Monday, November 9, 2009


Last week the Borders chain announced the closing of 200 Waldenbooks and Borders Express stores before the end of January. That was a loss for those of us who need places to sell our books, but since the big chains rarely embrace unknown authors, it didn't feel like a tragedy.
On the other hand, not long ago we mourned the loss of Creatures ‘N’ Crooks, an independent mystery and sci-fi bookstore in Richmond, VA. As a writer, it hurt so much because there is now no mystery bookstore within a 2 hours drive of me. These people did embrace new voices and helped fans find them.

Even as a fan I see the loss of independent bookstores as a cultural tragedy. Sadly, there’s not a lot we can do about it. The economics are hard to fight. But we CAN actively support the specialty stores that keep their doors open. The best way to do that is to buy your books there if you’re anywhere near one. But how do you find these wonderful places?

The easiest way is to become familiar with the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA). . Through their website they can help you find just the books you want – by theme, by author, or by detective. But, more important to me is their comprehensive list of mystery book stores. They’re all there, from Aliens and Alibis in Columbia SC to Wrigley Cross Books in Gresham OR. You can easily search using their interactive map feature to locate the stores nearest you or whatever city you may be planning to bury that body in.

The IMBA has recently started up a new blog for authors to make it easier for us to communicate with booksellers and each other. I suspect that many serious fans would enjoy those posts too.

I’ve met many IMBA members at mystery conferences and conventions and I can tell you these people are as devoted to the books as any fan. They also order my books, even in parts of the country where no one has heard of me… yet. So this short blurb is my pitch to you the reader and you the writer. Support independent mystery booksellers and their association all you can. These are the folks who will take care of you and show you the gems hidden in the stacks when the big chains are only interested in the best sellers.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

However, the Waldenbooks ARE a chain store that welcomes new authors. (Borders and B&N are more selective or even opposed to signings.)

Waldenbooks was always my first target alongside the independents. This past weekend in Chesapeake, I had to say goodbye to two stores as I did my last signings there ever. After so many years, those people are my friends, and it hurts to see them placed in such a position.

Losing 200 stores is a great tragedy.

Austin S. Camacho said...

Diane, I'm headed for a Waldenbooks in Chesapeake next week so I guess I'll be one of their last signings. I have made some good friends among managers at Waldenbooks and Borders Express who have supported me in SPITE of their overall corporate drive to ignore small and local authors. If Waldenbooks was independent of Borders they might have stood a chance.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Loss of bookstores, any bookstores, is definitely sad. Times are changing though. I got out of the habit of frequenting bookstores because we haven't had one in the nearest town for years. Recently a used book store opened and if she can stay open, I plan to have my next signing there.


Dana Fredsti said...

While I love the small bookstores, especially Mysterious Galaxies in San Diego, I found Borders in Oregon and Washington to be amazingly receptive to me, both as a new author and one with a small publisher. Some of the independent stores in my neighborhood were less than welcoming. That being said, I mourn whenever ANY bookstore closes.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Once again the big stores are tarnished with a wide brush and it is very tiresome. As a former employee of BOOKSTOP and Barnes and Noble after they bought up the small Bookstop chain, I am very tired of the automatic knee jerk comments about the big chains. There are very good and dedicated folks working in these stores--along with loads of crummy employees--just like anything else. I was a damn good employee who knew what I was doing and by no means was I the only one.

The bigger issue is the fact that bookstores of all types and affiliations are closing right and left. So, if personally economically possible, support the stores near you no matter what their affiliation. If you don't, they will all fall and all you will have left is Amazon.

Kevin R. Tipple

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm doing a booksigning at Waldenbooks Dec 18, at 500 W. Madison, Chicago, right in the Downtown area, inside the commuter train station. I built up a rapport with that store by stopping by for many years and handing out bookmarks about other authors, occasionally purchasing books there. I think it often depends on the individual store manager, but odds are not in the favor of midlist authors.
Morgan Mandel