The Problem with Throwing Stones | Author Denise Grover Swank The Problem with Throwing Stones | Author Denise Grover Swank
Denise Grover Swank

The Problem with Throwing Stones

Sometimes I’m still surprised we live in an “”us versus them” world.
Five years ago, self-publishing carried the stigma of vanity publishing. All of that began to change in the last  two years with the rise of the early successful self-published authors and the smaller publishing lists from the Big 6. The publishing world began to recognize that just because a book didn’t get an offer, it didn’t mean it was a poorly written manuscript. For whatever reason, the book wasn’t a good fit for them.  So with this change in attitude, self-publishing became an acceptable path to publication.
Nevertheless, some people cling to their belief that self-publishing is taking the lazy way out.
Ha. If they only knew my crazy work schedule.
I work hard at what I do. I’m an author, and I don’t need a Big 6 name inside my  book to prove that. My nice royalty statements from Amazon take care of that quite nicely, thank you very much. I shouldn’t have to justify my route to publication, yet I do, not with most agents and publishing houses (shoot, big publishers are scooping the successful SP authors up and offering them mega dollar publishing deals) but with booksellers.
They see me as a threat to their world.
Anyone who claims that publishing isn’t changing has their head in the sand. But the people who recognize that their world is changing, yet refuse to change with it are just as bad, if not worse. They may not like what’s happening, but doing nothing and expecting the world to stop and fit their paradigm is insanity.
Yet I’ve experienced this mindset with two different book sellers within the last month.
When I’ve politely inquired about setting up a book signing in their stores, I’ve been insulted and talked down to.
“”Slow down and do things the right way.”  meaning, go with a traditional publisher.
“We like to support local authors, but we refuse to carry or sell or promote any book published by Createspace.””
“When you publish with an acceptable publisher, come back and talk to us.”
When confronted with these attitudes, I merely wait them out (often listening to a mini-tirade regarding their ailing business) then thank them for their time and leave.
The irony is that they see me as their enemy and a threat to their livelihood, but my fifteen year old daughter, an avid and voracious reader who easily drops $30 a month or more in one the above mentioned stores, watched both of these incidents and has no desire to ever shop in either establishment again.  How is that good business?
But more importantly, instead of facing reality and trying to find their way in the changing landscape, they’d rather do things “”business as usual” and complain that things aren’t like they used to be.  Is this supposed to make me rethink my personal career path?
I’m not going to dispute the fact that booksellers are hurting financially, but attending my first NINC conference last month was a startling eye opener.  Previously traditionally published authors who have been in the industry for five, ten, twenty years or longer, were excited about their futures. Many of them were making real money for the first time in their careers. How were they doing it?
They were self-publishing.
Some were putting up their backlists. Others put up new material, but many of them said they’d made more money self-publishing in a very short time period than they ever had traditionally.
I find that shocking.
Without authors, there’s no product to sell. Should one side  forsake an income for the other?
The balance of power has shifted. Do I want booksellers to go out of business? No. But authors need to make money too. Is it crazy to think that booksellers and authors who choose to self-publish can not only coexist but help one another? I think we can, but it means that booksellers are going to have to recognize indie publishing as an acceptable alternative and figure out how to  work with them. Booksellers will probably have to get creative, but it might make the difference to their survival.

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Jen at
Jen at
11 years ago

Yes, yes, yes! I know that you could go the “traditional” route as could I, but I wasn’t willing to compromise my voice and fit my square self into a publisher’s round hole just so a book store would carry me. I wish the bookstores would recognize that a book is a book is a book. If an author has a proven track record selling and can show that s/he has an audience, then what is the problem with carrying their book? No wonder the bookstores are going under.

Bonnie Paulson
Bonnie Paulson
11 years ago

So funny that they won’t sell books made by createspace but will sell some books from small publishers. Don’t they know that createspace often produces their books too?
Not to mention, if a person is coming in for a book signing, wouldn’t it stand to reason that there are guaranteed sales to be had? At least for that person’s friends and family. I don’t know about them, but I count a sale as a sale as a sale. I mean, money is money right?
I’ve been trad pubbed and I have to tell you, both times were eye openers. There isn’t enough attention to the single author. They have to produce many in order to make money. SO the single author has to carry the brunt of the marketing. I’m enjoying my indie experience. I like having the control.
The agent and the deals, I’ve had ’em. I wasn’t that impressed. I may not be big like you, Denise, but I have hopes!
Thanks for the great post!

Michelle Grey
Michelle Grey
11 years ago

In any industry revolution (or any revolution at all for that matter), there will always be those who refuse to accept the new paradigm. That’s just reality.
You would certainly think that a smart bookseller would do a little research before turning an author away – see what their sales are like, or perhaps even (gasp) read their work to see if it’s worthy of their time and attention.
These same booksellers will one day likely see their stores diminished or closed completely and wonder what the heck happened.

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