, so much! I'm able to keep up my book habit with the sales and used books. I shop at the one on Cedar Hills every week. :)

    I LOVE Borders, too. I used to think they were too expensive, but then I signed up for their free rewards program, and I get awesome coupons! Now I can actually afford to go out and get the hardbacks the first week they're out instead of waiting for a sale.

    Great topic! Now that I know you live so close, maybe I'll see you at a signing or something! Yay!

  14. I loved this post. Ultimately it comes down to this: the book industry can't survive if people don't buy books. Even with my book-buying addiction, I don't think I can carry the industry by myself. :-)

  15. We're so lucky to have Powells! I wish I could buy all my books from there but it's still a 40 minute drive (one way) so I only get there for book signings usually. But I love that they have most everything in stock and they have new AND used, which is great. I try to make sure I buy as many of my books as I can from them. My more local indie rarely ever stocks new books (it's a VERY small selection) but maybe I need to consider having them order books for me more often.
    It's great that you wrote this up because some people don't even think about the things that you brought up and of course we want to do everything we can to support you!

  16. I usually discover new books at my local library, as I'm on a very limited book budget. If I come across a book I absolutely love at the library, I'll make an effort to buy more novels by the same author at my local indie store (Tattered Cover in Denver is amazing!) :)