The issues stopping “indie” or self-published authors from being stocked in bookstores is the deadly combination of returnability of and pricing. I can't explain it as well as Linda Nagata does in this thoughtful piece on her blog, Hahvi.net where she talks about why my book Blood Orchids isn't in bookstores in Hawaii, which it's an ideal fit for since it's a “regional” read.
Going through the process of learning and accepting this has been a combination of dream-squashing and embarrassing. I'm so ignorant of the business of publishing, I thought all you had to do was get a store to order and carry the book. Ah, more fool me! That's the easy part, it turns out.
Linda is a Nebula award-winning science fiction and fantasy author, rereleasing her backlist under her publishing company, Mythic Island Press. She's also a former computer programmer, and used her techie skills to do the actual creation of my book in both print and ebook versions.
Linda faces the same bookstore issues I do, with the additional wrinkle that her books are not of the “local color” variety; instead, they are beautifully-crafted science fiction and fantasy. Here are two of her award-winning books for your reading pleasure, now only available online:
Throughout my book's journey to publication, what's become obvious is that, despite all the touting of the ebook revolution, many people lack the means or access to anything but print books–many people in Hawaii don't have an e-reader and don't ever plan to get one.
We need to keep making print books and making them affordable and available to people, or I fear a time when no one reads anything longer than a paragraph and that on an electronic device, and print books are just antiques on eBay.
What about the elderly, the shut-ins, the poor, and the just plain stubborn who don't want to read on a device? We all deserve the joy of good books.
This is a trend that's not going away, as traditional publishers, being driven out of business by the returns policy among other things, pick up fewer and fewer new authors. It would be great if the big chain bookstores that are left (Barnes and Noble in Hawaii) and indie authors could figure out a way to meet halfway, so the risks and burdens of bringing new works into stores is possible.
Readers want new content, and authors want to present it, and stores want to sell it– but the returns policy will continue to prevent worthy indie literature from getting to the public in many areas.
And we're all poorer for that.